Eileen Givens Named Companions Director

from Lisa Athas, Chair, Companions Council

The Companion Council is happy to announce that Eileen Givens has been named the director of Companions, effective October 3. 

Eileen has been a Companion with the group in Orlando for nearly 10 years. She is a longtime member of St. Andrew Church in Orlando, where Missionaries of the Blood formerly ministered, and she got to know the Community there.

Currently, she is a supervisor for a large insurance agency, where a staff of 25 reports to her. She loves her work and co-workers, and “God has been there through this entire journey,” she said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity and humbled that I have been chosen. I pray that I can be what everybody wants me to be—and I know that God will lead me and direct me.”

The Companions Council, working with representatives from the provincial council, interviewed several qualified candidates for the position. We are grateful to all who stepped forward and asked to be considered.

Eileen, a native of New Jersey who moved to Florida over 30 years ago, has an adult son, John. Her daughter, Maggie, died of a chronic illness at the age of 18.  Eileen plans to remain in Orlando and work remotely for Companions when she is not traveling to visit groups and to C.PP.S. events.

On behalf of the Companion Council, we are very excited to start on this new journey with Eileen. She brings a wealth of Precious Blood spirituality with her, along with being a certified spiritual director. Eileen is also enrolled in a two-year program at the Living School for Action and Contemplation (cac.org/living-school).

We look forward to working with her and getting to know Eileen as we continue to build the Companion Movement. Personally, I have had the privilege of knowing Eileen for many years and am honored to work with her on behalf of Companions.

Anniversary Celebration 2022: Our Witness is Important

woman speaking at podium

By Central Missouri Companion Ruth Mather

Incorporated Members and Companions are called by God to live a life of faith through the spirituality of the Precious Blood and St. Gaspar. We live the bond of charity with each other, carrying that charity with us to the world, according to our vocation and gifts. As missionaries, we share and proclaim the spirit of the Community: reconciliation, justice, prayer, and hospitality.

statues on a shelf

Over the last few years, I have heard comments in our Community like: “Most of us are too old to start something new,” or “I am old and tired, let the younger ones take the lead.”

Being older, and having lived longer does not make us obsolete or irrelevant. It does not mean we are too tired to be involved, productive, or enthusiastic.

In 1827, writing to a priest wishing to excuse himself from a specific mission because he did not think he was ready for such a responsibility, Gaspar said, “It is God who makes us fit for the ministry.”

And Psalm 92:12-14 states, “But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age, they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, ‘The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!’”

There is no magic age, no specific number of years that tells us we are done. Retirement from a particular job or lifestyle does not imply retiring from purpose, retiring from Community, or retiring from life.

I remember hearing Fr. Paul Sanders’ homily as a jubilarian in Kearney a few years ago when he declared, “….and I am looking forward to the next 50 years!” How great that would be?

Just a couple of months ago, St. Joseph Companion Nancy Clisbee shared in a moving reflection at our assembly in Indianapolis that after retiring from “a well-loved career as an art teacher,” she has been working with immigrants for over 13 years now. She gives heartfelt testimony to the rewarding work of making a difference in the lives of so many on the margins, and how it has brought her closer to fully living the charism of our Precious Blood Community.

The majority of our community being over 60 years of age, does mean we have been witness to great changes in our world. It does give us different perspectives based on our individual life experiences.

Job 32:7 states, “Those who are older should speak, for wisdom comes with age.”

And Acts 22:15, “…for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard.”

man at podium                                

I have lived during the Cold War and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent unification of East and West Germany. I lived in Germany from 1974 to 1976 as a young soldier and stood on the west side of the Berlin Wall, climbing the scaffolding at Checkpoint Charlie and peering across at the desolate “no man’s land” on the east side, with only East German military guards and guard dogs in sight. To get to and from West Berlin, I had to take the overnight military duty train through what was then East Germany. At every stop, East German soldiers and guard dogs boarded the train, checking our personal documents. We were warned not to extend our heads or arms out the train windows as such an act would provoke the soldiers to shoot.

And while I was born after World War II, I visited the concentration camps that have since been opened as museums lest we forget those atrocities to the human race.

I lived and worked again in Germany from 2002 to 2007. I heard first-hand stories from German and French citizens whom I worked and developed wonderful friendships with. Stories about how their history has affected them and their parents, their countries, and views of the world today. I traveled back to Berlin to experience one unified Berlin with no walls, no duty trains, and no soldiers with guard dogs.

I was living in Germany when the United States went to war with Iraq. I saw injured US soldiers hours after they were airlifted out of the fighting in Iraq. My office provided financial assistance to these soldiers as they arrived at Landstuhl US Army Hospital in Germany. One young Marine had an emergency appendectomy in the Iraq desert, he was put on a helicopter and then on a transport plane to Germany. I was there when they moved him from the stretcher to the hospital bed, he had been lying in blood and sand on that stretcher all the way from the desert.

These are just a few examples of my individual experiences. We all have many stories of witness. I alone have many more right here in this country, in neighborhoods, towns, and states I have lived in and visited over the years.

