Here are the materials for Companion Gathering centering on Core Value Two from the General Assembly. Copy the link listed below into your address bar or internet browser:
Here are the materials for Companion Gathering centering on Core Value One from the General Assembly. Copy the link listed below into your address bar or internet browser:
Leah Landry with Sr. Donna Liette, C.PP.S. at PBMR
by Leah Landry, Precious Blood Volunteer Alumna 2017-2018
I think about my year as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation every day. Maybe it’s because I have only been gone for 16 months, but I have a feeling that my volunteer year will continue to influence the life I create for myself. I can already see its effect on my life in D.C.
My experiences as a Precious Blood Volunteer have also made me more intentional about being a part of a community. Knowing so many folks in the Back of the Yards neighborhood during my volunteer year and seeing them when I went to the grocery store or drove down the block was a wonderful feeling. My experiences as a volunteer have made me see myself not as just an individual; I constantly try to build more community around me because I realize that’s where I am happiest.
Another impactful change from my volunteer year that I have brought with me to my life in D.C. is my new understanding of systemic racism and privilege and the role I play in that system. This new lens spurred me to go to the Texas-Mexico border in June and support the migrant families that were being released from immigration prisons to the Catholic Charities of Laredo Shelter. Racism is not something I can witness or hear about and just feel bad about anymore. I saw the effects of this widespread, insidious system in Chicago and I feel compelled to work with others to dismantle that system.
My life looks different than it did 16 months ago. I have a new home, a new city, a new community, and a new job. But every part of my life has been and will continue to be shaped by the people, experiences, and lessons I had as a Precious Blood Volunteer. And while it might be less challenging to live in ignorant bliss, I am grateful that my experiences as a Precious Blood Volunteer are sticking with me and helping me live a life that is more authentically in line with who I want to be.
[Leah Landry served as a Precious Blood Volunteer during the 2017-2018 year. She is a graduate of Notre Dame University and a recipient of the Yarrow Award from the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame for her commitment to service in peace and justice. She currently works for Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C.]
Companions on both sides of the country were busy this weekend. Lake Mary and Orlando Companions gathered in Florida for a day of reflection and prayer with Fr. Vince Wirtner. Thanks to Lake Mary Companions Trish and John Frazer for hosting the gathering in their home.
Companions in California gathered for their Retreat led by Fr. Garry Richmeier at the Vallombrosa Retreat Center. Congratulations to Newark Companions Dave and Maria Elena Bryon, Alameda Companions Teri Bowe, Jun and Norma De La Cruz and Los Angeles Companions Evelyn Moreira and Jessica Reyes who renewed their covenants during the closing liturgy.
PBRS has recently joined in collaboration with Hope Faith—Homeless Assistance Campus located in downtown Kansas City and will be assisting in case management. The concept of collaborating and connecting with other social service providers to provide the best services for those in need is the common denominator for PBRS and Hope Faith.
Hope Faith’s mission is to serve the homeless in Kansas City. According to Programs and Partnership Director Alfredo Palaco, the organization best fulfills its mission when it partners with other social service organizations in the metro area. Because every client that they serve has their own unique challenges and barriers, by working with area agencies and organizations Hope Faith can provide a wider variety of services such as medical, behavioral, employment, spiritual, and intensive case management. According to Palaco, “Working together as a community, we can leverage the strengths of partner organizations to provide integrated services to better serve those in need and to find more lasting solutions to a person’s unique situation experiencing homelessness. Partnering with PBRS aligns perfectly in our work to provide more individualized care and support for each guest that comes to Hope Faith and to others experiencing homelessness in Kansas City.”
Case Management Supervisor Jonathan Reavis adds that Precious Blood Resource Services is a good partner for Hope Faith because both look to see God in all people. “I choose to see the people I help, not as a collection of problems, but as dynamic persons of strength and resilience. From a faith perspective, this is simply the acknowledgment that God’s grace is already at work with someone long before I encounter them.” Reavis goes on to say that when this is the view of the client, social workers can see them “more like a collaborator, co-struggler, and co-sufferer. In short, it enables us to be compassionate.”
