Hail the New

A New Year’s message from our Provincial Director Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.

2024 appears before us, shiny and new, rolling out its endless possibilities. In the words of the Christmas carol “Deck the Halls” (the fa-la-la-la-la’s are implied), Fast away the old year passes, Hail the new, ye lads and lasses.

Fast away the old year passes, indeed. It seems like the calendar moves faster and faster every year. As for hailing the new, it is not that easy when you live in Chicago, like I do. Here, January wind and weather do not do much to foster new growth. Equally discouraging is the daily news, with its worldly ration of chaos and discord.

So it may be up to us to take on the new start that the calendar offers. How do we do that? Perhaps by examining the past. We can think about the times in our lives when God has granted us a new beginning, a new reason to hope, when God has somehow—sometimes through times of dismal darkness—brought light and laughter back into our world. When a good friend shows up at the door, offering support. When a favorite book or song hits us in a new way, and we gain perspective that gets us through a difficult day. When we cross paths with people who are not like us in any way, and find in them a fascinating view of the world we thought we knew.

God always calls us to new life: to hope anew, to walk in a new direction, to reach out to strangers. January 1 is as good a time as any to take the path that God offers us every day, on to new discoveries and all the possibilities that God’s loving heart brings to us.

Yours in the Blood of Christ,

V. Rev. Jeffrey S. Kirch, C.PP.S.
Provincial Director

The Shepherds’ POV

A Christmas message from our Provincial Director Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.

Christmas, its images and celebrations, all have the newborn Jesus at the center. The light of the world radiates out from a tiny infant. But there are many humans in the account of Jesus’ birth: his parents on Earth, of course, and all those who came to worship him in his first hours and days of life with us.

I have often wondered about the shepherds’ reaction. How could these people, whose work took them far from the marketplace, far from any crowds, have the wherewithal to grasp and relay what they had just seen? If we in the modern world, with all its lights and technological wonders, saw the scene unfold on Christmas morning, our heads would explode.

Yet as Mary reflected on the birth of Jesus and its surrounding miracles in her heart, the shepherds “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them” (Luke 2:20). Their eyes and ears were open to the miracle.

May we all be open to the miracle, today and all days, that God loved us so much he sent his Son to Earth to walk among us. Jesus is with us still, providing all the light and love we will ever need, with plenty left over to share with whatever shepherds or kings or new little families we encounter.

The Light Will Lead Us Home

By Fr.  Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.

Advent is an adventure into the very mysteries of life. Though we associate Advent as a season of new beginnings, since 2010, I also identify Advent with endings. My younger sister, Mary, died on the first Sunday of Advent in 2010 at the age of 47. My dad was 93 when he died four years later during the first week of Advent. Dad suffered a stroke the day after Thanksgiving in 2014 and never regained consciousness. He lay still, suspended between life and death for several days.

During those days of waiting, my niece, Kathleen, was expecting her first child. The family held a shower for her on the anniversary of my sister’s death. Kathleen had second thoughts about the date, but everyone said it would be good to have the shower on that day as Mary would have probably hosted it if she were alive. I was told her spirit was very much in evidence at Kathleen’s shower as I spent the day with dad so that Mom and my sister could attend. Mary’s son, Joe, and I had lunch and told stories about his mom.

Here the mystery of faith, of hope, of love takes shape. What form it will take, God only knows. But Advent ushers us into the excitement of welcoming and celebrating a child that is on the way; the memory and grief of a sister, daughter, mother who died too soon at 47; and a 93-year-old man struggling to die. The Advent mystery coming together in a single day of waiting.

Last Advent, I found a book by Episcopal Bishop Steven Charleston called “Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage.” Bishop Charleston is an elder of the Choctaw Nation. In the introduction, he shares the vision of the kiva which he describes as “a square or circular underground chamber, covered by a roof of wooden beams with an opening in the center.” One enters the kiva “by descending the ladder” and once you are “inside the packed earth chamber of the kiva, you are in darkness.” The only light comes from above and the only way to reach it is to climb the ladder.

In Native American spirituality, the kiva “is a womb,” Bishop Charleston writes. “It is a place of origins.” This is where “life first began. As the tribe of human beings, we began our existence in the womb of the earth, beneath the surface, in a place of darkness. Through many different incarnations of life on this planet, we finally emerged into the light.”

