Companions celebration at Sonnino House

On Sunday, July 7th, Northern California Companions gathered at Sonnino House in Berkeley for a belated feast day celebration. They also had two other reasons to celebrate. Timothy Guile made his first covenant with the community. Timothy began formation in San Rafael but had to move to Guam for family reasons. With some creative use of technology and learning about what time zone Guam is in,  the Companions were able to work with him to finish formation. The celebration was a chance for him to make his covenant in person with the  Companions he has come to know. They also celebrated the new gathering space that is being developed at Sonnino. This room will now have space for all the Companions to join together for gatherings, ongoing education and community events.

Winds of Change

Then he breathed on them and said:
“Receive the Holy Spirit…”
John 20, 22

Dear Friends,

I wonder if the sirens were blaring that first Pentecost when the disciples were gathered and “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind”? This noise, like the sound people have described far too often around the Midwest this Spring as tornadoes have cut swaths of destruction, knocked the disciples off their game. Their game was to stay put, stand pat, tremble in fear, play it safe.

But the Spirit had other plans. The Spirit of God thrust them into the world to speak new languages. As Paul reminds us, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us.” Pentecost awakens the Spirit we already know lives and breathes within us. The Spirit is always with us. Unfortunately, we often keep her hidden in the basement of our souls or gathering dust in the attic of our minds, content to live and move and have our being as mannequins instead of men and women of the Spirit.

Saint Gaspar often noted we are “people of the Spirit.” Pentecost celebrates the Spirit stirring into flame the desire in the first followers of Jesus to continue his mission of mercy and compassion. Those tongues of flame that shoot like lasers into the hearts of those first followers caused all heaven to break loose. The wind of the Spirit freed the disciples from fear, awakened the power and potential already inside of them.

Each of us carries this breath of the Spirit with us from birth. But like those first followers of Jesus, we have breathed in so much fear, hurt, hate, and harm that sometimes we forget how to breathe, how to speak words of tender mercy, how to love one another.

In the Gospel story of the Pentecost event, the disciples are portrayed as a community hiding in fear in that upper room. But with a gentle breath and a greeting of peace, Jesus stirs their courage. Not immediately, of course; it would take a while for them to have the lung capacity to breathe peace instead of fear. They had inhaled so much foul air—the pollution of betrayal and greed, the smoking ruins of dreams gone up in flames, the Sulphur-like smell of evil—that it would take some time to fill their lungs with the sweet, crisp air of the Holy Spirit. But with this gift of the Spirit comes reconciliation and forgiveness, and the courage to spread that mercy to the ends of the earth.

Pentecost is a celebration of the Spirit—wind, fire, breath. The Spirit manifests Herself is so many ways: courage, wisdom, knowledge, understanding. The power of Pentecost is in unleashing the potential for good that already exists among us. Are we ready to embrace it? As Pope Francis asked in his first Pentecost homily as pope in 2013, “Are we open to God’s surprises? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?”

This season of the Spirit invites us to set sail on new paths, carried on the winds of change. As a province, these prevailing winds will welcome a new leadership team on Monday evening, June 10, as Father Garry Richmeier, Father Dave Matz, Brother Daryl Charron, Father Timothy Armbruster, and Father Keith Branson will be installed as our new provincial and council. As we welcome the new, I want to thank the missionaries who have served us in leadership the past eight years—Fathers Richard Bayuk, Tom Welk, Ron Will, Mark Miller, and Jim Betzen. As provincial, I have been blessed to have their wisdom and counsel, their friendship and commitment to the community’s future.

I am also deeply grateful to the province staff who continue to serve all of us with fidelity, creativity, and initiative. The gifts they bring each day in the service of the community reflects the Pentecost story in advancing the gospel message and especially the charism of our founder and the spirituality of the Precious Blood.

As I prepare the take leave of the office of provincial, my appreciation to all of you, members, companions, volunteers, and friends, is boundless. Thank you for your encouragement, prayers, patience, and support these past eight years. I beg your pardon if my mistakes and missed opportunities have in any way hurt you. I trust in your mercy, compassion, and the bond of charity that serves as that holy thread that ties us together.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “We can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts, brothers [and sisters] once again. The answer is to rely on youth—not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” This becomes our Pentecost challenge as we embark on the New Creation.

