2021-2022 Precious Blood Volunteer, Aaron Wise
By Aaron Wise, Precious Blood Volunteer
I called her name. She rose slowly from her chair in the waiting room and hobbled toward me. She gifted me an enthusiastic greeting and a labored smile, that which is socially expected for decency. We entered the exam room, and I initiated the pre-provider tasks: taking vitals, gathering medical and family histories, conducting necessary point-of-care testing, etc.
Something appeared off.
Clearly, something deeper ailed my patient. I asked about her day, her holiday plans, her family. I found out the upcoming Thanksgiving would be difficult for her—the first one since losing her daughter. I asked about her daughter. I experienced my sister in Christ’s delight in sharing the memories of someone she loved so dearly. She showed me a beautiful, goofy video of her with her daughter—singing, dancing, and laughing. She teared up, a paradoxical moment of sadness and joy. Her heart was broken; from it oozed the Precious Blood, a combination of both suffering and pure love.
Aaron Wise, at work at KC CARE Health Center
Small drops of blood discolored the white floor. The patient had stepped on a nail in his garage, leaving a small, deep hole in his foot. I cleaned and wrapped the wound, yet this man had little concern for his foot.
He feared for his mind. He told me he wasn’t right—that something was wrong with his brain, that he was “messed up” in the head. He told me he’d done many drugs and other substances. He’d seen psychiatrists and been given many medications meant to help. None of them worked. He told me he would try one more thing, and if that didn’t work, he had “other arrangements” to take care of it.
I don’t know what this man has been through in the past. I don’t know what he is going through in the present. But I do know the life of my brother in Christ means something. He has an indelible dignity, despite the ways in which the world, those around him and he, himself, asserts that he is “messed up.”
It was 2:30 on a warm Saturday afternoon. I was driving home with two friends along Independence Avenue, a busy road in Northeast Kansas City. On a patch of grass between the sidewalk and the road was a body—just yards from my residence.
I didn’t see it initially, but my friend insisted we return to check. People walked along the sidewalk, past the body. Several cars passed. From a distance, I got a better view of the man. His hat was thrown to the side, his body disheveled and uncomfortably positioned. One arm was raised and yellow. It was clear my brother in Christ was not breathing.
As we approached, a lady called out from a car to inform us she had called 911. Later, she revealed she had driven by 20 minutes prior, on a delivery. She was appalled by the indifference of hundreds of people who must have witnessed a man unwell on the side of the road. A life had passed—and nobody cared to notice.
thud, thud, thud, thud, thud! It was midnight. I awoke to a cacophonous banging on our door and windows. We answered. Our neighbor frantically reported the house next to ours was on fire. We raced to the other window to witness the entire west side of the building engulfed in flames.
These are but four brief stories among hundreds I’ve experienced working at the KC CARE Health Center in midtown and living in Northeast Kansas City. Interestingly, a few similar connections underly each of these stories and the many others that remain untold.
First, socioeconomic and racial barriers underpin each situation—access to health care, racism and discrimination, mental health stigmas, or scummy landlords who neglect their responsibility to respond to electrical issues. These injustices fall harder on minorities and those with less money.
Second, suffering seems to be part of the human condition. There is nothing the individuals in these stories could have done to prevent their hardship. I don’t say this ignoring the role of free will. Yes, each individual may have made choices that contributed to their situations, but the options they had available were severely screened by culture and society, among several other determinants.
Finally, God is present deeply with those who suffer. These are truths we recognize profoundly in the spirituality of the Precious Blood.
CS Lewis affirmed that heaven is an acquired taste. Jesus is my savior, and it is by His doings—not my own—that I will experience eternal life in union with God. Yet, if you were to bring me to heaven right now, I do not know if I’d like it. I still carry the taste of the world with me: pride, independence, self-servitude, sin. This contrasts with the purity and fullness of love that is heaven. However, through service and the experiences like those shared above, I’ve begun to acquire the taste of Christ. Community, simplicity, and prayer also have been formative for me during the past year.
I’ve practiced community on two levels this year: directly with those with whom I live and also with the global community.