As a compassionate organization, Hope Faith offers services like private showers, hot meals, clothing, medical and dental clinics, mail services, and document assistance. Precious Blood Resource Services is a good fit for the sort of work that Hope Faith does because the most important element of case management is a caring and compassionate worker. Reavis concludes, “When we are able to sit with someone, validate their strengths and struggles, and approach each person not as a problem to be solved, but as a fellow struggler, we accomplish the goal that is at the heart of faith and our common humanity.”
I believe that this new collaboration allows PBRS to continue its mission to connect those on the margins of society, with the help they need to enhance their quality of life and lead them to independence. It provides further opportunity to assess for needs and gather resources from public and private agencies as well as walk with those needing assistance as they move through the system to get help.
For example, through Hope Faith, I was able to meet with Alicia who has been coming to the campus for a few years and utilizes their sewing center. I was able to talk with her about her situation and provide her with information regarding employment. I assured her that if she needed any other resources, I was there to help her.
I also sat with Richard who came to Kansas City a year ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is currently homeless by choice. He finds that the homeless population in Kansas City is “deep” and everyone is intertwined and connected and dependent on life services. It is his goal to make a documentary on the lives of the homeless in Kansas City.
As the homeless problem begins to increase all over the country, we are called to walk with those on the margins through their struggles. We must remember Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
So, you’re interested in volunteering for a year? You’ve heard about Precious Blood Volunteers and their involvement in restorative justice, but you’re not really sure what that means.
If you Google “restorative justice,” you’ll find it defined as, “a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.”
Okay, wow. What does that mean? Well, here are the three things that need to happen in restorative justice.
- Empathy on all sides: There must be an awareness that while harm was done to a victim, there may also have been past harm done to the accused as well and that harm may be a factor in his or her behavior.
- Obligation to put right: There must be a moderated process, which helps the accused somehow right the wrong that was committed.
- Everyone is involved in the healing process: There must include a dialogue with all parties – victim, offender, and even community – in order to genuinely move on and have an impact.
Precious Blood Volunteers involved with restorative justice are trained and take part in restorative justice through an activity called a “restorative justice circle,” where all parties affected by the actions of the accused to work through the three steps.
Simply, restorative justice helps an offender to acknowledge what she/he did, make it right for those hurt or affected and involves the community in helping both the victim and the offender.
To apply to volunteer in restorative justice ministries visit preciousbloodkc.org/volunteers/apply/.
by Fr. Mark Miller, C.PP.S.
During another Advent Season, we are challenged once again to reflect upon what exactly we are preparing for. Are we preparing to celebrate Christmas in a more meaningful way? Are we preparing ourselves to allow the Savior of the World to guide our lives more perfectly? Yes, and much more. We are preparing ourselves for that new creation of heaven and earth of which the Book of Revelation speaks. We are preparing for a time of peace and harmony among all of creation to regain that original blessing which was from the beginning.
There is a difference between an imagined future and an imaginary future. An imagined future is one that guides the decisions of our lives, knowing that whatever we decide will either enhance or diminish the possibility of that imagined future. Certainly, for the Christian, the imagined future is spending eternity with the Lamb seated on the throne along with all the others who are a part of that great cloud of witnesses. But our journey is not one that is walked alone; we are a member of that community who professes our belief in the covenant that God has made with us. Thus, whatever decisions we make along the way will not only benefit or detract us from achieving that imagined future but will also benefit or detract from the rest of creation for that imagined future.
If the future is only imaginary, then it doesn’t make too much difference in what we do. After all, that which is only imaginary is not real; it exists only in the mind of the one who imagines it. Also, if the future is only imaginary, there is no real commitment necessary to achieve it.
