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 email@example.com.
2017-2018 Volunteer Hector Avitia
By Hector Avitia, Precious Blood Volunteer
“Oh man, I can’t wait to see their bubbles burst,” I said with a chuckle as I sipped my chicory coffee. It was a nice April afternoon in the Back of Yards Mexican restaurant La Cecina. Tim Deveney and I were discussing how the culture shock of working with marginalized populations was a “bubble” buster for many volunteers who just graduated college. The bubble symbolizes our world view based on our experiences. A lot of folks who have been fortunate enough to have had most of their needs met and only known about suffering through books and film, have their world view, or bubble, broken open when they meet suffering head on. As someone who had already been in the workforce for seven years and personally experienced poverty, discrimination, and fear of authorities as a child, I believed I was better equipped to handle the problems that the families of south side Chicago were going through. I was going to be the wise old man that guided the other volunteers through the landscape of suffering and sit back with a bag of popcorn as their bubbles burst into a million pieces.
Precious Blood Volunteers Hector and Leah on the International Day of Peace
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR) is a place of hope, healing, and radical hospitality. In order to achieve these goals, we must establish strong, meaningful relationships with those we serve. It is a long road filled with tons of bumps and detours because the folks of these communities have been living through ongoing trauma almost all of their lives. Trust is a commodity in this place where even friends and family have turned on each other, sometimes culminating into gun violence. The natural response from the human mind when these things happen is to be cautious of whom to trust. When anyone new comes into their lives, even when their intent is to help, their automatic response is to be careful and put up walls to protect themselves. Because of my background, I believed I had a shortcut to this process of fostering relationships with the young men that I was to be case managing. I think PBMR should have a warning sign outside of the door that reads “This is a place of hope, healing, and radical hospitality… Please leave your ego at the door.”
After only a few weeks into the volunteer experience, I had to come to the harsh reality that my own “tough” upbringing is nothing compared to the struggles of the people to whom we are ministering. One of my firsts tasks at PBMR involved helping a young family get on the road to stability. In order to protect their privacy, I cannot say much more, but I can say that I was completely overwhelmed by the obstacles they were facing. I imagined myself in their situation and what I would do to get ahead. Surely, I could give them great advice by putting myself in their shoes-but immediately I realized how their and my own scenarios were so very different. Even though financial resources were not always there, I always had around me a consistent group of people that loved me and who would do anything for me if I was in trouble. I never had to use their help because I didn’t have an emergency, and I became blind to the treasure that was my network of family and friends.
So, there I am, sitting in a room with a young family that was relying on my help and guidance to avoid homelessness with their young daughter. I was like a deer caught in headlights, stunned and unable to act. And this was supposed to be the “easy” case, something simple that would help ease me into dealing with tougher cases. If I was no good for them now, how was I supposed to be helpful to the rest of the guys I was case managing? How was I going to develop relationships with these young men if my only “Ace up my sleeve” was my not-so-harsh upbringing? I was too concerned with other people’s bubbles to see that my own bubble didn’t stand a chance.
Hector and Leah with a Peace Circle Group
While things seemed dark in this extremely young journey of service, God’s grace found a way to shine through. Fr. David Kelly gave a lecture to a group of students and faculty at the University of Notre Dame. In his talk he mentioned how, despite his many years of leading PBMR and being involved in the lives of those he serves, he has only stories to share. They are stories, because he was not the one going through the suffering. He recognizes that he can be empathetic, but there is no real way to completely suffer the same pain as those he serves. It became clear that having a similar past to those we help is not a qualification to build a positive and long-lasting relationship with them. What matters is to recognize this limitation and to still be willing to give your time and effort to help those in need. I like to think that when we encounter new people with different perspectives, then it is up to us to decide if these experiences burst our bubble, or if they help us grow that world view to encompass more people.
Hector 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.
By Hector Avitia, Precious Blood Volunteer
Last week my community had its first house meeting. We divided up the chores and the first floor of the Formation House in Chicago (my floor), was assigned to dinner duty on Wednesdays. Up until this point I had been able to avoid cooking for the whole house because two of our community members took care of most of the cooking. I decided to bite the bullet and I volunteered for the first scheduled dinner for our floor this week. I don’t remember the last time I was this nervous about dinner. I wanted to get home early enough to cook patiently and diligently but that did not happen. When I got home I got so nervous about cooking that I had to get my mother on video chat to help walk me through the process. So there I am, making a mess in the kitchen while I spoke Spanish with my mom and dad over video chat, rushing and managing several pots and pans all at once. It was definitely a sight to behold in a house that is usually calm and quiet.
PBVs Hector, Leah, Lota and John cooking with Lucia
Thanks to God who, through my mother’s love and direction, allowed me to make a full meal that consisted of chicken enchiladas (garnished with freshly cut lettuce, tomato from the garden at PBMR, and avocado), rice, and beans. The kitchen didn’t burn down and the portions I made were enough to feed the whole house. I have always been uncomfortable about cooking, but not until I thought back to our cooking class at Orientation and the reflection given by Lucia, the facilitator of the cooking class), did I really figure out why I was such a nervous wreck. Preparing a meal is a very deep way that we connect with friends and family. In a way, I was sharing an intimate, a spiritual, part of me by cooking a meal for the house. I think we all seek acceptance when we open ourselves up to others like that, and making this meal made me vulnerable to the other guys in my house. Thanks to the support of my housemates, I am excited to cook again for my house when my turn comes around.
Hector 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.
2017-2018 Volunteer Hector Avitia
Hector Avitia will serve in Chicago at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation and will live in community at the Formation House in Hyde Park. He grew up in Los Lunas, New Mexico and graduated in 2010 from the University of Notre Dame. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Over the last seven years Hector has worked in the corporate world along with volunteering in his church community. He has committed to serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer for a full year.
- Why do you want to volunteer?
“I have always felt like I was called to service, but I didn’t know how I was supposed to live out that call. In the past, I have served by spending my free time in various ministries, especially youth ministry and social justice advocacy. These were great experiences that taught me a lot about giving back to the community, but I knew that there was still more that I could do to help the marginalized of our society. After much thought and prayer, full-time volunteering was the obvious next step in this journey of service.”
- Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?
“I interviewed with a few other organizations that all had many great things that made them amazing choices, but there was something special about Precious Blood. From my interview with Director Tim Deveney at a little Mexican restaurant in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago to the Skype session with Fr. David Kelly, I immediately felt a connection with Precious Blood. I could already picture myself working alongside these awesome people, and that is a big deal. We are about to embark on a mission with many obstacles and challenges, and having that trust and openness with your leaders will help us overcome the tough times ahead. It will also make the positive moments that much more enjoyable.”
- What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?
“By working and living with the community I will be serving, I hope to grow in my faith and have a better understanding of the needs of south side Chicago. This volunteer experience is part of my discernment to see how I can further help those in need. The best way to know the needs of a community is to live alongside that community. I want to walk a mile in the shoes of our forgotten brothers and sisters, and I believe Precious Blood provides just that. I am also looking forward to hearing about the other volunteers’ journeys. I know that there is a lot that I can learn from all these people if I just take the time to listen.”