The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has been publishing stories, in light of the Ignatian Year, on how the conversion of St. Ignatius has inspired some of their collaborators. Here is the story of Angela Vicentini. Angela works as a volunteer at the JRS International Office in Rome, supporting the Human Resources Department dealing with insurance for JRS staff all around the world.

Angela Vicentini, volunteer at JRS International Office

When did you join JRS and what do you do in your current role?

I arrived at JRS in 2016, at first I was still working full-time so my availability was limited – emergencies only. But from the end of 2016 my main activity has been JRS. Before joining, I had always had a certain sensibility, an interest in the world of migrants and refugees. During my university years I worked a lot with UNHCR and I kept telling myself that as soon as I had more free time, I would have liked to go back and support [migrants and refugees] in my professional capacity.

I studied Economics and I always worked in the profit sector for service companies, specializing in marketing, international relations, and customer care. So, here at JRS I work in Human Resources, supporting with insurance, both at the International Office and in the field. Even though I am a volunteer I consider myself to be working full-time, especially since working with insurance can be 24/7.

What brought you to serve refugees? Do you have a “cannonball” moment that led you to dedicate your life to the marginalised?

I believe it is everyone’s duty, if you have had many professional opportunities, to share your experience, especially with younger generations. I believe it is something everyone should consider. As I mentioned before, I always knew I wanted to support migrants and refugees once I stopped working. It was a good friend of mine, Michael Hilbert SJ, to whom I had expressed my desire of being of service, who first introduced me to JRS. I came to the International Office, and it was a happy meeting. I stayed. I like working here and I am happy to be able to support JRS work.

There was no ‘cannonball’ moment: it was a very gradual and natural path.

Is there something from the life of St. Ignatius that inspires you in your work for JRS?

I have always been interested in St Ignatius, in his life, his choices, and especially his travels to far away places. It is something that always fascinated me. My family has had a Jesuit education, my children and my father studied in a Jesuit school, and I had the chance to take some courses on diversity and inter-religious dialogue at the Gregorian University. This was very useful and helped me feel welcome in the Jesuit world.

As I said, I am interested in St Ignatius’ travels. Like him, I believe JRS volunteers and staff would benefit from even more experience in the field. I helped at Centro Astalli [JRS Italy] for years. I also went to South Africa for a meeting once. There I met colleagues from all over the world but, most importantly, I had the chance to see the reality on the ground, the projects carried on. I think this aspect of JRS work needs to be highlighted because all staff should have the chance to experience this. I know I hope to be able to go into the field again soon!

Pope Francis says, “No one saves himself. We are either saved together or we are not saved.” How does this message speak to you and your experience with forcibly displaced people?

That’s a beautiful statement, it is true that no one saves themselves. Especially today, looking at the world around us, the newest crisis [in Ukraine] that led millions of people to move – I believe the ideas of community, accompaniment, and service are essential. In this context, JRS represents an important reality, a present reality but most importantly a reality that needs to keep being present in emergencies.

I also believe people today have a great desire to become involved. Volunteers can be key resources, but they need to be selected, to be trained. I am certain that they can make a difference and help JRS in its mission.


Interview originally published in