The retirement party has concluded, the new home office has been set up, but for what? So many retired or semiretired people who have experienced rich careers, sticky problems to solve, people to care for, or businesses to build, find themselves asking the critical question—what now? One person spoke of calculating how many days are left on the earth for him (given the average age of death for a male) and how many subsequent hours. One person described the profound sense of loss of meaning and intention. Another spoke of flailing from one possible new business to another and yet feeling empty. But the critical question remained—how to best spend those days.
Ignatian Legacy Fellows is a new program that aims to help people find those answers. The first cohorts have come together six times over the course of a calendar year to explore the meaning of retirement and the opportunities that lie ahead. The program involves peer meetings, traveling to apostolates to experience the global Jesuit mission, interacting with young people engaged in Jesuit-sponsored works, and making a pilgrimage to walk in the steps of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The meaningful journey begins with a turn inward, is strengthened by peer support, and establishes new relationships within the broader community. It is an Ignatian inspired journey that invites people of all faiths. As co-founder Mariann Salisbury aptly describes it, “It’s not retiring, it’s rewiring.”
The program has demonstrated early success, forming people who have found new passions and reconnected to Ignatian spirituality. Participants describe feeling newly prepared for “doing” versus “being.” It inspires the next push to utilize one’s God-given talents and energies for good. Father Michael Garanzini, SJ, says, “It’s been a privilege for me to accompany the Ignatian Fellows on their journey—a true pilgrimage with friends and like-minded sojourners. We’ve become a supportive community from almost day one. When we launched the program, we thought this might be something for people with a great deal yet to give. The program fellows will tell you that we’re meeting that need and goal.” John Fontana, co-founder of the Ignatian Legacy Fellows, says that participants have found tremendous comfort in working toward what they see as their personal capstone project. He sums it up with yet another complex question, “Will I pass the final test?”
Patrick Kennedy, is a major gift officer for the Midwest Jesuits based in Chicago. He is a native of Kankakee, Illinois, and a graduate of Villanova University and the University of San Francisco.