Jesus Christ had an imagined future: that they may all be one. For this imagined future to take on a life of its own, Jesus gave us instructions in order to achieve this imagined future. It is primarily contained in Chapter 5 and Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel. When we integrate the principles and attitudes of those two chapters, the imagined future will be ours. St. Gaspar had an imagined future: that everyone would experience the saving power of the Blood of Christ. These two imagined futures are now in our hands.
If we believe these two imagined futures are only imaginary; well, then life will go on and we will see our life as divorced from all others. But if we make them our own imagined future, then we will set out on a course that can and will change the world into the reign of God. Advent is the season to decide: what is our imagined future and are we willing to commit to living a life that will make it happen?
“The First Thanksgiving, 1621” was painted by Jean Leon Jerome Ferris between 1912 and 1915. Historians note that the scene depicted here is not historically accurate. The clothing worn by the Pilgrims is incorrect, the Wampanoag did not wear feathered war bonnets, nor would they have been sitting on the ground.
by Dennis Coday, Precious Blood Renewal Center
A teacher who was a guest on a National Public Radio show on November 24th described a scene I could remember from my childhood and my children’s elementary days too. Michelle Portera, an 18-year veteran teacher described how she used to celebrate Thanksgiving in her first-grade classrooms:
You make the Native American headdress, and you make a medallion with your Native American name on it and put beads on your shirt and make all those fun things — and the turkey activities. And then you would have a day where you dressed as pilgrims and Native Americans.
I vividly recall making those construction paper pilgrim hats and Indian headdresses. I remember my children bringing home these same creations, almost as if their teachers and mine had used the same patterns. It left us with good feelings, pride even, about the founding of our nation: stalwart Pilgrims who overcome the odds, surviving and then thriving.
But as Portera continued her story on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, she also admitted to a nagging feeling she couldn’t shake: “I didn’t feel like we were teaching truth.”
What most school celebrations of Thanksgiving ignore or at best gloss over is that the Pilgrims were colonizers, intent on taking land away from the Native People’s whose home this was before the landing on Plymouth Rock. In a few short years, the European newcomers would use all means available to kill Native people, up to and including giving them blankets infected by smallpox and drive them from the land. It is an ugly chapter of our national history.
The rest of the NPR program talks about how teachers are adapting their lesson plans to better reflect the reality of the roots and consequences of that first Thanksgiving.
As I was thinking about all these things, I ran across a couple of news stories about a satirical play by Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse called “The Thanksgiving Play.” The premise of the play is, as described by Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty, “Four adults [are] on a difficult progressive mission … to devise a Thanksgiving pageant for an elementary school that will pass muster with today’s unforgiving standards. … [They are] determined to pull off an unobjectionable Thanksgiving commemoration in which no animals will be slaughtered and no Native people will be demeaned.”
FastHorse, a Native American playwright whose work has challenged blind spots in America’s historical narrative and cultural presumptions, isn’t setting up straw men. The disagreements and spats among the characters reveal entrenched conflicts and prejudices that continue in a sanitized form the Pilgrims’ erasure of indigenous reality.
“The Thanksgiving Play” incorporates as interludes skits that are taken from actual lesson plans and classroom ideas for Thanksgiving activities posted by teachers on Pinterest. The casual racism, exhibited in silly songs and playful reenactments, would defy credulity were it not so deeply ingrained.
Reexamining our relationship with Native Peoples was the focus of a program, Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Hope, Precious Blood Renewal Center hosted in October. Participating in that program opened my eyes to how the dominant culture shapes – distorts – history. History, as they say, is written by the victors. The program left me with a nagging question: What can we do about this history of injustice?
Why should this matter to us? Precious Blood Father Robert Schreiter has written that a foundational task in the work of reconciliation, a key component of Precious Blood spiritualty, is the healing of memories; this is a first step toward reconstructing societies riven by violence and conflict and crucial to creating safe and hospitable spaces in which the work of reconciliation can take place.
