Our story begins in 1998 when Fr. Bill Creed, S.J. and his friend Ed Shurna, past Executive Director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, were both seeking a way to care for the spiritual life of people experiencing homelessness. Ed and Bill realized they were being called to find a way to bring God’s hope and love to those who were struggling to find a path forward… and the Ignatian Spirituality Project was born.
Ed and Bill started by listening to the needs of those who had experienced homelessness. Above and beyond the lengthy list of material needs such as affordable housing, adequate medical care and stable employment, many expressed a need for spiritual sustenance. Initially, the two developed an overnight retreat, which drew upon the 500 year old tradition of Ignatian Spirituality and infused with many principles of 12-Step recovery.
Right from the beginning, it became clear that the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) retreat program was uniquely suited for those recovering from homelessness and substance use addiction. Further programming, including Follow-up Days of Reflection and ongoing spiritual reflection sessions, have emerged to complement the initial overnight retreat.
Group photo from an ISP men’s retreat circa summer 2007
It was not long before ISP retreats began taking off in other cities, where volunteer teams formed to offer retreats and other programs. While retreats were originally only offered to men, women’s teams and programs launched in 2006. Also in 2006, ISP incorporated as its own 501(c)3, while remaining under the umbrella of the Midwest Jesuits. In 2008, ISP hired its first full-time staff and Executive Director.
Since then, the ISP Network has continued to grow in depth and breadth, becoming a vital and robust ministry serving those in recovery from homelessness and addiction. Today, ISP operates in over 20 cities in the United States, Canada, and Ireland. Over 600 volunteers help provide experiences of hope, healing, and belonging to over 3,000 individuals each year.
Women gather at an early ISP retreat, spring 2009
—LaTanya, ISP alumni