our history

Our History

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. An overnight retreat was developed, which drew upon the 500 year old tradition of Ignatian Spirituality which was 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 a variety of ongoing spiritual companionship, 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 follow up programs. Originally a program for men, ISP began offering retreats to women in 2006. Also in 2006, ISP incorporated as its own 501(c)3, while remaining under the umbrella of the Midwest Jesuits, and in 2008 hired its first full-time staff and Executive Director.

Since then, the ISP Network has continued to grow, becoming a vital and robust ministry. Today, ISP operates in 28 cities in the United States, Canada, and Ireland, providing experiences of hope, healing, and belonging to over 2,000 individuals each year.

Women gather at an early ISP retreat, spring 2009

“From my very first retreat I felt changed, because I knew myself better, and my self esteem shot way up. I felt I belonged there.”

—LaTanya, ISP alumni