Undoubtedly part of the healing of memories — especially when it comes to reconciling our relationships with Native Peoples — is discovering the truth of the past. Because our Thanksgiving traditions have perpetuated false narratives about our relationships, this time of year is probably an ideal time to do this.
Adults interested in a clearer history may want to look up Howard Zinn’s classic A People’s History of the United States or, a book that I recently finished by Harvard historian Jill Lepore, These Truths: A History of the United States, which has just come out in paperback. For kids, one of the teachers on the NPR show suggested these books: Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Smith, When We Were Alone by David Robertson and The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp.
But we would all benefit from learning more about our particular situations. What do I mean by “our particular situations”? I mean this: Do you ever wonder about the people who occupied the land where we now live? How many of us know who those people were and what they were like? Part of healing a memory is bringing it into clear focus.
A good exercise for this time of year, then, is learning as much as we can about the Native People who had stewardship of the land we now occupy.
I live in Clay County, Missouri, which is also where the Precious Blood Kansas City province has been headquartered since its inception. Did you know that the official, marked Lewis and Clark Trail runs along Pleasant Valley Road, which forms the northern boundary of the Precious Blood property in Liberty?
This is what I have learned of the people who lived here before us:
The Nebo Hill archeological site near Excelsior Springs, Missouri, has revealed evidence of a culture that flourished here between 3000 and 1000 B.C. These people were the predecessors of the Kansas City Hopewell peoples who lived along what we call the Missouri and Kansas Rivers between 100 B.C. and 700 A.D.
The Hopewell peoples, living in oak and hickory forests were hunters and gatherers, but established permanent villages. They also traded extensively. Archeologists have found in Missouri sites volcanic rock from the Yellowstone, copper from Lake Superior, and shells from the Gulf Coast.
But the stewards of this land when Europeans began their migration to North America were a tribe who called themselves the Niutachi, which in their language, Chiwere-Siouan, meant “People of the River Mouth.” Because of misunderstandings and bad translations, when French traders encountered the Niutachi in the late 17th century, they dubbed them “Wemihsoori” or “Mihsoori,” roughly meaning “people of the wooden canoes.” The name stuck and the Niutachi became the Missouria. (A Catholic footnote to this story: It was the Jesuit missionary priest Jacques Marquette who recorded the name wrong.)
Writing in Missouri Life magazine, Ron Soodalter describes their life:
The Missouria were hunter-gatherers who spent time farming. Semi-nomadic, they would plant their crops — beans, corn, squash — in the spring … leave their villages to go on extended buffalo hunts throughout the summer, and return to harvest their crops in the fall. The fullness of their larders reflected the bounty of their crops, the availability of various species of nuts and fruit, and the success of the hunt.
The Missouria lived in frame dwellings of various types. Some were covered in woven reeds or rushes; others were overlaid with slabs of bark. Some of the lodges were elliptical in shape; others were round.
According to Michael Dickey, site supervisor of Arrow Rock State Historic Site, the Missouria were deeply spiritual and monotheistic, worshipping Waconda, the Earth Maker or Creator. (I found one reference that called the Creator Maun.) The clan, the extended family, was the basic societal unit. While men were polygamous, the women were allowed only a single partner. The women, however, owned the clan lodges and all the possessions therein. While they followed strict gender roles, boys and girls were equally valued in the family.
When the Niutachi and the French met, the tribe numbered some 10,000 members and dominated the territory north of the Missouri River in present-day Missouri. But by 1804 when the Niutachi, met Lewis and Clark at the outset of their Corps of Discovery Expedition, Clark referred to them as “once the most powerful nation on the Missouri River” and reported only about 400 members. Their contact with Spanish, French and American traders exposed them to infectious diseases, especially smallpox that decimated the tribe and made them vulnerable to their traditional enemies, the Sac and Fox. To survive, the Niutachi merged with their close relatives the Otoe around 1790-1800. Together they maintained their territory, but that would not last.