And so, in conclusion, I offer this prayer and pray all to take good care:

Great and Holy Spirit,
whose breath gives life to the world,
whose voice is heard in the whisper of a gentle breeze,
whose force is found in the rush of a mighty wind,
You sweep us off our feet on this great feast of Pentecost.
With a sacred gust of grace, you make known to all peoples
the power of your pardon and peace.
With tongues of fire, O Great Spirit,
You create from many languages
a language of love to proclaim with one voice
the favor of your forgiveness and fidelity.

O Gracious God, during this season of the Spirit,
open wide the door of our hearts where all your abundant gifts are stored.
Open wide our minds to the wonders of Your Sacred Presence in all of creation,
and in all peoples of this earth.
We never cease to thank and praise you, O God,
for renewing our dreams, resuscitating our hopes,
and reviving the language of love we left for dead.
And so, with the breath of Your Son inspiring us,
we conspire with all peoples of this planet,
to breathe peace,
to be peace.
+ Amen.

With peace in the blood of Christ,

Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.
Provincial Director

Hero of Small Deeds

by Koby Buth, Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Heath Center

Growing up, I regularly attended youth ministry events titled something along the lines of, “Be a Hero for Jesus!” The message I heard at those events usually went something like this: “Jesus calls us to be moral exemplars in society. We need to stand out from our peers in a way that points to Christ and brings others to Him. By performing extraordinary acts with extraordinary courage, we will gather attention from society that we will then be able to redirect to Jesus.”

Part of the use of the word “Hero” was, of course, a means of appealing to our ten-year-old imagination: we could be Superman or Wonder Woman. I did not consider, however, how this appeals to our modern obsession with individualism, until I first heard the song “Helplessness Blues” by the band Fleet Foxes. As I contemplated the lyrics over time, the first verse has always been the most striking to me:

I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes,
unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery
serving something beyond me

While that verse could be interpreted as critiquing the Participation Trophy Phenomenon, I think it more clearly speaks to the desire to contribute in small, cooperative ways to a larger, more meaningful society. Those youth ministry events encourage great individual acts, not small, perhaps menial, acts that add up to something greater than we could do individually. I think that our youth ministers did not want to encourage those particular acts, primarily because they can feel menial. An accountant for a homeless shelter may not feel like she’s contributing much to the world, but that shelter would not exist for very long without her, leading to fewer people getting the services they need.

This volunteer year, I have often felt like a “cog in some great machinery,” which has in some ways left me a little unsatisfied. I have felt the need to begin some great project which will overhaul the way the clinic works and drastically improve the care for our patients. I would love to say that desire comes solely from the care I feel for our patients, but I think some of it comes from a desire to stand out from the crowd—to be a Hero for Jesus. In college, we often had speakers from small organizations come and speak about what caused them to start a nonprofit that helps with human trafficking or world hunger. I often wondered if, instead of having many small organizations dedicated to eradicating a huge social issue like human trafficking, having a few large ones would be able to mobilize more people and more resources. I wondered if people’s desire to be a Hero for Jesus by starting their own organization was a less efficient way of decreasing hunger and slavery in our world than joining a pre- existing one and adding their skills and talents to an already established nonprofit.

People will often say that the desire to be a cog in a machine is fueled by complacency. But I am learning to see the benefits to it. It allows good, helpful organiations to function smoothly. It helps you make significant changes in the world without burning yourself out hunting for the next great idea.

A few months ago, some street evangelists stopped Brooke (my wife, also a Precious Blood Volunteer) and I on our walk home and asked when we were saved. I thought, I don’t think salvation is a one-time thing, I think it’s a process, which is why Paul tells us “work out your salvation.” But, because I knew I would make my wife uncomfortable confronting street evange- lists, I said, “When I was around six.” He then asked, “Does your salvation make you want to go out and evangelize?” My answer was something along the lines of, “Actually, I feel like I usually want to show people what Christ is like rather than telling them.” We then told each other to have a good day and parted ways. These people were looking for big ways to serve Christ, which is good, but I’m trying to find consolation in doing small things, routine things to serve Christ, other people, and the broader creation.

