by Lota Ofodile, current Precious Blood Volunteer
There’s an old story that has been circulating in my family for years now, since I was born—the tale of how I got my name. Legend has it that my grandfather wanted to name me Raluchukwu (which means “Choose God” in my native language, Igbo) but that changed after a little conversation.
Interesting fact: I grew up being part of a small Catholic community called The Neocatechumenal Way. Each year, Andrea and his wife Francesca, a nice Italian missionary couple and the leaders of our group, would make their way down to Nigeria from Rome with a new priest and seminarian and stay for a few months. They lived right next door. (So just in case some of you, like most of my friends and colleagues at the clinic are all wondering how I am so comfortable living with Fr. Dick and Fr. Garry, it’s because I have lived with priests for years).
Andrea was in the country when I was born, and apparently, after he heard I was going to be called Raluchukwu, naturally he asked what it meant. Once he found out, he said, and I paraphrase, “You can’t choose God; he has already chosen you. You just have to remember that.” That was how Lota came about. My first name, Lotachukwu, means “Remember God”.
Funny story, right? And who knows if that’s exactly how it happened? It doesn’t matter now because I have owned it, and every time I think about that story I realize how God shows himself to us in the most unexpected ways. Sometimes, the most incredible experiences happen to us when we least expect it.
At exactly this time last year, I had just graduated college and had no idea where my life was headed. I was lost and afraid. I had no job lined up. I had applied to a few places, but nothing seemed tangible. I couldn’t apply to medical school because I owe my college some tuition and so I couldn’t get my transcripts. Being an international student, especially in Trump’s America, that was a very scary time. I had pretty much accepted that I might end up moving back to Nigeria. Then Precious Blood Volunteers happened.
Growing up in my very Catholic family, my grandfather made sure we knew that helping others, especially those less privileged than we are, was just as important as prayer and going to Mass. So naturally, after about 10 years of Jesuit secondary and college education garnished with volunteering experiences here and there, I toyed with the idea of a year of service. I had heard about the Catholic Volunteer Network from a close friend who was just completing her year of service, so I put up my profile. I wasn’t even sure which group or what location I was particularly interested in. The very next day, I got an email from Tim Deveney, the Precious Blood Volunteer Director. At first, I didn’t think too much of it, just a really good recruiter who knows his job, right? But whenever I reflect on my time here, I realize that this was just another instance of God choosing me.
When I think about my orientation week, one thing stands out: prophetic voices. I remember all of us being somewhat confused and asking Tim to clarify what “prophetic voices” meant, and it basically came down to the ways and people with which God tries to get through to us. At least that’s how I’ve chosen to interpret it. It’s the #47 bus driver who has to sit through long hours of driving the same route everyday with all kinds of interesting characters, being part of conversations she’d probably rather not have if she did not have to be there. Patience. It’s John Lee, my ex-housemate and fellow volunteer who picked out monthly challenges to make the most out of his experience and ended up starting a podcast that is currently on iTunes! (I have never met anyone so insistent and intentional about self-development) It’s one of my patients at the clinic who I’m pretty confident is/was part of a gang who came back just before leaving to say thank you for making him feel comfortable and cheering him up after he cried to me while I was taking his vitals. He was just like me! A person with feelings who cries when he gets emotional. Gratitude and oneness.
At the beginning, I was mostly concerned with what and how best I would be contributing to the people I would encounter during my service year. But this experience has turned out to be much more rewarding than I ever imagined. I have gotten to meet the most amazing set of people who are dedicated to living the best versions of themselves in the Precious Blood community. I have made tremendous strides in my personal spiritual journey. I spend most of my Sundays as part of the St. Francis Xavier Parish 10:30am Mass choir. And I will be coming out of this service year with a full-time job at the KC CARE Clinic, God willing.
I am so grateful that God has once again chosen me, to be part of this wonderful community and to have this life-changing experience. I sincerely hope and pray that all of us are more attentive to the ways in which God is continuously calling and choosing us to be better people.
(Oh, and just for the record, we stuck both with names. My birth certificate actually has Lotachukwu Raluchukwu written on it. I have two first names! LOL).
You can learn more about serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer by going to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org
You can learn more about our placement at KC CARE Clinic by going to http://preciousbloodkc.org/kc-care-clinic/