I live with 18 others, including two families with five children, and sharing life with them has been a beautiful joy. I experience this joy in the form of sharing meals, interests, events, and time. I have countless jubilant memories such as tennis, basketball, soccer, football, Frisbee, ice skating (I love sports), faith sharing, music, etc.
In terms of the wider community, we focus on conservation, being involved in neighborhood and city policies, and living on a smaller income. Some of the practical aspects of this lifestyle are eating a vegetarian diet, consuming less water and electricity, composting, using a clothesline, paying attention to consumables and reusing when appropriate, and purchasing natural organic local products when available. There is a richness to sharing resources and life in this way.
Aaron with his fellow Precious Blood Volunteers in Chicago
Simplicity is a challenging ideal when we live in a chaotic world. Despite this, I still have been able to find simplicity relative to my previous student lifestyle. I live in a house without Wi-Fi and a phone signal because I strive to remove unnecessary and empty lifestyle choices. Often when we think about simplicity, we focus on what we “give up” and an image of emptiness is invoked. In practice, it is quite the opposite! Removing the superficial and unimportant gives way to a spirit of great abundance—especially in time, relationships and charity.
Finally, prayer is the cornerstone that links everything. My relationship with God has strengthened me to participate and grow in all the ways discussed and also has been strengthened through my experiences. Daily Mass is a joyous gift and receiving the Eucharist has been fuller and more transformative through walking with others as a Precious Blood volunteer.
This year has been formative as I’ve taken little steps along a lifelong journey to acquire the taste of heaven. I invite all of you to join in along the way. As echoed at Jerusalem Farm: The way is long, let us walk together; the way is hard, let us help one another; the way is Christ, Christ is the way.
Aaron served as a Precious Blood Volunteer at KC CARE Health Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Go to preciousbloodvolunteers.org to learn more about 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.
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.
2017-2018 Volunteer Martin Echtler
by Martin Echtler, Precious Blood Volunteer 2017
Before I left my home in Munich to move to Kansas City I had a lot of different feelings and expectations regarding the Precious Blood Volunteer program and the United States in general. There were a lot of questions in my mind like “How it will be to work as a volunteer?” “Which people will I meet?” or “How will I deal with cultural borders or language limitations?” Besides these “big questions” there was another aspect, more ordinary, which was not really on my agenda in the run up to my journey – the question “How will I get around in Kansas City?” I was not worried about it, because I thought it would be like in Munich where a wide variety of different public transportation options makes it not too complicated to get from point A to point B.
My view would change after a few days in the city, when I realized that most of the people drive their own car to get around. After realizing this I thought “Well, I don’t think it’s a big deal, because I’ve heard Kansas City has a new street car and a really good bus system.” After using the street car the first time my view changed a little bit. And after a few (long) times waiting at the bus stop my view changed a little bit more. My first conclusion was “Oh boy, it would be so much easier to have a car to get around.” But during the next months my point of view would change again.
The more time I spent in Kansas City with different people at work, at home or somewhere else dealing with lots of different situations, the more I realized that indeed I don’t have a physical car, but I already sit in and drive another, special kind of “car.” At this point you might think “This weird German guy must be crazy, because he can see invisible cars.” But let me explain this within a poem I wrote. It deals with my time here as a volunteer in the Midwest of the United States and that it feels like a car ride – an inner car ride. I started at one point to “drive” and since then I’m “on the road”.
Always forward – straight ahead or taking curves, uphill or downhill, slow or fast.
Look to the rearview mirror from time to time. Look to the exterior mirror from time to time.
Watch the lane, watch the vehicles in front and behind, watch the oncoming traffic, watch the signs, watch planned destinations.
Pay attention to passengers, watch out for other vehicles.
Don’t exceed the speed limit.
Don’t lose sight of the goals – don’t miss exits.
The fastest ways are not necessarily the most beautiful. Beautiful ways lead also to destinations.
Don’t forget to watch the gas gauge. Don’t drive too long distances in a row – take brakes and recharge batteries for the onward journey.
Pass cars sometimes – let cars pass you sometimes.
Rev the engine sometimes, crash sometimes, repair or get repaired sometimes.