Koby is a current Precious Blood Volunteer serving at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
To learn more about becoming a Precious Blood Volunteer go to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org

Koby Buth with a patient at KC CARE Health Center


This article originally appeared in the June 2019 edition of the New Wine Press.

Companion Day at Sorrowful Mother Shrine

Everyone is welcome to the Companion Day at the Sorrowful Mothers Shrine to be held on Sunday, July 28, 2019. The day begins with Mass at 11:00 am followed by a meal and presentation. This year Br. Juan Acuna, C.PP.S. will share information about the New Creation process. For more information and to register, please see the attached flyer or contact Br. Terry Nufer, C.PP.S at 419-483-8099 or via email at brotan@usa.net.

Go Back to the Drawing Board

by Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Director

Last week the Trump administration announced a new immigration plan with family visas greatly reduced and no mention of Dreamers. This plan is not the just and comprehensive reform of our immigration system that we as a Precious Blood community envision in our corporate stance. The President and his administration must go back to square one to come up with a truly comprehensive, and just reform of our broken immigration system.

President Trump outlined his plan for “modernizing our immigration system for a stronger America,” where he aims to impose more new security measures at the border, dismantle the asylum process, and vastly scale back the system of family-based immigration which has allowed immigrants to bring their spouses and children to live with them. Over the last two years, this administration’s immigration policy has resulted in a ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries, separation of families at the border, closing the border to asylum seekers and an obsessive desire to build a wall along the U.S.—Mexico border.

As Precious Blood Missionaries we are called to have a love and respect for the poor and the vulnerable in our midst and to recognize the dignity in every human being. It is because of this that we are called to advocate for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Our history tells us that this country was built by immigrants who left their homes under difficult circumstances to make a new life for themselves. This administration’s “new” plan does not address the reality of those who are presently fleeing from violence and oppressive poverty. President Trump forgets that America is stronger when we embrace diversity and work together.

The requirements of this new plan are not in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus, who welcomed all people. Therefore, we advocate that we meet the needs of all vulnerable people. This “new” plan sounds very much like the policies of the last two years, which has served as a sad narrative seeking to demonize and dehumanize our immigrant neighbors. We should urge our President and his administration to go back to the drawing board and find solutions for the common good.

Welcome to our New Companions!

Six new Companions presented their first covenants at liturgy during the Kansas City Province Assembly on April 30, 2019.  Please welcome Turf and Joann Martin who will be part of the Central Missouri Group and Evelyn Moreira, Jessica Reyes, Luis Lainez and Nestor Brizuela who have formed a new Companion group in Los Angeles at Saint Agnes Church.

2019 Precious Blood Assembly Recap

It was a packed four days in Kansas City. Close to 200 people participated in the various prayer services, discussions, and celebrations during the 2019 Kansas City Province Assembly.

During our opening prayer service, we remembered those in our community who have passed from this world. Of special remembrance were three former provincial directors who died during this past year: Fr. Tom Albers, Fr. Jim Schrader, and Fr. Jim Sloan. We welcomed six new Companions and celebrated the renewals of 15 current Companions during the Tuesday night liturgy. On Wednesday evening, we celebrated with eight members who marked their jubilarian anniversaries.

Tuesday morning, the community voted to move forward with the proposal for the New Creation of a single province with the Cincinnati Province. The Cincinnati Province will hold a similar vote at their assembly later this May.

The main business of this year’s assembly was the election of a Provincial Council. Fr. Garry Richmeier was elected the new provincial director. Fr. David Matz was elected the vice-provincial director/first counselor. Br. Daryl Charron, Fr. Timothy Armbruster, and Fr. Keith Branson were elected the second, third, and fourth counselors, respectively.

Fr. Ron Will was elected to be the delegate to the General Assembly. The General Assembly will be held in Poland in September. Provincial Director-elect Fr. Garry Richmeier will also attend the General Assembly. They will be joined by delegates from all the Precious Blood communities around the world.

We were able to post many photographs and videos to our Facebook (@CPPSKC) and Twitter (@CPPSKansasCity) pages. Please be sure to visit and like those pages!

Images from Prayer Services and Masses

Images from discussions, elections, and presentations.

Pictures of Hope


by Steven Dougherty, Precious Blood Volunteer

Steven Dougherty is a Precious Blood Volunteer serving at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR) in Chicago, Illinois. In the three reflections below, Steven paints pictures of hope he has encountered while working there.