Settlers from the east seeking rich farmland coveted the traditional lands of the Otoe-Missouria people. They fought to keep their land, but the settlers came in multitudes. By 1855, native people and white settlers were in open warfare and the U.S. government intervened, sending troops to confine the Otoe-Missouria to the Big Blue River reservation in southeast Nebraska.
Their tribulations did not end there, however, as the history page on the Otoe-Missouria tribe’s website attests:
Life on the Big Blue Reservation was hard. The tribe was not allowed to hunt for buffalo. The government encouraged a shift from a migratory lifestyle to an agrarian one without consideration of long-established tradition or social structure. For years the tribe watched as acre by acre of their land was sold off by the government to non-Indians. They suffered as treaties were broken and food, medicine, livestock, and basic essentials were not delivered as promised. Sickness was rampant, children starved and the mortality rate climbed higher year after year. In 1881 they were moved to Red Rock, Oklahoma, where the tribe is currently located.
Theirs is the land we claim for ourselves now. What can we do about it now? FastHorse has said, “To acknowledge indigenous culture and history in this nation, we have to acknowledge complicity. And that if you’re here, you’re on stolen land, however you got here.”
If we are about the work of reconciliation, it seems to me that the first and least thing we can do is learn as much as we can about the people who walked here before us.
McNulty, Charles. “Review: The politics of Thanksgiving, served up as lukewarm satire.” https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2019-11-07/thanksgiving-play-geffen-playhouse-review
Mosley, Tonya and Allison Hagan “In ‘Thanksgiving Play,’ Native American Playwright Larissa FastHorse Tackles ‘Wokeness’ ” https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2019/11/26/thanksgiving-play-larissa-fasthorse
Otoe-Missouri Tribe. “Otoe & Missouria: Five Hundred Years of History” https://www.omtribe.org/who-we-are-history and https://www.omtribe.org/who-we-are-history-facts.
Peace Studies, University of Missouri. “Otoe and Missourias Tribes” https://peacestudies.missouri.edu/di/tribes?q=di/otoe-missourias
Peace Studies, University of Missouri. “Alternative narrative from the perspective of the Otoe and Missouria tribes” https://peacestudies.missouri.edu/di/tribes?q=di/counter
Precious Blood Renewal Center. “Roots of Injustice, Seeds of Change” https://www.pbrenewalcenter.org/blog/2019/09/roots-of-injustice-seeds-of-change/
Schreiter, Robert. “Theology of Reconciliation and Peacemaking for Mission,” https://preciousbloodspirituality.org/spirituality-and-theology/preparing-missionaries-be-agents-reconciliation-and-peacemaking
Soodalter, Ron. “The Tribes of Missouri Part 1: When the Osage & Missouria Reigned” https://missourilife.com/the-tribes-of-missouri-part-1-when-the-osage-missouria-reigned/
Weekend Edition Sunday, National Public Radio. “Teaching Thanksgiving” https://www.npr.org/2019/11/24/782403538/teaching-thanksgiving
by Dennis Coday
As part of its mission to provide formation for the local church, Precious Blood Renewal Center hosted for a second year daylong programs for inquirers and sponsors involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.
This year the Renewal Center offered two days of reflection for RCIA sponsors and inquirers from parishes in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.
About 65 people attended the November 2 event, which was presented by Precious Blood Fr. Ron Will, Director of Spirituality for the Renewal Center, and Teresa Albright and Biagio Mazza, who are both pastoral associates at parishes in Kansas City, Missouri.
Nineteen people attended the November 23 event, which was presented in Spanish and led by Fr. Chuck Tobin, a priest of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese.
Both days focused on two aspects of the RICA process: discernment and relationship. The team gave an overview of the discernment process and demonstrated tools the participants could use for their own discernment.
“The aim of the retreat was to open the door for a more personal relationship with God as [the inquirers and sponsors] continue their spiritual journeys toward full initiation into the Catholic church,” said Will. “After visiting with some of them since the retreat, I am confident that we succeeded.”