Bishop Charleston describes this journey as “the ladder not to heaven, but to home.” Our journey on this Earth is to look for the light wherever we go. Which helps to explain what Bishop Charleston calls the “spiritual resilience of North America’s indigenous peoples” because “our traditional religious practices were banned. Our sacred objects were taken from us and either destroyed or put in museums as a curiosity for our conquerors. Our families were scattered into the diaspora. Even our languages were forbidden.”

And yet, as the bishop points out, “we are still here.” Native Americans “know something about resisting darkness.” They’ve been doing it “for more than five hundred years.” Which is why the kiva “symbolizes this spiritual resilience. It reminds us that we began in darkness . . . the nurturing darkness of the womb, a place of formation and growth. Over time, through the grace of the Spirit, we learned more, understood more, until we matured and were ready to take our place in the bright world of reality. We emerged from Mother Earth.”

Bishop Charleston sees the kiva as a metaphor for our times. It teaches us that “if we are in a time of darkness, we need not be afraid of it, because it is only the beginning for us,” he writes. “As a people, we have entered into darkness before, only to emerge into the light.”

The Advent wreath captures our hope of the light of Christ coming into the world to extinguish the darkness of sin and death. With so much darkness in the world these days, wars raging, violence increasing, chasms between various groups widening, and the polarization crippling so many institutions, lighting a candle on this wheel of hope calls us to prayer and possibility.

We are living in a time when people are losing faith in our institutions. Whether it is the church, education, health care, or politics, systems are collapsing around us. The polarization that exists on so many levels and in so many institutions, one wonders if we can ever learn to live in peace with those with whom we disagree? We have seen in recent years the attacks on diversity. In the Church, the battle lines are often drawn between tradition and change.

Our spirituality and charism call us to stand in the chasms that divide us, to be bridges of blessing and hope that seek to bring those who are separated, those who are far off, near through the Blood of Christ. It is a tall order. But Advent offers us the opportunity to practice what Anne Lamott calls “stubborn hope.” She writes, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don’t give up.”

Whether we are waiting for a birth or a death or something in between, Advent advises patience, a patience born in our own stories of waiting, watching, and working with a stubborn hope that God is always in control.

Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., a noted author, preacher and retreat leader, is the vice provincial director of the United States Province.




Be the Voice of Peace

By Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S.

When we were children, waiting for Christmas was marked with hope and great anticipation for Santa’s arrival and the gifts he would bring. As adults our waiting for Christmas takes on a different meaning.

Like our ancestors of old we experience a longing and a desire in our hearts for the coming of our Savior in glory. Realizing our need for a Savior is key to celebrating the mystery of the incarnation at Christmas. If we don’t see the need for a Savior, then Christmas becomes just one more secular holiday to observe.

As Christians we believe that the mystery of the incarnation continues to unfold as we encounter Jesus in our daily lives and continue the work of building God’s Kingdom on Earth. Each day we live in hope as we enjoy already on Earth a foretaste of the glory to be revealed in heaven. This encounter with the living Lord stirs within us a greater desire to work for peace in imitation of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

With so many obstacles to peace present in our lives we may be tempted to let cynicism creep into our Advent journey. If you feel this temptation, ponder the message found in this parable by Joseph Jaworsky.

“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” the sparrow asked the wild dove.

“Why, it weighs nothing more than nothing” replied

the dove.

“In that case,” the sparrow said, “let me tell you a story. I sat on a branch of a fir tree close to its trunk. It began to snow . . . not heavily, not like a blizzard—no, just like a dream, delicately and peacefully.

“Since I didn’t have anything better to do, I decided to count the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. The number was exactly 3,741,952. Then suddenly, as the next snowflake landed, weighing ‘nothing more than nothing’ as you say, the branch broke off.” With that, the sparrow flew away.

The wild dove thought to herself and said, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come about in the world.”

Could it be that your voice is the one missing for peace to come about in the world? With so many conflicts present in our world, communities and families, there is no doubt that we need a Savior. Christ is counting on us to be authentic witnesses of his peace in the world.

This Advent, monitor your conversations both internally and externally. Do they reflect your need for a savior and your desire for peace? Watch for people who are instruments of peace around you and share their stories with others. Let these stories stir within your heart a greater desire to be a peacemaker in your own life and let this be your gift to the Christ child this Christmas season.


