By Hector Avitia, Precious Blood Volunteer
Last week my community had its first house meeting. We divided up the chores and the first floor of the Formation House in Chicago (my floor), was assigned to dinner duty on Wednesdays. Up until this point I had been able to avoid cooking for the whole house because two of our community members took care of most of the cooking. I decided to bite the bullet and I volunteered for the first scheduled dinner for our floor this week. I don’t remember the last time I was this nervous about dinner. I wanted to get home early enough to cook patiently and diligently but that did not happen. When I got home I got so nervous about cooking that I had to get my mother on video chat to help walk me through the process. So there I am, making a mess in the kitchen while I spoke Spanish with my mom and dad over video chat, rushing and managing several pots and pans all at once. It was definitely a sight to behold in a house that is usually calm and quiet.
PBVs Hector, Leah, Lota and John cooking with Lucia
Thanks to God who, through my mother’s love and direction, allowed me to make a full meal that consisted of chicken enchiladas (garnished with freshly cut lettuce, tomato from the garden at PBMR, and avocado), rice, and beans. The kitchen didn’t burn down and the portions I made were enough to feed the whole house. I have always been uncomfortable about cooking, but not until I thought back to our cooking class at Orientation and the reflection given by Lucia, the facilitator of the cooking class), did I really figure out why I was such a nervous wreck. Preparing a meal is a very deep way that we connect with friends and family. In a way, I was sharing an intimate, a spiritual, part of me by cooking a meal for the house. I think we all seek acceptance when we open ourselves up to others like that, and making this meal made me vulnerable to the other guys in my house. Thanks to the support of my housemates, I am excited to cook again for my house when my turn comes around.
Hector is a current Precious Blood Volunteer serving at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago. To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org.
It’s a family tradition: God’s Portion Weekend at St. Patrick’s Parish in Georgetown, Iowa
God’s Portion Weekend was celebrated August 31-September 1 in Georgetown, Iowa. The weekend celebration featured a golf tournament, “Country Homegrown Dinner,” games, entertainment, auction, and Mass. All proceeds support St. Patrick’s Parish in Georgetown, Iowa. Fr. Mark Yates, C.PP.S. is pastor. Companion Sharon Crall, pastoral associate at St. Patrick’s shared the following reflection of the weekend tradition.
Oh, the stories and the generational family traditions that were still part of the richness of the God’s Portion Weekend at Georgetown on August 31-September 1! The Church community invited the larger Monroe County Community and many parts beyond, even out of state, back to celebrate and raise money for the historic Church building and needs of St. Patrick’s Parish. At this gathering, stories get told of the event, the people, and the history of St. Patrick’s to pass from generation to generation.
Even the preparation for God’s Portion Weekend reminds people of stories. A “Code Yellow” is still called out (today via text message) to gather the parish to process sweet corn. Many could tell you as children, they were enticed to “fish in the ponds” during corn blanching time. It took a few years for them to realize that they were a crucial part of the process—taking the ears of corn from one cold water bath to another. Then it was not so much fun!
Children of the event planners would be lined up in the old hall basement and assigned to chop and grate cabbage for slaw—and didn’t stop until the job was finished.
Years ago, the green bean snapping and processing was itself a story. Pickers sent a driver with buckets of beans throughout the neighborhood to be snapped at various houses. That was called a “bean drop.” Participants were given two hours to accomplish the job, and then the driver would return for pick-up. No one ever complained as they dropped everything they had planned to do and snapped beans for canning. There was no age or gender stipulation involved in this job. If you could snap, you qualified.
The day of the dinner provides its own laughs. One must laugh while frying chicken at 3:30 a.m. to keep yourself awake. Several years back a couple of parishioners dressed in firemen gear to provide “fire department” protection during the cooking.
Every generation was part of the “Talent Show” undertaken for several years at the end of God’s Portion Day. No matter the parishioners had worked all day long at that point. Many remember being astounded as people of all ages got up on stage —all for the “honor and glory of God and his Church.” Some claim miracles occurred. Great aunts turned into beauty queens. Parishioners turned into movie stars and singers. Children became self-confident performers, and even one pastor turned into a country-western singer or a member of the Beach Boys! The stories of having fun producing those outrageously funny shows are frequently told.
Remember, remember, remember and pass the stories along to the next generation. There’s a loyalty to Georgetown that is special. If you were raised around Georgetown you treasure lots of great memories. If you married into the Georgetown family, you had no idea what you were getting into! If you visit each year at God’s Portion Day—welcome, enjoy, have fun, and listen. There’s bound to be a story being told somewhere to the next generation.