It is our experiences in life that form us and our faith. They have brought each of us to the spirituality and bond of charity of our Precious Blood Community.

Our witness is important. We can and should share our experiences, our insight, or if nothing else, our questions as to why.

Use your voice, be that witness, and share the story!

anniversary cake     

CTU Announces First Director of the Schreiter Institute

The Precious Blood Spirituality Institute (PBSI) is pleased to announce the hiring of the first director of the Schreiter Institute at Catholic Theological Union, Dr. Kevin Considine, Ph.D.

Dr. Considine began his work in July 2022. He returns to Catholic Theological Union (CTU) as an alumnus and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology. “It is an honor and a privilege to be the inaugural Director of the Schreiter Institute,” commented Considine. “I knew Fr. Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S., for more than 15 years, was mentored by him, and look forward to the challenge of integrating the Precious Blood spirituality of reconciliation and peacemaking into the curriculum and life-blood of CTU.”

He has served throughout his career in education. He holds a MA in theology from CTU and a Ph.D. from Loyola University. He has taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind. He is the author of several books and numerous journal articles, book reviews, and academic papers.

PBSI is a new partnership of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, and the Sisters of the Precious Blood. It was formed to promote Precious Blood spirituality to the world.

The Schreiter Institute was created to collaborate with CTU to offer courses, and workshops and support academic research that will advance this spirituality.  CTU President, Sr. Barbara Reid, O.P, commented, “We are thrilled to partner with three Precious Blood communities to establish a new institute at CTU that promotes their charism of justice, reconciliation, and peacebuilding.”

Freely Given, Gratefully Received

By Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S.

Image of the Lamb of GodToday is the Solemnity of the Precious Blood, a day on which the Church around the world gives thanks for the limitless generosity of Jesus, who poured out his Precious Blood for us.

For Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Companions, and the sisters’ congregations that are devoted to the Precious Blood, every day is a feast of the Precious Blood. We experience the power of the Precious Blood every day in so many ways.

We want to share this message, this ministry, with all of God’s people. That was also the goal of our founder, St. Gaspar del Bufalo. 

At the Missionaries of the Precious Blood’s assembly in Indianapolis last month, our keynote speaker was Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C., a Pallottine father who is the executive director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men of the United States. Fr. Donio told us that St. Vincent Pallotti, founder of the Pallottines, was a friend of St. Gaspar. They ministered together in Rome. Maybe we don’t think of saints having friends and co-workers, and networking for a common cause in the same way that we do today.  

Fr. Donio said the two saints were roughly 10 years apart in age—St. Vincent Pallotti was younger. “And most likely, the way that they encountered one another was when Gaspar came back from exile after not being willing to accede to the Napoleonic Oath. It’s the early time of the Missionaries, and he’s engaged in this work as director of the Santa Galla hospice for the poor,” Fr. Donio said.

They were both called to work among the poor, to help rekindle among God’s people a real fervor for their faith, a new sense of hope in a troubled world. I like to think about St. Gaspar working alongside his friend, St. Vincent. Maybe they bounced ideas off each other about founding a religious congregation. Maybe they shared their struggles as well as the rewards of a life in ministry.

Sometimes we feel that we are all alone, working against a tide of indifference or antipathy. On days like today, we take the time to see that we are one with many people, all of us following God’s call to a life of service. When we follow Jesus, we are not left to walk alone. There is a great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before us as well as people of the here-and-now. We celebrate all of that today, that the Precious Blood of Jesus offers healing and reconciliation to all, not just a few. Unlike most precious things, it is not limited or rationed. It is freely given and gratefully received by God’s people, who see in it a visible and powerful sign of God’s mercy. 

(Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., is the provincial director of the United States Province.)

2022 Assembly Day 4 Recap: New Leadership Blessed at Assembly

The Provincial Council, June 16, 2022. Back row: Frs. Joe Nassal and Jeff Kirch. Front row: Br. Daryl Charron, Frs. Ron Will and Ben Berinti

The newly elected leadership team of the United States Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood was blessed and installed on Thursday during the closing liturgy of the Missionaries’ assembly in Indianapolis.