Stop sometimes and ask for directions – drive away sometimes and ask for a stop.
Focus your view on the horizon sometimes – focus your view on the steering wheel sometimes.
Escape to the front sometimes – let your gaze stay on the rearview mirror sometimes.
Take curves from time to time – and avoid it from time to time.
Sometimes it’s necessary to select one lane and sometimes it’s necessary to take the other – it is necessary to ignore obvious signs that wants to lead sometimes – it is necessary to consider hidden signs sometimes.
Let the engine howl sometimes – drive quietly sometimes.
Talk to your passengers sometimes – just listen to them sometimes.
Follow their advice sometimes – ignore them and follow your instinct sometimes.
Once in a while take a deep breath of air.
Once in a while dim your lights.
Wait sometimes and sometimes let wait.
Drive in circles sometimes – take exits sometimes.
Pick someone up sometimes – leave someone behind sometimes.
Face the sun, face the clouds, face the wind.
Sometimes being driven – sometimes drifting.
Now and then do not know further – now and then knowing with new knowledge again.
Switch gears now and then – brake now and then.
Laugh sometimes, cry sometimes, sing sometimes, whisper sometimes, keep silent sometimes.
Drive aware – drive by yourself.
The few metaphors show that there are a lot of things you have to deal with when you’re “on the road” – even if you don’t own a physical car. Besides all the aspects I’ve named I’ve learned one very important lesson during my journey, which I want to emphasize at this point. Of course it’s important to look back and to plan next steps, but keep your main focus on the current street you’re driving through and the environment you’re passing right now. And also pay attention to the people who are driving with you just in this moment. Be aware about the current time, because the past is gone and the future is unwritten. A deep focus on the street you pass right now helps you to enjoy your ride more, it keeps you awake and prevents you from accidents.
This consciousness let me “drive” through Kansas City without having a car. All the love, friendship, beauty, hospitality, open doors and smiling faces I’ve already passed on this journey make me grateful and happy!
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 the Bishop Sullivan Center by going to www.preciousbloodkc.org/bishop-sullivan-center/.
2017-2018 Volunteer Alia Sisson
Alia Sisson was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Dayton in 2013. Alia graduated from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law with her Juris Doctorate in 2016. She plans to serve the poor and practice public interest law as her vocation. She was awarded for completing over 200 hours of pro bono student legal service. In her free time, she loves to sing and play guitar. Alia will be serving from September to at least June of 2018 and will serve in the domestic violence division of Legal Aid of Western Missouri.
- Why do you want to volunteer?
“The following verse sums up my philosophy on volunteering: ‘Freely you have received, freely give’ (Matt 10:8). I have been given so much in this life that I haven’t earned, through God’s grace. Not everyone is so fortunate. I have the gifts of my time and education to freely give, which I hope can lend a hand to help get people back on their feet. We all need help from time to time, and I am happy to offer what I can to others in their time of need. Serving the poor reminds me to keep a grateful heart and a humble attitude.”
- Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?
“I want my faith and my vocation to be inextricably combined, with one breathing life into the other. Missionaries of the Precious Blood represents the highest values to which I aspire, especially walking with those who suffer. I went to law school to be able to help those in need to the best of my ability, and working at Legal Aid of Western Missouri will ensure I can do just that.
Recognizing the inherent dignity in every human life, no matter the circumstances, is truly loving our neighbor. It is easy to love those like us, but loving those who are most unlike us is what Christians are called to do. As a Precious Blood volunteer I will seek to help reconcile broken bonds in the Kansas City community and build bridges where there is hopelessness. Along the way, I look forward to learning a great deal from those I will work with.”
- What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?
“This volunteer experience offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give service where it is truly needed. I am eager to work with clients that I will hopefully be able to help in a deeply meaningful way – to find or keep their housing and stay safely off the streets. I am also looking forward to the freedom from material distraction that living minimally in a faith community offers. By volunteering, I hope to grow my heart and my skills as a lawyer. I look forward to forging friendships with my fellow volunteers, the priests we live with, and the Kansas City community as a whole. (I also hope to improve on my cooking skills whenever I make dinner for the household!)”