Rolling Up Our Sleeves

Current PBV, Raechel Kiesel (masked), with other members of the PBMR community

In early November I attended the Ignatian Family Teach-in For Justice, which is hosted by the Ignatian Solidarity Network. One of the speakers, Father Greg Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention program in Los Angeles, spoke about our call to practice kinship. In his talk he kept coming back to a note that we all share the same last name. The last name “being.” He continued, “we are all born the same way. Everyone is unshakably good. Everyone belongs to each other.”

The message from Father Greg has been echoing in my prayers and my mind over the last few weeks. We all belong to each other. We are all in God’s family. We are all made in the image and likeness of God, and we are “unshakably good.” This is all true, but do we actually believe it?

Sometimes it’s hard to see that in the middle of a growing catastrophe of human-caused global climate change, violence that tears the fabric of our communities, the northern hemispheric (and largely white-centric) economic system that leaves billions of folks behind because of where they were born or the color of their skin, and so many other evils in our world.

As I was lost in the despair of so much that is wrong in the world, I kept coming back to his encouragement that we are about “obliterating the illusion that we are separate, we are human beings.” His further instruction that we should not “settle for just shaking your fist, roll up your sleeves to create the place where we cherish each other with every breath.” The challenge is to live up to the belief that we are all connected and then point the way to God’s inclusive love.

Current PBV, Vincent Tedford, in Chicago

When I meet with our volunteers, I see them rolling up their sleeves and being part of creating places where all people are cherished. They are in places where they are better able to recognize their family members who share the same last name of “being” and are children of our loving Creator. I am amazed when I talk to them about what they see and experience with the folks they work and walk with. Instead of just shaking their fists they continue to do the hard work of building a better and more just world. They choose to live out a spirituality of the blood, a spirituality Father Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S. described as a spirituality that “proclaims life in a world where death seems to have the upper hand.”

On a daily basis our volunteers witness the toll that structures which uphold white supremacy and racism takes on the folks they walk with in their placements. It would be easy for our volunteers to point out and shake their fists at these injustices. I know I find myself often shaking my fists at these injustices, and not pointing the way to life. Oftentimes most of us take the easy path of ignoring our own participation in these systems. The hard work of rolling up our sleeves requires us to take a good hard look at our own participation in these structures and commit to breaking them down and building up places where all people are cherished.

We are continuing on with our commitment to the charism of the Precious Blood by making sure we are a welcoming and inclusive community that reflects our charism of reconciliation. Over the next few months we are expanding an effort to examine how the Precious Blood Volunteers Program can proclaim life in this world through being a more racially just program and working for the liberation of all God’s people.

Current PBV, Aaron Wise, at work at KC CARE Health Center

This process will include making sure we are a welcoming and inclusive community that reflects our charism of reconciliation and renewal. It requires some deep questions about how we support our volunteers and alumni of color. In this process we will be looking at how our recruiting practices may unnecessarily exclude people of color. This includes examining how we portray our volunteers and the people they serve in our brochures and website, as well as how we talk about our ministry at recruiting fairs and from where we recruit our volunteers.

We are looking beyond just our own practices to challenge our volunteers and placements to be pointing towards this way of being together as one family. We will engage with our placements to make sure they are working towards a more just future in their hiring practices, their support of their staff, how they treat the people they serve, and who is leading their organizations. We want to be sure that our volunteers are working for reconciliation, where the lives of the folks they work and walk with are valued. Our volunteers should be using this year as an opportunity to bind up their own liberation with the liberation of the people they work with.

In our discernment process and throughout their volunteer year we will need to see how we can better help our volunteers discern their purpose as a way to glorify God through their work and relationships with others.

You can watch Father Boyle’s talk at https://www.youtube.com/user/IgnatianSolidarity along with other videos from the 2021 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.

Tim Deveney is director of Precious Blood Volunteers. You can learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteers: Vincent Tedford

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteer, Vincent Tedford

We are excited to announce that Vincent Tedford will be serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer! Vincent will serve at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. He will be serving for the 2021-2022 volunteer year. Vincent is a graduate of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Physics. Vincent is from Brownfield, Texas.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“I want to volunteer because I want to put my faith into action. I want to love others as I have been loved. Vocationally, volunteering prepares me for, what I hope to be, a lifetime of service to the world around me.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?

