SCRANTON – Three individuals, who have played an instrumental role in bringing the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) to northeastern Pennsylvania, will be recognized at a special reception next month.

An Evening of Gratitude is planned for Thursday, March 14, 2024, in which Patrick McMahon will be honored with the Madonna Della Strada Award, and Grace and Denny Dawgert will be presented with the IVC Spirituality Award. The event will be held from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Scranton Preparatory School.

Since being brought to the greater Scranton area roughly a decade ago, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps has matched men and women, age 50 and better, with meaningful opportunities to serve the needs of people who are poor, to work for a more just society, and to grow deeper in their faith.

Ignatian volunteers commit to working one or two days per week (generally eight to 16 hours) for a period of ten months at a local service agency that serves the poor or addresses poverty-related issues.

“It is amazing,” Pat McMahon said, describing the program he helped bring to the region.

McMahon is regarded as the local program’s visionary and its first shepherd. He is credited with organizing a planning committee and helping to raise money to bring IVC NEPA to life. McMahon continues to serve as the chairperson of the IVC NEPA Advisory Council and currently serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer in Lackawanna County through the program.

“It took us a couple years once we started the process,” the now semi-retired businessman reflected in getting the program off the ground.

While he has served the community for decades, when McMahon became a CASA volunteer last June, he saw the program from an entirely new angle.

“It is one thing to write donation checks or be on a board. It’s another thing to have your feet on the street and that is what I wanted,” he explained. “I wanted my feet on the street. You get so much more back by actually serving others.”

The Madonna Della Strada Award that McMahon will receive in March is named after the first church that Ignatius and the early Jesuits obtained to meet the needs of Rome’s underserved, the Sancta Maria Della Strada.

At the same reception, Denny and Grace Dawgert will receive the IVC Spirituality Award. The award honors individuals demonstrating what it means to live committed to ongoing reflection.

“I feel very honored but it also feels strange,” Grace said. “I’ve never done anything ever thinking there would be a prize … I was just doing it because I like it.”

The Dawgerts were among the first people that McMahon reached out to for assistance as he worked to bring the IVC program to northeastern Pennsylvania.

“It took us a while to figure out do we need it, how do we do it, and how do we get people involved,” Grace added. “We found the easiest way to get people involved was to just tell them about it.”

Recognizing that people can volunteer their time anywhere, they made a conscious effort to emphasize the spiritual component of the program – because that is what makes it special.

“Our volunteers talk about taking what they learn in our monthly spiritual meetings and growing in their own spiritual life – and also taking that sense of service and caring for the person and underprivileged – and taking the message of Christ out into the world.”

Denny, who has several years of training as a spiritual director, works to incorporate a lot of Ignatius’ spirituality and exercises into the monthly meetings.

“It is an amazing honor. It has been an incredible gift to be able to ‘travel’ on people’s personal journeys to God and see how they are doing it and growing in their relationship with God,” he said.

“I am so impressed by the level of spiritual commitment and devotion of people,” Grace added. “We all help each other out. We learn from each other and have a lovely time with it.”

In addition to McMahon and the Dawgerts, United Neighborhood Centers, NeighborWorks of Northeastern Pennsylvania and IVC members serving as CARE callers for the past four years will be recognized with the IVC Community Award.
Members of the community are invited to attend the Evening of Gratitude on March 14. Tickets can be purchased for $50 and registration is available by calling Teddy Michel, IVC Regional Director, at (570) 941-4264, or visiting the IVC website at

If you would like more information on becoming an Ignatian Volunteer, you can also contact Michel at