The Logistics of Showing Up

2023-2024 Precious Blood Volunteer, Anna Nowalk

Anna Nowalk, Precious Blood Volunteer

When I heard that the general stipend for Precious Blood Volunteers was $250 per month, plus an additional food stipend, I was confident in my ability to spend within that budget. Sure, my coffee beans might get a little pricey, but my food and housing were already covered, so really, what else was there?

In my volunteer covenant, I wrote that I would not spend over the provided amount, figuring it was a fairly low bar. What I didn’t sufficiently consider was the cost of travel: a single round trip to see my family at Thanksgiving was over my monthly budget. My parents have kindly agreed to sponsor my holiday flights to Pittsburgh, but without being able to rely on their resources or my own sav- ings, seeing my family during the holidays would be in a far more precarious position.

Transportation may not be considered a “need” like food, water, shelter, or air, but I’ve gained an increased understanding of its importance during my time as a Volunteer. This is the first time that I’ve lived far enough from home that a plane ride is my only real travel option. I actually purchased multiple tickets within the same month in an attempt to avoid the higher prices I (correctly) feared I’d come across if I waited. However, I recognize that not everyone has the means to drop hundreds of dollars at once on multiple flights, especially if they’re living paycheck-to-pay-check. I’m privileged enough that attempting to live on a Volunteer stipend can be an experiment, rather than a necessity; on solely a Volunteer budget, it’s possible that price increases may have continuously put a trip out of my reach, even if I eventually saved enough to have purchased the original flights together.

Anna Nowalk, far left, at PBMR with Sr. Carolyn Hoying, Diana Rubio and Sr. Pauline Siesegh

The cost of long-distance travel and the way it can impact the time we spend with our loved ones isn’t the only realization I’ve had. I didn’t bring a car with me when I moved, and after having attended a university in New York City for four years, I frankly don’t trust my driving skills enough to get on the road. As such, I have to rely on one of my housemates for a ride to and from Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR), my Volunteer placement, putting me at the mercy of their schedules. When I get home late, it’s often because I’m being driven home by someone who is transporting participants. Sometimes this takes five minutes; sometimes it takes 30. Taking people home is a time-consuming task.

When this means getting home at 7:30 pm, the loss of personal time can be frustrating. And yet, a person’s ability to simply get to PBMR is the foundation upon which many of our activities rest. Participants can’t participate in certain activities without being at the locations in which they’re happening.

The importance of location extends beyond mere logistics. PBMR strives to create a safe space for participants, a place where community members can feel at peace and at home. Even in the pandemic, the organization continued to provide in-person services.

The center on S. Elizabeth Street and The Front Porch nearby are spaces where community can grow. Togetherness in physical space underlies one of our core values: radical hospitality. When I think of radical hospitality, I imagine people welcoming others into a space. When I think of accompaniment, I visualize a person walking alongside someone else. These tenets of PBMR conjure images of care made tangible by the presence of a loving person. The phrase “ministry of presence” is an apt way to describe what PBMR aims to provide: relationship comes before programming. We’re here for people. We show up.

Transportation determines our interactions with space, and consequently, with our work and with others. The availability of safe, convenient and affordable transportation shapes whether we can hug the people we love, as well as our access a safe space, whether we desire to find healing there ourselves or want to accompany others. Transportation governs our ability to literally show up.

There’s a strong argument to be made that sometimes, the destination is more important than the journey, especially when the destination is a place like PBMR and the journey is an hour-long bus ride. Nevertheless, arrival at the destination cannot happen without an accessible and functional mode of transportation. While it may not be a “need” in the proper sense, it is certainly a necessity.

Anna is serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. Go to preciousbloodvolunteers.org to learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers.

Victory for our God

By Fr. Dennis Chriszt, C.PP.S.

This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today, the Church throughout the world

celebrates the great feast of Christ the King.

We rejoice that the promise made

by the prophet Ezekiel

has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ,

who came as the Good Shepherd,

who rescues us and tends us,

who give us rest

and who seeks for us when we are lost

and brings us back when we have strayed.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today we rejoice that the Lord is our shepherd,

who leads us and refreshes our souls

who guides us in right paths,

who spreads a table before us,

anoints us,

and blesses us with overflowing grace.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today we rejoice that the Lord has been raised from the dead,

and that through him all of us will be brought to life.

We rejoice that Christ will hand over his kingdom to the Father,

will destroy every sovereignty, authority and power,

will destroy even death,

so that God may be all in all.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Today we rejoice with the Son of Man,

who will come and sit on his glorious throne,

and all the nations will be summoned before him.

