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 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

Finding God on the Fringes

September 2015 Reflection
Scripture Reading
Numbers 11:25-29
Mark 9:38-41
Additional Reading
“God is most completely revealed to us where we would least expect it. Rather than affirming values held as essential by society or revealing the divine presence at the center of public interest, God appears on the fringes, in situations and actions beyond the pale of established values and ideals. God appears among the detritus of society, that which has been rejected and cast off. What this means is that God can best be comprehended among the broken and rejected rather than among the powerful and respected. God’s dwelling place is not in some sanctuary cut off from the strident cries of those who are broken and call out for justice and mercy.” –Robert Schreiter, C.PP.S. In Water and In Blood: A Spirituality of Solidarity and Hope, pg. 67
I can occasionally be a snob. I’m not sure if this is a product of my fairly sheltered suburban upbringing, my all-boys prep school, the constant barrage of marketing from my alma mater about how smart we were for going to school where we did, or if this is just part of who I am. I fight against my pretentiousness, but sometimes the struggle does not go well.  When it does come out it’s an ugly look for me!
One of the ways my snobbishness comes out is who I listen to. I have a tendency to listen more intently to people with a title. Reverend, Doctor, and Professor are all titles usually indicating the level of education and perseverance a person has committed to. It is wise (and usually prudent) to put faith into people who have dedicated their lives to studying certain subjects or have put the time and effort into understanding the world around us. However, I will every so often not listen to someone for some reason or another.
I do take solace in knowing I’m not the only person who does this! Sometimes we completely ignore or push away what people are saying because of their gender, their race, their ethnicity, the way they dress, the way they talk, their economic situation, their political positions, or where they come from. In the readings from Numbers and the Gospel of Mark there are people in places of authority who question the call of others. Joshua is Moses right hand man and John is a close disciple of Jesus. In both cases they are corrected. Moses even says it would be good for all of God’s people to be prophets!
Precious Blood spirituality calls us out to the margins. We are called out to the edges, not just simply to serve, but also to listen. Our listening will give us a better chance to hear the wisdom and truth of God’s voice, wherever it comes out. God’s voice calls out not just in a circle of disciples, not just in a gathering of elders, not just among the wealthy, the well educated, the connected, the ordained, but also in places we don’t expect to hear it. Even more troubling is when it comes from places (or mouths) we don’t want to listen to. Those people are usually among the “broken and rejected.”
Pope Francis used the example of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day in his recent address to Congress. Both of these people were prophets calling those around them to better follow Jesus Christ. Day was told by the Cardinal Archbishop of New York not to use the name “Catholic” with the Catholic Worker movement and Merton was silenced by his religious superiors. Both of them heard God’s call in unusual places and were called to a more radical way of living because of their intent listening. May we be that open to God’s call and to the prophetic voices of people in surprising places.
Questions for Reflection

  • Who are some of the people you have tried to silence in your own life who have provided some sort of wisdom for you?
  • Where are some unexpected places you have heard God’s wisdom and truth?
  • Describe times when you have had someone from an unexpected place be a voice of the divine.
  • Who are people (or groups) our community, society, church, and world refuses to listen to because of who they are? What are some ways to better listen to God’s voice calling through them?