by Jeanette Kohlberg, Bismarck, North Dakota Companion
After experiencing my first Provincial Assembly in 1989, I wrote: “My prayer is…one of thanksgiving for the visionary existence of Companions. Memories forever etched on my heart include the feelings of great joy and affirmation as all of you stood and applauded during the Rite of Welcome. The entire time spent with you in community was filled with the warmth of welcome and acceptance. God’s spirit has inspired dreams for the future and the Precious Blood Society has accepted the challenge to affirm those dreams in the present.”
Twenty-five years since my first Covenant written in 1990, those memories are stronger than ever. Memories of the past, joy in the present, and hopes for the future are ignited again. At times over the years the bonds have been stretched, but have not been broken. While I was able to attend several Assemblies during those early years, it had been quite a few years since I have attended an Assembly.
We have been blessed by visits from Community members at various times over the years, with the most recent occurring a year ago in April 2014. Fr. Ron Will, our sponsor in 1990, wrote that he felt this most recent visit to be a family reunion and that “we are still family, with the same blood flowing through our veins.” During the visit from Fr. Ron and Fr. Dave Matz, we were invited to renew our Covenants. As in other renewals of Covenants over these twenty-five years, I felt this to be a Covenant of grace that re-presents (makes present) this bond to the Precious Blood family.
This year, arriving at the Assembly early enough on Tuesday to be present at the Companion Covenants ceremony and Eucharist reminded me to live my own Covenant, as I reflected on how to Remember the Past, Celebrate the Present, and Envision the Future! At times during the Tuesday evening social gathering I could almost hear the memory of the sweet refrain of “Danny Boy” sung softly by Fr. Ben. The whole day Wednesday was certainly a family reunion through reconnecting with Incorporated Members and Companions, and getting to know new Companions. It is inspiring to witness how the number of Companions has grown over the years. I sense the future in this progression of the community. The Jubilarian Mass and banquet on Wednesday evening was truly a celebration of Precious Blood family at its best.
Back home in North Dakota, during the weekend after the Assembly, I was catching up on some shows I had recorded while I was gone. One of them was the “Late Show with David Letterman.” He is retiring in May (after 4230 episodes) and has been having some extra special guests during these final shows. Thursday’s show included a powerful performance of Stand by Me by Tracy Chapman, one of my favorites. Letterman noted that this is one of the songs he used as a lullaby for his infant son. While listening to those lyrics again, I immediately thought of my Precious Blood family reflected in the following words by Ben E. King.
When the night has come/And the land is dark/ And the moon is the only light we’ll see/No, I won’t be afraid/Oh, I won’t be afraid/Just as long as you stand, stand by me
If the sky that we look upon/Should tumble and fall/All the mountains should crumble to the sea/I won’t cry/I won’t cry/No, I won’t shed a tear/Just as long as you stand, stand by me
For that is what families do. They stand by one another, even when we don’t get to see each other very often. In renewing Covenant I feel that I am promising to stand by you, and asking that you stand by me.
Yes, the bonds have been stretched at times across the miles and across the years, but they are still connected. They have grown stronger again for me. We are a Precious Blood family. It was a wonderful family reunion at the 2015 Assembly. I’m reminded of the ending of the Prayer of Companions:
May there be no strangers among us, only friends who welcome each other with warmth and hospitality. Send your Spirit upon our hearts as we gather in your name. AMEN!