Earlier in the day, the Missionaries elected three more to the provincial council: Fr. Ben Berinti, C.PP.S., second councilor; Fr. Ron Will, C.PP.S., third councilor; and Br. Daryl Charron, C.PP.S., fourth councilor. Fr. Berinti previously served as vice provincial of the Cincinnati Province and is the pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Melbourne Beach, Florida. Fr. Will is the director of the Precious Blood Renewal Center in Liberty, Missouri. Br. Daryl Charron is a former member of the provincial council of the Kansas City Province and serves as the Missionaries’ director of initial formation.
They join Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., provincial director, and Fr. Joseph Nassal, C.PP.S., vice provincial and first councilor, in leadership. All will serve four-year terms.
In his homily during the closing liturgy, Fr. Berinti drew a parallel between the Magi in search of the Christ child, and the Missionaries setting out as a new province.
“How do we find our way? First and foremost, the Magi were in community. They traveled in the company of one another—wise enough to know this is the best choice when setting off with no ready-made chart that lays out the course.
“All they had to illuminate their terrain and guide them was a star. This is where their map began: with a burning light, with a step taken, with the company of others gazing in the same direction.
“And why did they risk?  My only certainty is that they were being true to who they were. Their life’s work was the stars—and by remaining faithful to their vocation—they not only carried extravagant gifts, they received unbounded gifts.
“As it was for the Magi, as it was for Gaspar, Merlini, Brunner, and Maria—so it is for us.”
The week’s liturgies were rich in symbolism and prayer. During Wednesday’s liturgy, Companions were honored as an integral part of the Congregation. In his homily, Fr. Keith Branson, C.PP.S., (whose birthday is today!) said that he was first introduced to Precious Blood spirituality through the Companions of St. Joseph, Missouri.
At their gatherings, he said, “I found something I’d been looking for, and in 1992, I made my first covenant. Walking with them helped deepen my faith and helped me understand the spirituality of the Precious Blood.” He was ordained in 2000.
Companion Nancy Clisbee of the St. Joseph, Missouri group offered a reflection after communion that defined the relationship of Companions with the Missionaries: “We are a cloud of co-workers and witnesses to your radical presence in our world. We share your mission to draw all nearer to Christ by His most Precious Blood. We pray, we reach out to, and care for our neighbors. We are food pantry volunteers, communion ministers, social service workers, medical workers, immigration workers, lectors, visitors to the homebound, and more. At our Companion gatherings, we affirm our solidarity with the mission and the people of the Precious Blood family. . . . We draw on the inspiration, the help, and the experience of our sponsors and all members of the wider Community.”
Please pray for those in leadership and all the Missionaries and Companions of the new province, as they continue to follow God’s call to serve all of God’s people, especially those on the margins of society.

2022 Assembly Day 3 Recap: Fr. Jeff Kirch Elected Provincial Director of the United States Province

Frs. Joe Nassal and Jeff Kirsch

Frs. Joe Nassal and Jeff Kirsch in 2019

Fr. Jeffrey Kirch, C.PP.S., was elected the first provincial director of the United States Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, during the Missionaries’ assembly in Indianapolis today.

Fr. Kirch will lead the United States Province for a term of four years. He previously served as the provincial director of the Cincinnati Province.
“It’s a privilege to be asked by my brothers in Community to lead the Congregation in the United States as we begin this important part of our shared life,” Fr. Kirch said. “I’m looking forward to working with Missionaries and Companions as we seek to bring to fruition Gaspar’s dream, as well as our dreams. I’m looking forward to continuing to build our relationships in the bond of charity and hearing from one another our hopes and dreams for the future of the Congregation.”
Fr. Kirch thanked the leadership of the two provinces for their efforts to form the new province. “So many people have poured their lives into the mission of this Congregation throughout its history. And that continues,” Fr. Kirch said. “Thinking about all the work that went into this process so far, I’m grateful to the two provincial councils for getting us this far. But we don’t stop here. The work is just beginning. Our task now is to become new wine in new wineskins.”
The new United States Province was created during Morning Prayer at the assembly today. Br. Juan Acuna, C.PP.S., secretary general read the decree from the general council, which had approved the formation of the new province at their meeting on June 12, the anniversary of the canonization of St. Gaspar del Bufalo.
Elected as vice provincial director and first councilor of the new province was Fr. Joseph Nassal, C.PP.S. Fr. Nassal served as the provincial director of the Kansas City Province from 2011 to 2019.
Fr. Emanuele Lupi, C.PP.S., moderator general, opened the electoral assembly after Morning Prayer.
He reminded the Missionaries that the assembly is “the highest authority of the province,” and that the leaders they choose will “reflect the will and dream of the province. These leaders will be representing you, and they will represent the authority, the dream, and the will of the members of the province.”
“This is a historical moment: the first leadership of the new province. This leadership has to plant the roots for the future. We need to seek the spirit of the Lord to be upon us and to express from the truth of our hearts those names that we think will be the best to lead this province in this moment, at the beginning of the new chapter.”
Elections for three additional councilors will continue at the assembly on Thursday.
Meeting with Companions on Wednesday afternoon, Fr. Lupi told the Companions that they were a vital part of the Congregation. In them, the Missionaries can see their own commitment and love of the C.PP.S.—and vice versa. “We are a mirror for each other,” he said.
“Thank you for loving this Community, which I love—and I think it is the best community in the world,” he said.
During a liturgy on Wednesday evening, Lisa Alkier, St. Joseph, Missouri, made her first covenant and 21 Companions renewed their covenants. In their individual covenants, the Companions wrote of their commitment to the Congregation and to the Precious Blood spirituality that it brings to the world. Companions join in the mission and help expand the ministry of the Congregation.
Please pray for the Missionaries of the Precious Blood this week as they step into their future in faith.