We rejoice with those who will be placed on his right,

those who have fed hungry,

gave a drink to those who were thirsty,

those who welcomed the stranger

and clothed the naked,

those who cared for the ill

and visited the prisoners,

those who did things for the least of their brothers and sisters,

and in so doing, did them for Christ.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


When I was a seminarian

and was home for Thanksgiving,

I heard the shortest homily ever.

It was only one sentence long.

It was the Feast of Christ the King,

and after reading the Gospel,

the preacher waited for everyone to sit down.

He looked around the church

and simply said,

“If Christ is your King, prove it!”

Then he sat down in the silence that followed.


Today’s Gospel tells us how to prove it.

Today’s Gospel tells us what the Kingdom looks like.

Today’s Gospel impels us to witness to our faith
by what we say and do.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


In baptism,

our King has anointed us

priests, prophets and royalty,

that we might worship and praise our God,

that we might proclaim God’s message

by our words and our actions,

and that we, like the King of Kings,

might care for those most in need

throughout our lives


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


However, we don’t do it alone.
Christ the King does not sit back and wait for us to act.

Christ our King helps us to do what we calls us to do.

Christ our King is more than the judge
who separates the sheep from the goats,
the good from the evil,

those invited to inherit the kingdom prepared for us

from the foundation of the world.


No, our King does not live in some far away palace,

protected from people he was called to serve.

Our King walks among us,

nourishes us with his own body and blood,

does for us what he asks us to do for others.

Our King never leaves alone,

never hides behind castle walls,

but is right here with us

at every moment of our lives.


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Christ is our King!

Now let us prove it!


This is the feast of victory for our God!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!


Note: This is the last scripture reflection in this series. Fr. Dennis, who is the director of advanced formation for the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, will continue to post homilies from time to time at https://www.dennis-chriszt-cpps.org/.

Thankful for the Micro and the Macro

A Thanksgiving message from our
Provincial Director Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.

Each day brings us both a broad and a close-up view of life. We are usually struggling to understand some big issue (the conflict in the Middle East comes to mind) and also dealing with some smaller details specific to our own life, good or bad. Maybe your car is overdue for an oil change, or the postal carrier just delivered a book that you cannot wait to read.

This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for it all, macro and micro, for miracles large and small, for broad horizons as well as the little pinpricks that God puts into our lives to remind us to pay attention to the details.

Most of all, we are grateful for the people the God puts into our lives. He not only knit each of us when we were in the womb, he knits us together out in the world, into a human family so that we can be a comfort and help to each other. Whether in one-on-one relationships, or our lifelong attempt to love the whole human family, human love is born from the love God gives us.

Today we say thank you, God, for the little gifts and the big picture, for the people we have known forever and those we are yet to meet. We cannot understand all the connections that God is making for us, large and small, but if we are wise, we see them all with a grateful heart.

Do We Bury Our Wounded?

By Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S.

A while back, I went to my local barber for a haircut. He knew I was a Catholic priest, and so religious and theological topics came up all the time. He attended a non-denominational Protestant church, and so this was my small part in ecumenical dialogue.

One day, the subject that came up during the haircut was forgiveness. In the midst of the conversation, we arrived at a disagreement on my choice of shampoo, but more importantly, we disagreed on reconciliation. The way he described reconciliation still sticks with me. He said that God does reconcile the sinner, but we as Christians “bury our wounded.”

There is a type of burying in the Gospel this weekend. One of the workers in the parable, the third one who receives only one talent, buries the talent the master gives him. From the perspective of the master who beats him and takes the buried talent away from him, he was supposed to have made money off of the talent according to the master upon his return home.

There is something in the affirmation from the master to the first two servants, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” that shapes our reading of the third servant as bad for having buried the talent he received. Why did he bury it? One possibility is that he wanted to avoid taking a risk, as the first two servants did.

It is not just money or the dead that get buried in our Christian lives. My barber was right, both about the shampoo and “burying our wounded.” It’s sometimes easier to bury more than just money or the dead to give off a sanitized version of our lives and our faith. It’s easier to try to show a life or faith devoid of any messiness or wounded-ness that is a part of real life. The stories of the saints sometimes have buried facts about them, because the authors thought that if people knew those “buried” facts about their lives, we might not call them saints anymore. God’s grace turns sinners into saints, no matter what we try to bury or keep buried.