Reflections from Precious Blood Volunteers: Alia Sisson
We asked the seven 2017-2018 Precious Blood Volunteers to answer three questions:
- What is/are some relationship(s) that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
- What are some of the experiences that have stood out for you during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
- How have you grown during your time as a Precious Blood Volunteer?
Below are the answers from former Precious Blood Volunteer Alia Sisson.
I’d like to start out saying I haven’t had a bad relationship my entire time here, which is pretty wild considering how many people I’ve interacted with. From my RCIA Team at St. Francis Xavier, to my bus 55 driver, to certain clients I’ve gained a rapport with, every relationship no matter how small has been enriching to my experience in some way.
Precious Blood Volunteers Martin Echtler, Lota Ofodile, and Alia Sisson with Tim Deveney
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout out to everyone I lived with here in Kansas City. Going to Mass almost every morning with Juan has been amazing. I loved hearing stories of Father Dick’s childhood in Wisconsin, and enjoying Father Garry’s jokes and 5-star cooking. All of the volunteers will always hold a special place in my heart. We have bonded on different levels but I can honestly say I appreciate everyone I’ve shared this experience with so much! I hope to stay in touch with the Chicago crew, and Martin, John, Lota (and Tim!) I hope will be lifelong friends.
Stand out experiences for me have all revolved around the people I most care about here. First, I was honored to be invited to Tim’s mother’s home in St. Louis for Thanksgiving and to share that singular experience with Tim’s family and Martin. More fond memories were having the Jesuit Volunteers over for dinner, the farewell parties for John and Martin, and celebrating my confirmation, to name a few. I also enjoyed our spirituality nights, retreats, and trip to Chicago. Some of my favorite memories from Kansas City are when my parents and best friend from college visited. It was so much fun to show them the city that I have grown to love (and of course stuff them with that famous Kansas City barbeque). Any time we get off our devices, break bread, and share our spirits makes me very happy.
I have been here just enough time to achieve a pleasant rhythm and routine without it becoming monotonous. Knowing I was going to be at Legal Aid for 9 months gave me the chance to dig deep and do some real work. Over this time span, I could see some of the fruits of my labor, while not getting so comfortable as to lose my spark. Not every day is fireworks and rainbows, but finding the joy in sometimes banal tasks is a big part of being a good Christian. I don’t have to be constantly entertained to do a good job and help people, and that has been a good lesson for me as I prepare for full time work for the next 40-ish years.
My job has also allowed me to grow in compassion and empathy. Asking women about the worse physical violence they have ever experienced is incredibly hard, but also having these women be so vulnerable and offer their stories really connected me to them. Through this experience I have grown to see that everyone suffers, but some suffer far more trauma than others. It made me realize how fortunate I have been in my life and how much I want to help others who have experienced appalling abuse.
Through my experience as a Precious Blood Volunteer I have also grown spiritually. Going through RCIA from October through January really helped me focus in on what it is I love about the Roman Catholic faith. I have learned that I am more traditional in my faith than many people I am surrounded by, and that is ok because there is no one right way to do it. As Catholicism is the universal church, it has enough room for licit diversity of thought and worship. I’ve grown closer to God through daily mass, prayer, and with the relationships I’ve forged with people here. Every day I try to invite God’s Holy Spirit into my heart and get out of the way of my own spiritual progress. While far from perfect, without a doubt I am leaving this experience as a changed and better woman.
Alia Sisson, Tim Deveney, and Lota Ofodile
Alia served as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Legal Aid of Western Missouri from September 2017-June 2018.
To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org.
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR) works towards reconciliation and healing with those in the Chicago community and our Church who have been impacted by violence and conflict. PBMR’s ministries reach out to the victim, the wrongdoer, and the community to create a safe space where healing can begin and where people can find the support and encouragement needed to begin reconciliation. They strive to be a resource to the community to find restorative ways to heal and rebuild after violence and conflict.
PBMR serves people in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. It is a collaborative ministry of the Cincinnati and Kansas City Provinces of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
As a Precious Blood Volunteer serving at PBMR you will have the opportunity to walk with and serve others in a variety of ways. They include mentoring, tutoring, advocacy, and being part of restorative justice efforts. This placement is for you if you are looking for a career in the ministry, social work, law, advocacy or education.
You can learn more about PBMR by going to their website.
Read a story by current Precious Blood Volunteer, Leah Landry, about the creation of the mural in the Mother Brunner House at PBMR here.
Read a reflection by current Precious Blood Volunteer, Hector Avitia, about community living in Chicago here.
Read a reflection by former Precious Blood Volunteer, Bonnie Kane, about her experience at PBMR here.
You can apply to serve as a Precious Blood Volunteer at PBMR by going to our “Apply” page.