“I want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers because I like the people and the mission. From meeting all those who interviewed me, I got the sense one of my biggest dreams would be fulfilled, to be part of a family-like workplace. I want to support the mission of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation as I walk with those who suffer, especially from injustice. While I hope to use my educational background for furthering mankind’s understanding of the universe, I think it equally important to support the educational needs of those in marginalized or underserved communities. I want a stake in a future where true justice, reconciliation, and love are more important, and in fact fundamental to, the advancement of humanity.”

What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?

“I am looking forward to being a compassionate teacher/mentor who plays a role in the education and progress of the individuals I serve. I look forward to building relationships with people who are different than I am and what we can learn from each other. Most of all, I look forward to living more like Christ and his apostles by simply focusing on the people around me, how I can be of service to them, and growing spiritually to be a vessel of God’s love.”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteers: Raechel Kiesel

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteer, Raechel Kiesel

We are happy to announce that Raechel Kiesel will be serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer for the 2021-2022 volunteer year. She will be serving at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. Raechel is from Fort Branch, Indiana. She served this past year as a volunteer at Dismas House in Worcester, Massachusetts. Raechel graduated from the University of Notre Dame. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Theology, along with a Minor in Business Economics.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“I spent the past year at Dismas House with folks who were formerly incarcerated or homeless. After hearing their stories and learning from their experiences, I am excited to keep asking questions as a Precious Blood Volunteer about how our country thinks of and pursues justice and how to continue seeking reconciliation.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?

“This past year especially has revealed the deep need for reconciliation within our country and in ourselves. I am excited to join Precious Blood priests, brothers, and laypeople in their fearlessness to enter into those depths. As I write this on the Feast of Corpus Christi, I am reminded that those who are poor, vulnerable, and hurting are able to relate to Christ more closely through his passion and death. In the coming year, I hope to bear witness to that reality, as well as the hope of resurrection and redemption by his same Precious Blood.”

What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?

“I am looking forward to living in community with other volunteers in the same neighborhood in which I will be serving. I have so much to learn, and I am so excited to learn from and with those around me.”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteers: Aaron Wise

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteer, Aaron Wise

We are thrilled to announce that Aaron Wise will be serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer for the 2021-2022 volunteer year. Aaron will serve at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri. He will live in community at Jerusalem Farm in Kansas City. He grew up in Huron, Ohio and attended Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Aaron graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, a Bachelor of Science in Spanish, and minors in Chemistry and Biology.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“Over the past 16 years, much of my focus has been in developing the intellect God has given me in an academic setting. While study, in its own way, can give glorify to God, it can also feel isolating and self-serving. I’ve been yearning to honor God in a more direct and simple way, and I feel called to service. Through this service, I aim to help and learn from those who are marginalized, with the hope that after this year, I may be better able to serve and advocate for those who suffer as a future physician.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?

“I was drawn to volunteer with the Precious Blood volunteers because of their commitment to faith, community, service, and reconciliation. I think there is something very powerful in a community of people living simply, authentically, and intentionally for Christ. I’m really excited grow closer to God with these people!”

What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?

“I’m looking forward to learning and growing in community with other volunteers and those we serve, and encountering Jesus incarnated in those who are in need!”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.

The 2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteers

We are excited to introduce the three new Precious Blood Volunteers! Over the next few days you’ll get to meet Aaron, Raechel, and Vincent at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteer, Raechel Kiesel

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteer, Vincent Tedford

Raechel Kiesel and Vincent Tedford will be serving at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. Raechel continues a tradition of University of Notre Dame alumni who have served with us. She comes from Indiana. Vincent graduated from Texas A&M University. He is the first graduate of Texas A&M to serve as a Precious Blood Volunteer, and our third volunteer from Texas.

2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteer, Aaron Wise

Aaron Wise will be serving at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Aaron is our first volunteer from Case Western Reserve University. He continues in a long line of volunteers from the great state of Ohio.

Three volunteers from our previous batch lived in intentional Catholic communities in Chicago and Kansas City. This worked out well providing them places to share common life with people their own age. We are continuing with this for the 2021-2022 volunteer year. Raechel and Vincent will be living at Hope House, which is part of Port Ministries, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago. Aaron will be living in community at Jerusalem Farm in Kansas City, deepening the long-term relationship the Kansas City Province has had with Jerusalem Farm.

They will begin their service next week during Orientation. Orientation begins on Monday, July 26 at Precious Blood Renewal Center in Liberty, Missouri. Please keep our new volunteers in your prayers.

