Receiving Welcome

Raechel with members of the PBMR community

By Raechel Kiesel, Precious Blood Volunteer

One sunny Sunday in December, I found myself in the PBMR hallway watching my friend Essie teach the niece of one of the moms in our Families Forward program how to play a clapping game. It was similar to many of the patty-cake-like games I played as a little kid, but it wasn’t one I had seen before, so I soon turned to Sr. Carolyn, and we tried to clap along with Essie and our new friend. After many rounds of trying and failing, I ended up playing with the young girl. We had both improved just a little, so soon enough we were shouting together, “Right! Left! 1 Right! Left! 1 2 Right! Left! 1 2 3!” and clapping faster and faster, and when we finally made it to 5—which was a major feat, let me tell you—we jumped up and down and cheered. It was then that I remember watching out of the side of my eye as Fr. Kelly walked past us, narrowly avoiding contact with our flailing, clapping limbs, and I realized just how ridiculous I looked at that moment. Not only did I have reindeer antlers on my head, but I had been bent over playing patty cake with a little girl, laughing, shouting, raucous, and happy, in the middle of the hallway on a Sunday. It took me a while after that to realize that, actually, it wasn’t ridiculous at all—not for PBMR. Because that’s what we do here.

Only a month before that, I had been asking Sr. Donna if I could come to the first in-person mothers circle since covid had rendered them virtual. And when I found out that my parents would be visiting that weekend, I asked if my own mom could come too. Of course, she said, “Oh yeah, that would be great!” So that Sunday morning, I sent my dad with my brother to explore the city, and my mom and I went to PBMR. We were one of the first ones there, and still we looked at Sr. Donna and said, “Are you sure that it’s okay if we’re here?” We were feeling the discomfort. As two white women, strangers to gun violence and the grief of having lost a child, we were hyper aware of entering a space that did not belong to us—and yet we were invited in. So we made our name tags, pretended like we were comfortable, and we sat next to each other as the rest of the circle filled with beautiful women from around the neighborhood.

I didn’t expect to have much to share. Here at PBMR, we sit in circle for staff meetings each week, and by that point I had a pattern. Even coming here, I knew that as a white woman, I had so much I needed to learn. So I had decided early on that my primary role was to listen. Which isn’t something I’ve often told myself—to be humbled and value others’ voices over my own.

But in the mothers’ circle that day, when the talking piece got to me, I told a story about losing my grandmother, and the beauty that I got to witness in her final days among my family, how important that was to me. Looking around the circle as I was speaking and teary-eyed, and then as my mom spoke after me, the other women were nodding. They looked at us with faces that knew loss deeply, even the loss that we had felt, losing my grandma, my mom losing her mom. That stood out to me. They didn’t have to let some white girl walk into their circle and try to say something about grief, but they did. Not only that, they listened and encouraged me, and I felt so welcome and loved in a space I didn’t know could be my own.

Raechel with fellow Precious Blood Volunteer, Vincent, at PBMR

Jacquelyn Grant, a womanist theologian, makes the case that God is a Black woman and, in fact, manifested “in the community of Black women” (Grant, Jacquelyn. “The Challenge of the Darker Sister.” White Women’s Christ & Black Women’s Jesus, Scholars Press, 1989). In the experience of ancestral Black women, she writes, “They identified with Jesus because they believed that Jesus identified with them. As Jesus was persecuted and made to suffer undeservedly, so were they.” I read these passages years ago, but only now, witnessing the power of the community of Black women who gather at PBMR, do I understand them more clearly. These women incarnate God’s love, strength, and pain in our community, as they’ve done for me.

So our women—our community—are the ones who really decide that hospitality is what we do at PBMR. I know it might have been the founders thinking it over in the beginning, but the mothers sitting in circle that day were the ones to tell me, no, you’re welcome here. Come into this circle, sit with us, be with us. We know your pain, and we can share ours, and the burden can be a bit lighter. We can share healing, too, and laughter, and breakfast, and we can play patty cake and laugh raucously in the middle of the hallway together.

Raechel is serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. Go to preciousbloodvolunteers.org to learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers.

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.