To guide the participants on this journey, the team used questions like “What’s the difference between being a member of the Church versus a member of a country club or social club?” This helps develop relationship with fellow parishioners and build up the church as the Body of Christ, they said.
According to Mazza, the presenters also talked about “understanding grace as a relationship rather than a quantity.” It was a focus that participants found beneficial, Mazza said.
One of the exercises was walking the Reconciliation Labyrinth on the Precious Blood Renewal Center campus. Mazza explained: “The experience with the labyrinth was [learning about] a way of prayer as well as a means of reconciling with God and one another in terms of what it means to be members of God’s family.”
The Renewal Center will make a couple of changes to the programs for next year, based on feedback from participants this year. One change will be to add one more day for the program, which would give participants more options to join the event and would also ensure participant numbers can be accommodated.
Participants of the Spanish program asked the Renewal Center to host a day early next year for Spanish speaking RCIA directors and leaders from both sides of the state line to brainstorm about their programs and what their needs are for training leaders. Renewal Center staff is working on this program now.
by Sr. Donna Liette, ASC, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation
The other day, after the murder of two of our youth, the realization that a dedicated pbmr donor is critically ill with brain cancer, several center break-ins, and violent outbursts among participants, I asked Fr. Dave Kelly, “Is there any hope?” In his gentle way, he reminded me of our mission of being agents of hospitality, hope, and healing and allowing the chaos of our ministry to transform us.
A few hours later we had our weekly staff meeting and we read the passage about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The people had gathered to hear and see Jesus, but also to be healed. Many were healed, but the even greater miracle was within the crowd. As the food was shared and hospitality offered, there was abundance and the people began to see each other differently. A community of trust, of love and hope began to emerge.
Then Fr. Kelly asked us, “Where have you seen hope in this pbmr community?” The stories we told brought tears to our eyes and bursts of laughter—had we only thought to record those stories.
Angelica told the joy of helping one of our participants move into his own place with his mother. He had worked hard in the Woodshop to earn the money, and there they stood, proud in their new home with furniture and all. hopes were fulfilled.
Fred told of talking to the mother of one of his participants, one of our youngest. The mother is so happy about the change in her son; she sees the hopes she had for her son coming alive at home.
Dave told of one of our youth, Joe, presently incarcerated, calling because he was feeling down. After talking to a few staff as the phone was passed around, he said, “I feel so much better.” Connection made—hope.
Fr. Denny shared the joy and hope he experiences when guys from years past come back and tell how their lives have changed—jobs and housing found, the positive lifestyles—and they are so deeply grateful for their time at pbmr.
Artrice, Sr. Janet, and I work with the mothers and see their joy as they grow in their healing, in their desire to further their education and to grow spiritually.
Many stories were told of the hope that our “Hospitality House” for men returning from prison after 20+ years has brought, not only to the three men now living there but to all of us.
Hector had a great hope story. He described the evening a pottery class joined the pbmr screen printing business in the Mother Brunner basement, a tight space already shared with laundry facilities. Then one of Hector’s pbmr youth got a little agitated with the intrusion of these “younger” boys. The story ends with this agitated youth showing a younger potter the skill he has learned. Well now, agitation turns to pride and he was all in and happy to be sharing space, talent, and “big brother” stuff! Hope.
There were many more stories. Some you can read in our monthly e-newsletter along with wonderful photos of hope and healing.
Today, as I prayed with the Jesuit and companion Martyrs of El Salvador, there was a reading from Jon Sobrino. (Companions of Jesus: The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador). He writes, “It is not easy to keep on hoping…it seems that everything is against hope…but together with the great love Jesus showed and these martyrs had, there are the faces of the poor, in which God is hidden but nevertheless present, asking us to keep going, a request we cannot ignore.”
So, during this coming season of Advent—this season of hope and waiting—let us look for hope, for love, and create in our own homes, workplaces, and churches a spirit of hope and love. Where there is great love, there is hope. It is the call of the blood of Christ. Ω