by Fr. David Kelly, C.PP.S., Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, Chicago
It was a Saturday afternoon and I just finished doing some lawn work around pbmr. As I was walking from the Center to the Mother Brunner Home, I noticed Michael sitting alone on one of the benches near the basketball court. His phone was by his side, book bag on the floor, and head buried in his hands. I could sense that something was bothering him and, so, I walked over to see if he was ok.
Michael is a real quiet kid, tall and thin, around 15 years old and loves basketball. Even while he wasn’t quick to share much, I did get a little something out of him. When I asked about who he lived with, he told me his 23-year-old brother. I asked about his mother, and he said he didn’t know where she was. She left some time ago. We talked some more, and he said that he wanted more hours, meaning he wanted to earn more money. He is part of one of our programs and earns a little money, but, apparently not enough for his needs.
It would be easy to fall into judgement or condemnation. What kind of mother could leave her child? But of course the underlying reality is much more complicated, and the only way to know the answers is to sit and listen to the child, to listen to the mother, and to seek to understand. I have found that when you begin to untangle the story, when you hear people’s experiences of homelessness, trauma, poverty, etc., those initial judgements are quieted and understanding begins to set in. Judgement always impedes my ability to understand.
There is a poem that has helped us in these uncertain times. It is by Margaret Wheatley, entitled “Turning to One Another.” Here is just a bit of it:
There is no power greater than a community
discovering what it cares about.
Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong?”
Talk to people you know.
Talk to people you don’t know.
Talk to people you never talk to.
Be intrigued by the differences you hear…
Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.
For me the poem calls us to not fixate or simply cast judgement on the problems we see in others, but to seek solutions, paths of healing for their flourishing. Michael doesn’t need people judging him or his mother; he needs a world that cares. He needs people to hear his story without judgement, to listen with understanding, and to accompany him toward solutions that meet his and his family’s needs.
Both in the church and in society we have become polarized; we have become a society of judgement and exclusion. Richard Rohr says Jesus was never about exclusion or expelling or isolating people. Quite the opposite, for him that was the problem. Jesus was about transforming and integrating. He was always sending the lepers and those healed back into the city, back to the priests (Rohr, Hope Against Darkness).
PBMR was founded almost 20 years ago because we were confronted by a system that only knew punishment. There was no healing or transformation for people experiencing brokenness, only punishment and expulsion. And so we set out on a journey to focus on healing, reconciliation, and understanding.
Isn’t that what the world needs? To be listened to? To listen? I dream of a world where more people are willing to listen to those they know, those they don’t know, those they never talk to, and rather than being offended by or afraid of the differences we hear, to be intrigued and compelled. I long for a time where instead of casting judgement about “What’s wrong,” we can come together in relationship and begin to ask, “What’s possible?”
Now, because of that short conversation with Michael, when I see him in the parking lot or in the neighborhood, he stops, reaches out to shake my hand, and says hello. “Creative solutions come from new connections” (Margaret Wheatley).
by Sr. Donna Liette, ASC, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation
The other day, after the murder of two of our youth, the realization that a dedicated pbmr donor is critically ill with brain cancer, several center break-ins, and violent outbursts among participants, I asked Fr. Dave Kelly, “Is there any hope?” In his gentle way, he reminded me of our mission of being agents of hospitality, hope, and healing and allowing the chaos of our ministry to transform us.
A few hours later we had our weekly staff meeting and we read the passage about the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The people had gathered to hear and see Jesus, but also to be healed. Many were healed, but the even greater miracle was within the crowd. As the food was shared and hospitality offered, there was abundance and the people began to see each other differently. A community of trust, of love and hope began to emerge.
Then Fr. Kelly asked us, “Where have you seen hope in this pbmr community?” The stories we told brought tears to our eyes and bursts of laughter—had we only thought to record those stories.
Angelica told the joy of helping one of our participants move into his own place with his mother. He had worked hard in the Woodshop to earn the money, and there they stood, proud in their new home with furniture and all. hopes were fulfilled.
Fred told of talking to the mother of one of his participants, one of our youngest. The mother is so happy about the change in her son; she sees the hopes she had for her son coming alive at home.
Dave told of one of our youth, Joe, presently incarcerated, calling because he was feeling down. After talking to a few staff as the phone was passed around, he said, “I feel so much better.” Connection made—hope.
Fr. Denny shared the joy and hope he experiences when guys from years past come back and tell how their lives have changed—jobs and housing found, the positive lifestyles—and they are so deeply grateful for their time at pbmr.
Artrice, Sr. Janet, and I work with the mothers and see their joy as they grow in their healing, in their desire to further their education and to grow spiritually.
Many stories were told of the hope that our “Hospitality House” for men returning from prison after 20+ years has brought, not only to the three men now living there but to all of us.
