By Tim Deveney, Director of Precious Blood Volunteers
Kara McNamara and Nora O’Connell, two of our former volunteers, were in Kansas City a couple of months ago to take part in the Companions Young Adult Task Force. During their stay we had the opportunity to visit St. James Place where Nora worked for more than half a year. She was able to catch up with people she served at St. James and ended up going to lunch with members of St. James staff. It was good for Nora to have some time to visit with her former coworkers, especially with one lady who volunteered in the food pantry and was upset with Nora because she heard a false rumor that Nora had come to Kansas City earlier in the year and didn’t say hello to her.
While Nora was visiting with her former coworkers I was blessed with a conversation with Kara. We spent time talking about her experience in Crownpoint, her return visit there earlier this year, and her life and work following her time as a Precious Blood Volunteer. Kara reflected on the motivation someone should ideally have when entering into a service experience such as Precious Blood Volunteers. She summed it up by using a quote from an Australian Aboriginal activist group: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
This idea that working for someone else’s freedom from the chains that bind is work that frees our own bonds, fits well with Precious Blood Spirituality. It calls us into work with others who are held down by institutions and structures that cause people to suffer because of their race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, health, income level, or sexual orientation. It calls us to walk with people who suffer because of loss, violence, abuse, accidents, and tragedy.
As Christians, and especially as people of the Precious Blood, we are called to be with people who are suffering. Robert Schreiter puts it well by writing “a spirituality of the Blood is a spirituality that seeks out those who live on the margins of society and chooses to dwell with them.” The spirituality of the Blood calls us to place our selves, our time, our resources, and our energies with people who are suffering.
Precious Blood Volunteers takes our mission from this call of Precious Blood Spirituality. We are putting people directly in the midst of people who are suffering. It gives our volunteers an opportunity to be a part of liberating others and themselves. The examples of our volunteers who have served over the last few years have born witness to this lived spirituality of the Blood.
I think about our volunteers in New Mexico who spent their service time sharing their gifts and talents with the people of the Navajo Nation. Our volunteers who have worked in health care placements were not only part of the healing process, but were also simply being with people who are sick, lonely, and afraid. In other placements such as Catholic Charities in the Bay Area, St. James Place in Kansas City, and the Pacific Center in Berkeley, California, our volunteers have given of themselves in service to new immigrants, the hungry, and those marginalized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In all of these cases, our volunteers have noted how their eyes and hearts were freed to see God’s presence in the people they served.
I am working on recruiting new volunteers for the next year. My travels have taken me to volunteer fairs at Notre Dame, DePaul, Loyola-Chicago, Lewis, John Carroll, Xavier, Dayton, Marian, Creighton, and St. Louis University. I was also able to spend a full day at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer visiting with staff members from campus ministry, the career center, and the education department as well as a student. During these visits I was able to visit with several of our former volunteers and had a helping hand at Dayton from Kara McNamara and Nora O’Connell. If you visit our website, www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org, you can find stories about our volunteers, links to other Precious Blood resources, and information about volunteering.
We are all called to help liberate others. Isaiah 58:6 says: “Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke?” As we all set about this sacred task, I ask you to help recruit more Precious Blood Volunteers to join the great work of liberation.