40 Years of Accompaniment: Mike

06 July 2020

Mike Marsh serving with JRS in the Mountain village of Chelitinango, El Salvador.

Mike Marsh is a former founding Board Member and long-time supporter of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.
Mike’s commitment to refugees runs deeply. He spent his early career and time as a Jesuit serving forcibly displaced people and continues to show his commitment by volunteering his time and providing financial support for JRS.

Describe your life and what was happening when you first become involved with JRS.

Before I knew JRS, I already had developed a deep connection and commitment to refugees, serving first as a VISTA volunteer in Ohio to help Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees to resettle to the United States, then as an ESL instructor for the UNHCR in a Philippines Refugee Camp. This work led me to come to know the Jesuits, and with the knowledge that I could continue my work with refugees, I entered the Society of Jesus.

I became involved with JRS/USA as a Jesuit Novice where I was assigned for a summer to assist Fr. Richard Buhler, S.J. in Washington, DC, whom eventually would help me through my exit discernment, officiate my wedding with Kim, and remains a close friend today. During my formation, I was also assigned to assist displaced persons in El Salvador, during the summer before the horrific violent tragedy of the martyrdom of six Jesuits I had come to know.

After I departed the Jesuits for the option of marriage, my friend Fr. Rick Ryscavage, S.J., Ph.D asked if I would consider being a founding JRS/USA Board & Finance Committee member – I agreed. Today I continue to support JRS/USA by volunteering when I can and via annual financial support.

Where are you in your life today?

Today, I am the Director of a department within a well-established Trust Company that focuses exclusively on servicing the Investment Advisory requisites of Nonprofit Institutions, joining 6 years ago after more than 25 years of experience servicing nonprofits. I have held a number of senior level investment advisory positions since 1996, including as the National Director of Nonprofit Investment Services at Rockefeller & Co and as Managerial Consultant to Catholic Relief Services. I currently serve on the Board & Finance Committee of the United Nations Association, the University of Richmond Customer Experience Program’s Advisory Board, and as a Knight of Malta.

What difference did JRS make in your life?

As I reflect upon my life, it is clear to me that the most influence on the trajectory that I am traveling – are my Parents and Sisters, Spouse of 20 years, my Dogs, having been a member of the Society of Jesus with assignments to JRS, and attending Saint Joseph College Preparatory School.

Although I had worked with refugees most of my adult life, it was not until I was on assignment in El Salvador that I gained an ultimate respect for the good works of JRS. As I was traveling to various JRS sites, I met a young woman who was volunteering in El Salvador for JRS. I asked her what compelled her to volunteer; her first reason was “if these refugees at my site are murdered, no one will know. If I am murdered with them, it will make the front page of most major USA newspapers and TV news channels.” After hearing her commitment to protect the innocent, working in refugee camps was no longer just an exotic “summer assignment for me.” These words encouraged me to make manifest my commitment to JRS – however I can today.

JRS talks about walking with the people we serve and accompanying them on their journeys. What does accompaniment mean to you?

For me, accompaniment today is via volunteering when I can, annual financial support and my Trust & Estate Plan. I chose to make a Philanthropic Planned Gift to JRS/USA upon my passing because I want to lend a financial helping hand to a JRS/USA volunteer or refugee each year who may find themselves in desperate monitory circumstances via my “annual financial aid award.” Indeed, it always makes me feel good to give a financial gift that will hopefully make a difference in a person’s life, as it has in mine. Pay it forward, as it were!
Finally, I encourage all of my fellow JRS/USA fans to include JRS/USA within your Estate Plan at any level that you are comfortable. The process is easy and will make a difference! AMDG.

Mike Marsh with his wife, Kim, celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary