by Sean Fitzgerald (Kansas City, 2010)
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My time as a volunteer for the Missionaries of the Precious Blood has led me to cross paths with wonderful people and challenging circumstances. I came by these enlightening events because of an irregular and unfortunate event at college. The summer of 2010 brought a life-changing decision for me. By no means was I dangerously at a loss for guidance, but I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not knowing what to do with the time I had between that summer and going back to school in the fall of 2011, I had the good fortune to meet Chris Hoyt, the director or the Precious Blood Volunteers program, while volunteering as a chaperone on a mission trip with my home parish, Church of the Annunciation in Kearney, MO.
Chris gave a very insightful presentation of his experiences as a volunteer and the new Precious Blood Volunteers program. Through the next few months I met with Chris in regards to volunteering, and with great patience from him and some helpful support from my Youth Minister at Annunciation, Elizabeth Madeo, I decided to take the opportunity that was before me. In that decision there were several things that led me to my conclusion, but one of the reasons at the forefront of my mind was that through the rest of my life, after going back to college and setting out on that path, how many opportunities would I have to volunteer for six straight months or more. After that conversation I was sold, and plans were made to proceed.
Of all my volunteer experiences, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best of memory. I spend my Tuesdays at the Sacred Heart-Guadalupe food pantry. The pantry was at first rather daunting and discouraging, because there were so many people that needed food. Previously, the vast majority of my experiences with the poor had been limited to “projects” and “doing” things for the poor-and had little to do with interaction with the poor.
The more I interacted with the people who came, the more encouraging they became to me, because it finally hit me that those people were working as hard as they could to support themselves and their families. I quit treating them like the needy and started treating them as people and brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea and stereotype of the “needy,” but they are just people like you and me who have fallen on less fortunate times. I felt blessed to be in their company, because they showed me a whole other side to a great conversation on life. There were many new angles that I found through conversation with them. Life wasn’t as simple as black and white with them; it was a much more colorful and understood
My experiences and time spent with the Precious Blood members and the food pantry have helped build a strong compassion for the poor and unfortunate. The Sacred Heart-Guadalupe staffs care and attitude in the food pantry reminded me that the poor are people too, and that Jesus was on to something when he entrusted their care and well being to those of us to have the power and obligation to do something about it.
Wednesdays are spent in school I loved my time there, because through the last couple of years I have developed a bad habit of making my faith more complicated than it should be. The children at Our Lady of Guadalupe School, and those in the summer Bible school, brought about a more carefree attitude that I hadn’t been able to get back to since I was their age. Their faith was admirable too, because they had just that, faith. They believed without seeing and knew Jesus for what he was and what he had promised them: forgiveness, love, and friendship. Their behavior took me back to a time in my childhood-which was actually not too long ago!-when I thought of things so much more simply. I was amazed to hear the students’ responses when speaking with them about questions that I personally try to answer in too many words. They brought about an amazing growth in my understanding to not be after the answer all the time, to take a breath and relax, to slow down and let the mystery of the Holy Spirit be exactly that.
To say that I have had many experiences with religious communities would be an exaggeration, but what I know about the Precious Blood community is that they most certainly practice what they preach. I have observed, experienced and learned what it truly is to be accepting of all of God’s children. They have shown and taught me a compassion for the poor that I cannot begin to explain. Fr. Al Ebach, Fr. Mike Goode, and the staff at Sacred Heart-Guadalupe have helped me grow to see people as they are-to understand that the poor are no different from the rich; they have lives, concerns and families. No matter what our social classification, we all thank God for what we have and the Lord still works through all of us.
My experience with the Precious Blood Volunteers has been a positive one. I feel that I have grown and it has shown me that you never know enough to stop growing. Christ’s love is present in this program and all its experiences.