To learn more about how you can grow in your faith by walking with others go to preciousbloodvolunteers.org

 

Academia: Searching for a New Normal

image of Fr. Dan Torson

In addition to full-time teaching, Fr. Dan serves on four boards of not-for-profit orga-nizations in Joliet and the South Side of Chicago areas where he advocates for Mental Health and Minority Youth Opportunities.

by Fr. Daniel Torson, C.PP.S.

Academia finds itself asking many questions that are similar to those of big business: Can people continue to operate and work just as efficiently from home? Should meetings and conferences continue online? How much personal interaction is necessary to build a team or a sense of unity? One thing is certain: even as covid mitigations continue to loosen, operations will not return completely to pre-pandemic modes. The complete shutdown of one year ago will have lasting effects.

Two aspects have become clear over the past year from nearly all surveys and research: Traditional age college students do not like or prefer a completely online learning format, and similarly, most professors do not prefer a completely online learning format either. Both groups have come to realize the value of human interaction and that the building of relationships are essential to the learning process. In essence, both groups have grown in appreciation for the in-person learning process. But are both groups willing to give up the convenience of not commuting (or for resident students, walking across campus), not needing to look presentable in public, and truly exerting the energy to engage peers and faculty? For students, it has become much easier to simply crawl out of bed, tune into the class on the computer, and while class is commencing, check social media and take care of personal needs. The hope is that the important material will be picked up, or the student will watch the video recording of the class later. Faculty have perfected methods for online interaction over the course of the last year, but the results of the new methods are not always positive.

So, where does academia go from here? Here, I will be addressing Lewis University specifically, but having said that, I have observed that Lewis has positioned itself clearly in the mainstream of learn-ing and mitigation processes throughout the past year. Thus, for Fall 2021, Lewis will be offering more options with varied formats for both faculty and students. The direction from the Provost’s Office was that clearly there needs to be more in-person interaction with students, but varied formats will be welcomed. Thus, I was asked two months ago, “How do I want to teach in the Fall?”

That is a loaded question! I had been teaching hybrid for the past two semesters, which means that I am in-person with all my students for 50 minutes each week with the remainder online. While I clearly acknowledge that 50 minutes per week is not enough, there have been many successes in this format. My students have been forced to take responsibility for their learning, read the assignments (which in theology means reading excerpts from notable theologians such as Aquinas and Schleiermacher), synthesize, and integrate the readings. This has been accomplished and assessed through weekly student submissions of answers to my specified questions, writing short essays, writing discussion boards with references to the theologians, and essay Mid-terms and Final Exams. For the two exams, students can consult the sources and take as much time as they need, in order to produce coherent essays incorporating content, assessment, and application. My top students have produced some excellent and amazing essays, while at the same time, the middle-of-the-academic-spectrum students have been pushed further than they could have imagined! None of my students are theology majors, but they have truly engaged the discipline of theology!

In order to facilitate this process, I check email a half a dozen times a day, and I offered my cell phone number to students for texting and phone calls. My students do not like to call people, so the only time that we have a phone conversation is when we arrange a specific day and time. But they like to text! So, I frequently get texts to which I can almost im-mediately respond!

Since my social life during the past year has been extremely limited, I am at home most evenings cooking and watching sports on TV). So, a text is kind of fun, and I don’t get so many that they be-come burdensome.

As a result, I have decided to teach each of my four classes two days a week in the fall, with Friday as a reading and writing day. I am trying to blend the positives of pre-covid and covid strategies. As you would expect, written assignments due for most weeks entail more grading than was the case during pre-covid times. This will also be the third time that I have re-written my classes (syllabi and online course shells) over the past year. I am looking forward to the challenge, if I can get the results of theological engagement as I have experienced during the past year.

I have found over the past year that college students in general are very “needy.” I look into their eyes and see “burden” for many of them. In addition to their own mental health in dealing with the pandemic, many have family issues that are very troubling, and many are still working to support themselves. This is simply not the college environment that I grew up in many years ago. All I had to worry about was getting my studies finished and taking care of myself. The world seemed so carefree with endless possibilities before us back then! It is not the same today.

Academia has gone through numerous challenges over the past year, but we have adapted “on the fly” and still maintained a level of excellence in teaching/learning. Some questions about processes for the fall will be sorted out this summer, but others will remain influx. For certain is the fact that Academia will not completely return to pre-covid days, but the cooperative efforts of administrators, faculty, staff, and students will create a “new normal.” Change is not to be feared but rather embraced!