My second week in Chicago was one of the most violent in recent history. Waiting for the bus, I saw a man and a woman talking. They spoke slowly. The air was thick and hot. As she was leaving, the woman leaned in and hugged the man. Then she held him for a moment at arm’s length. She looked him in the eyes, and with worry in her throat she said, “Be safe.” Her words, thick in the hot air. They were desperate wounded words, heavy with fear. This was a command, a salutation, a wish—something impossible, or at least it seemed so at the time. So many people had died. Then she let the man go, freeing him from her temporary protection, hoping her wish would be enough. I thought it was beautiful how much she cared for this man, how well they must have known each other. Then the woman came to me and did the same!

****

In my months of volunteering at PBMR I have witnessed struggle, I have witnessed pain, and I have witnessed loss. I have been asked many times about hope. How can I stay hopeful doing the work I do at PBMR? I struggle with this, because finding hope feels like a privilege. If I say that I have hope that this community I work in will be revitalized and not gentrified, if I say that I hope the people we help can get jobs and will be treated fairly, or if I say that I hope people will stop dying so young, I am doing so only for myself. I think these things because at the end of the day I am tired. I have done what I know I can do, and the rest seems impossible, so I hope. I am not saying this is a bad thing, only that is not the thing I want it to be. Access to hope has become a privilege. It has become a way of distancing ourselves from the responsibility of the world’s problems. Hope for things to get better keeps things the way they are.

But there is another side to all of this, because hope does not have to be something that is stagnant. Hope can move through us and into others. When this happens, when hope draws us together, there is power—power for real change in the world. When people work together with a united vision of hope, when they know exactly what they want to accomplish, hope can be actualized. We can reach out with hope and work together to make sure that everything will be okay, and although it is hard, we do this work anyway.

In my months of volunteering at PBMR I have also witnessed this: a new kind of hope—a hope that does things in the world. It is a hope that people share with strangers. It is mixed with fear and pain, but it is strong enough to overcome them both. Since it was given to me by the woman at the bus stop, I have seen it all over Chicago, I have even used it myself: “Be safe.” There is so much behind these words. They carry a message that you are cared for, and they carry a promise that although there is so much danger that I cannot solve, you have my protection. Anytime someone leaves the Center you hear all of this. Everyone is not always safe. In fact, our participants are rarely safe—but will still hope. We believe the impossible and together we make it a little more possible.

****

The man in front of you seems old but you know that time does not pass here as it does elsewhere, so in the letter to your friend you will call him worn. He is asleep. He has been asleep since you got on the bus, and since you got on the bus, the bus has filled with heat and pressure.

In the letter to your friend you will compare it to the sun—the bus—and now it grows loud. A child begins to scream. The heat and the pressure move through your spine and you feel beyond heavy—you feel worn.
You cannot make out the words of the child. In the letter to your friend the back of the bus will be another world, one that is burning in its closeness to the sun. All you hear is longing. Longing that makes you think to write a letter to your friend. Longing to be heard: the painful pulling apart of a body from its limbs. In the letter, you will call it gun violence in Chicago. The man in front of you who you will call worn, but who you know is old for this bus and the violence, whispers with his eyes still closed, “Hey now, it’s gonna be okay.” You are not sure who he means to say it to, the child or himself. In the letter to your friend he will say it to everyone because “it” is a delicate thing: the bus and the child and your spine and Chicago, but you believe him anyway.

Steven 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
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 edition of the New Wine Press.

Discernment Weekend

by Fr. Timothy Armbruster, C.PP.S.

Waking up to a dusting of snow on the ground in Chicago is no big deal, except when it is the end of March. We gathered in Chicago at Drexel House for our Lenten Discernment weekend on March 29-31. Fr. Steve Dos Santos and I, along with the men in the house, welcomed three inquirers for the weekend. Joining us were Elliot Rich from Chicago, Newton Lih from San Fransisco, and Connor Zink from Cincinnati. It was a wonderful weekend of sharing and reflecting upon our Precious Blood Spirituality. Frs. Lac Pham and Dennis Chriszt, as well as our students Matt Perez and Greg Evers joined us for the talks and sharing. Our talks on Saturday focused upon different aspects of healing. Fr. Lac’s talk focused upon our human woundedness and need for healing, Fr. Steve’s talk focused upon Jesus’ desire to heal us and wash us in His Precious Blood, and Fr. Dennis’ talk focused upon the call to share the love of Jesus with others.

