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.

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.

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

 

Introducing the 2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteers: Mike Nguyen

Mike was born and raised in Lahaina, Hawaii, and is our first volunteer from Hawaii! He will be serving at both Cristo Rey Kansas City High School and Bishop Sullivan Center. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2020 with a degree in neuroscience and Japanese. This year he will be applying for medical school where he hopes to continue his dream of becoming a doctor.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“I want to volunteer to serve and learn from communities different than my own. In my pursuit of being a doctor, I have seen how important it is to truly understand the people we serve so we can walk with them in compassionate solidarity. By interacting with underserved populations while living simply, I hope to understand those who need help them most. This year I am excited to work as a teacher and mentor so I can prepare myself to be a better doctor who empowers patients to be informed advocates for their own health.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteer Ministry?

“Doing volunteer work has always been something I enjoyed, but I realized during my time in college that I had more to give. Joining Precious Blood Ministry I have the opportunity to help those in need in a sustained and personal way. By living out the Precious Blood Mission to build community and walk with those who suffer, I know I will be able to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. I am extremely excited to serve the Kansas City community, and I know with the support of Tim and the Precious Blood Ministry I will be well prepared to do so.”

What are you looking forward to most?

“I am excited to meet new people and I looked forward to building strong friendships along the way. This year will undoubtedly present me with challenges but I am excited to learn from them and grow from the experiences.”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.

Introducing the 2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteers: Thomas Weiss

2020-2021 Precious Blood Volunteer, Thomas Weiss

Thomas Weiss will be serving as a Precious Blood Volunteer at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in the Program of Liberal Studies, Notre Dame’s Great Books education.

Why do you want to volunteer?

“The most formative experience of my education was the summer service program I completed after my sophomore year at Notre Dame. Living in intentional community at Hope House and serving at PBMR will hopefully be an equally illuminating and restorative experience for me.”

Why do you want to volunteer with Precious Blood Volunteers?

“The values of Precious Blood Volunteers outline the kind of life I hope to live. Commitment to serving those from suffering communities and a drive to redevelop often backward social systems resonate with the direction of my heart as I transition out of college and toward a career informed by Christ’s message of peace and compassion.”

What are you looking forward to about your volunteer experience?

“I am excited to step out of the classroom and into the real world. Having spent four years mostly reading books and writing essays, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to put my ideals into practice and to learn to sharpen my understanding of social realities through first-hand experience with those living on the south side of Chicago.”

Learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers at preciousbloodvolunteers.org.