By Kara McNamara, Precious Blood Volunteer Alumna
I have always been an avid reader. One of my favorite books is “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë. When I first read it in high school, I was focused on the dramatic romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester at the center of the Gothic story. Over the years, as I’ve revisited the book, other important themes emerged: autonomy, social class, the hospitality of strangers, mental health, and morality. I have been delighted by the ways in which a story can continue to have new meaning, even when the words remain the same. Every time I read the story, I am different and the lens through which I view it changes.
The same is true for the meaning and impact of my time as a Precious Blood Volunteer! I have enjoyed the presence of Precious Blood people and Precious Blood spirituality in my life for nearly 10 years. It amazes me that what started as a six-month commitment as a volunteer on the Navajo reservation has become a formative, transformative experience and way of looking at the world. In that time as a volunteer, I learned so much about myself, spirituality, ministry of presence, and the inherent dignity of the human person. Ten years later, I continue to pursue growth in those areas and to find connections in my everyday life now, long after I left Crownpoint, New Mexico.
This formational time as a volunteer and the resulting connections with Precious Blood members and Companions taught me to recognize and follow “the cry of the blood.” That cry felt (and still feels) like a personal and irresistible invitation from God to be present to the needs of others.
I followed that call into working with youth in the nonprofit sector for several years before returning to graduate school for a master’s degree in counseling. It was obvious to me that in order to further pursue the call to support and serve others, I had some things to learn! I worked as a high school counselor for a few years, and with my professional focus on mental health and trauma-informed care for my students, I truly felt that the tenets of the Precious Blood Volunteer program to walk with those who suffer and to build community lived on in my work. The high school where I worked also implemented restorative practices, and I was extremely interested in the pursuit of reconciliation in that context.
“It amazes me that what started as a six-month commitment as a volunteer on the Navajo reservation has become a formative, transformative experience and way of looking at the world.”
This interest led me to my current work for the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition, which provides training and support to those who minister to people affected by incarceration or detention. I am the communications manager for the organization, which means it is my work to invite people to discover their own call to seek reconciliation, be present to the needs of others, and work for justice.
In doing this work, I truly have felt the ordinary transform into the sacred. I may be working away on a laptop at home, but I am listening to the needs of people, I am helping to train the next generation of prison ministers, and I am working toward the creation of a justice system that upholds the dignity of every human person. It has been simultaneously grounding and energizing.
As an added bonus, after years of following the impact of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, I enjoyed the experience of learning from Fr. David Kelly and Sr. Donna Liette through two (excellent) CPMC webinars earlier this year. I am grateful to have a job that aligns my personal values and sense of vocation with my professional tasks.
The story continues. I am grateful for the day I thumbed through the Catholic Volunteer Network catalog and found an opportunity that has brought so much good to my life. I never could have guessed all the joy and community that has flowed from that experience, including the sense of joy and community that is present in my personal life. I married my husband Jack four years ago with Fr. Al Ebach, C.PP.S., presiding. When we welcomed our sweet daughter Clare into the world this summer, we did so knowing that so many others were celebrating with us.
I am so grateful that God connected my story with this community and charism.
“We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”
-Charlotte Brontë, “Jane Eyre
Kara served in 2013 as a Precious Blood Volunteer at St. Paul Catholic Church in Crownpoint, New Mexico, Navajo Nation. She now works for Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition. Go to preciousbloodvolunteers.org to learn more about Precious Blood Volunteers.