Precious Blood spirituality leans into our wounded-ness and our wounds. “Burying our wounded” isn’t in line with who God calls us to be or how God calls us to treat one another or ourselves. To echo today’s reading from Proverbs, the wounds of Christ are precious, beyond the worth of pearls, and the importance of Christ’s wounds brings importance to our wounds too.

Our wounds are important enough to not be buried. Our wounded are important enough to not be buried. Through our wounds, we come closer to Christ, and we are strengthened by our God. Today, God calls us to remember the value of our wounds and our wounded and to unbury anything and anyone we would bury.

To view the full scripture reading, click here.



Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of St. Joseph Catholic Church, Palm Bay, Fla. He is also a spiritual director.

Mother and Child Reunion

By Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S.

Praying with the scriptures today has missionary images dancing and intermingling in my heart and mind.

The first image St Paul gives us: A missionary is a mother who gives life to another and nurtures that life. The mother nursing her child at her breast, the child’s eyes locked on the face of the mother. The nurturing of child with milk, and more so, with a totally selfless love for the child. A missionary/mother giving of herself with an undeniable and never-failing love. Such sweet tenderness!

The dance partner is one of my favorite Precious Blood images, the Unity or Schoenstatt crucifix. Again, this is image of a mother and child and the self-giving of a life through divine love, but here it is the child who allows his life to be poured out for another in a sacrifice of love. The ever-faithful mother at his side, at one with him in the sacrifice, receiving the Precious Blood in a chalice so that it can be shared. It is offered to me and you, so that we are brought into that same communion of salvific love. Such sweet communion!

As these images dance and intermingle they question my missionary heart and mind.

  • How does the love of a mother-God nurture my life and form me to be missionary in all that is to come?
  • How in my missionary life am I to be like St Paul, a self-less loving mother who tenderly creates and nurtures the life of others?
  • How am I to love in a profound and sacrificial way, like the child on the cross?
  • And how am I to be the vessel, the participant who shares in the sacrifice and whose life is an offering of communion?

It is the interplay of those two mother and child images that expresses the challenging Gospel message. Jesus speaks of priests and church leaders. The command to us is to ensure that our missionary preaching is authenticated by our way of life. No cheap talk is permitted. He urges us to embrace a place of humble service and avoid places and positions of privilege and honor. It is as if he says to us:

  • Be like me―Drink deeply of the love of God because it will strengthen you and give you life.
  • Be like my mother―give lovingly of yourself to nurture the life of the helpless and those in need.
  • Be like me―willing to pour out your life as a sacrifice for the life of others.
  • And be like my mother―the vessel who carries my Precious Blood into the world.

A former moderator general of the worldwide congregation, Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., resides in Chicago. He serves as the provincial secretary and treasurer of the United States Province.


The Stars Tell the Story

Christ speaks to us of the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” What motivates us to do that?

We are in the time of year when seasons change and we witness the dynamic of creation.

Science tells us that planet Earth has been the process of creation for millions of years.

The last glacier covered most of Ohio between 35,000 and 12,000 years ago.

What was this creative process through which God put planet Earth to prepare a place for us where we can enjoy a fall and winter of 2023, and then another spring and summer of 2024? I remember so well as a kid looking up at the night sky over in the Best State of these United States (which is Indiana, in case you didn´t know) when there were no outside lights. I would see a sky just full of stars from east to west, from north to south, making me think of how great God is, making all this possible.

Now some 80 years later, I look up into that same sky, somewhat impaired by the streetlights and security lights of the city, but still I see a few stars, the crescent moon, half and then full and the sun in all its splendor lighting our planet every 24 hours. How can one not love a heavenly Father who has prepared planet Earth for us to enjoy?

That us is not just for us residents of beautiful Ohio, but for all humanity with whom we share planet Earth. Thus says the Lord: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens.” We hear this in our first reading from Exodus 22. We are to make immigrants welcome so they too can enjoy in 2023–24.

Changing life and God: We are pilgrims and, on our way “to serve the living and true God and await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath,” as we hear in our second reading from 1 Thessalonians 1. Again, what a loving Father God we have, who as sent his Son, Jesus to prepare the pilgrim way through this life and into new life.



Fr. James Gaynor, C.PP.S., who served in Peru for many years, is now in ministry at the St. Gaspar Family of Parishes in Dayton.