Hector had a great hope story. He described the evening a pottery class joined the pbmr screen printing business in the Mother Brunner basement, a tight space already shared with laundry facilities. Then one of Hector’s pbmr youth got a little agitated with the intrusion of these “younger” boys. The story ends with this agitated youth showing a younger potter the skill he has learned. Well now, agitation turns to pride and he was all in and happy to be sharing space, talent, and “big brother” stuff! Hope.
There were many more stories. Some you can read in our monthly e-newsletter along with wonderful photos of hope and healing.
Today, as I prayed with the Jesuit and companion Martyrs of El Salvador, there was a reading from Jon Sobrino. (Companions of Jesus: The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador). He writes, “It is not easy to keep on hoping…it seems that everything is against hope…but together with the great love Jesus showed and these martyrs had, there are the faces of the poor, in which God is hidden but nevertheless present, asking us to keep going, a request we cannot ignore.”
So, during this coming season of Advent—this season of hope and waiting—let us look for hope, for love, and create in our own homes, workplaces, and churches a spirit of hope and love. Where there is great love, there is hope. It is the call of the blood of Christ. Ω
Saiveon and Branden begin their training
by Hector Avitia, Precious Blood Volunteer
During this Easter season we are celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus after being in the tomb for three days. At Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR), we are also celebrating the return of the screen printing program, known as “Making Impressions.” This initiative is a great way for PBMR participants to learn a new skill, to express themselves through a different art medium, and for those outside of PBMR to give hope to the community.
The very first shirt from”Making Impressions”
“Making Impressions” is ready to make custom screen printed shirts for clubs and organizations. Coming soon, “Making Impressions” and PBMR apparel will be available for anyone to show their support for our ministry and for the youth of Back of the Yards. You can contact PBMR about the “Making Impressions” program by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Leah Landry, current Precious Blood Volunteer
The women of PBMR. Not a phrase you hear often at a Center started by four priests as a safe haven for young men. But over the past few years, the women in the neighborhood have become vital members of the PBMR community. On Saturday, February 3, these women gathered together to christen the new Mother Brunner House – the Women’s Center – with a mural that depicts the strength, serenity, and power of the women of PBMR.
The project included women from three programs at PBMR: the women of the advocacy group Community and Relatives of Illinois’ Incarcerated Children (CRIIC), the women from the Mothers’ Healing Circles who have lost children to incarceration and gun violence, and the Young Women’s Group, the newest program for women.
With the help and direction of PBMR’s teaching artist, Alberto Alaniz, the women gave suggestions of the words and images that come to mind when they think of the women of PBMR. The answers were as varied as the women themselves: unity, strength, love, hearts and stars, peace signs, mother and child. Then representatives from each program consulted with Alberto and together the group came up with the image for the wall. A few weeks later, over 20 women gathered at the Mother Brunner House to paint in the image.
You’d think a room full of 20 women, ranging from ages 6 to 80, painting a huge space with lots of color would be a chaotic scene, but the space had a peaceful, collaborative, and happy feel.
Mrs. Wingard, the eldest and wisest in the group and a member of CRIIC, shared her reflections on the day: “Just to remember that I put a paintbrush on the wall and Fr. Kelly and Julie and Sr. Donna are gonna walk through there and see the mural and I thought ‘Wow, I really feel a part of that’…And then to think about them getting the house and putting something on the wall that actually reaches out to the community. [The mural] shows families coming together and it’s not just one ethnicity. It’s not just black, not just white, not just latino: it’s everyone coming together for a common cause, for our children, for our community.”
Shumeka Taylor, a representative of the Young Women’s Group, said that putting the handprints and quotes on the wall was her favorite part. “The hands was so nice. We all who had been doing the part of the wall and engraving our names and a nice quote and that’s something that’s going to live forever in the house and I like that.” Shumeka added “From the older women to the young women, I truly enjoyed it. The older lady put the French braid in my hair while I painted the rest of the mural because they didn’t want paint to get in my 26 inches. I greatly appreciated everything that went on that day.”
Aldena Brown, a member of the Mothers’ Healing Circles, felt Helen Keller’s quote “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much” captured the essence of the day. “That day of the painting felt good. Everyone working together, good laughs, music, and food! That moment was like nothing mattered. Painting that mural was everything, just being a part of something so meaningful. That gave my heart joy and peace in that moment. My mind drifted to a great place pushing that paintbrush. Yes, I must say that will be a day I’ll never forget! I was a part of that painting coming to life! I’m very thankful!”
The women of PBMR are leaving their legacy all over PBMR and the neighborhood, from the relationships they make to the steps they take towards their goals to the beautiful mural that will greet all the visitors of the Center. From now on, every person who walks through the doors of the Mother Brunner House will know that the women in the community are an integral part of PBMR: strong, unified, and here to stay.
You can learn more about serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer by going to www.preciousbloodvolunteers.org
You can learn more about our placement at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation by going to https://preciousbloodkc.org/precious-blood-ministry-of-reconciliation/