Throughout the weekend we experienced the hospitality of the formation house with time for sharing, prayer, and meals. We concluded our time together with Mass at St. John the Baptist Church, in Whiting, IN. After the weekend, Newton was able to travel with me to Kansas City and got a chance to meet the staff and members at Precious Blood Center.

We continue to pray for those who are in discernment that through our prayers and conversations they may come to know God’s call in their lives.

Easter 2019: Rise Up

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Coming on up for the rising tonight.

Bruce Springsteen
“The Rising”

Dear Friends,

On Monday of Holy Week, many of us were profoundly moved by the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one of the most treasured places of prayer in the world. The blaze that swept through the cathedral broke our hearts because of its historical, cultural, and spiritual significance. Even those who had never visited this sacred space were moved to tears as there is within us this deep and abiding need for sacred spaces that connect us and hold us in their beauty and majesty.

When the spire came crashing down, many expressed the feeling of profound loss that they experienced when the Twin Towers in New York City fell on September 11, 2001. Though the causes of the destruction were completely different and thankfully no one was killed at Notre Dame, there is this emptiness inside when watching such devastation.

On Good Friday, this emptiness that was named by Paul on Palm Sunday, of Jesus who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” is captured in our veneration of the cross as we unite our sorrows and the sufferings of the world with the death of Jesus.

Holy Saturday finds us watching and waiting at the tomb, searching for clues, grasping for meaning in the emptiness. This year, Holy Saturday is the 20th anniversary of the mass murder at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. On National Public Radio on Friday, a survivor of the school shooting, Heather Martin, was interviewed by Nathaniel Minor. Heather was a senior at Columbine on April 20, 1999, and recalls being in choir practice when the shooting began. They barricaded themselves in the room until the SWAT team rescued them.

Heather talked about the trauma of that day, of her life spiraling out of control after the shooting, of living with the horrible memory that left a scar upon her soul. After several years, she was able to get her life together but she never wanted to talk about that day. Then, on the 10th anniversary, she went back to Columbine for a memorial service. In meeting with classmates who also survived the day, she realized she was not alone in her need for healing. This was the turning point for Heather as she “went back to college and got her teaching license. She and other Columbine survivors started the Rebels Project, a nonprofit named after their high school mascot.” The focus of the group was to help the survivors of other shootings.

One of those who contacted her was Sherrie Lawson who survived the Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C. in 2013. Sherrie told NPR she was filled with so much pain that she was on the verge of suicide. But one night she searched for a survivor’s group and found the Rebels Project. Sherrie and Heather began emailing until finally Sherrie flew out to Colorado to meet Heather.

They both remember sitting in the car after supper and talking for three hours while listening to Bruce Springsteen. The song that became their favorite is “My City of Ruins.” Both were deeply moved not only by the music but by the words of the song: “There’s a blood-red circle on the cold, dark ground. The church door’s open, I can hear the organ’s song, but the congregation’s gone.” But Sherrie said it is the end of the song the stirs her soul when Springsteen sings, “Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!” because it reminds her “that you’ve been through this thing, but life goes on. And you can rise up. And it’s not going to be the same, but good things can still happen. And definitely, positive things have happened since.”

Today, Heather and Sherrie have risen from the terrible trauma they have experience in their lives to find new life. Today, they “spend time traveling across the country together to communities affected by shootings.”

This Holy Week has reminded us yet again that though spires may fall in fire and beauty turns to ashes, courage and compassion, hope and beauty will rise up.

This Holy Week has reminded us yet again that though truth can be compromised and even crucified, the Truth will rise up and set us free.

This Holy Week has reminded us yet again that though love can be betrayed, mocked, tortured, and hung out to die on a cross, love will rise up again.

So, friends, may we rise up this Easter to embrace the call of the empty tomb: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised up.”

Rise up, my friends, as we become a New Creation in the Risen Christ! Have a Blessed and Holy Easter season!

Peace in the blood of Christ,

Joseph Nassal, C.PP.S.
Provincial Director