Sister Donna Liette
Our Precious Blood Spirituality calls us to go out into the world in a spirit of hope and reconciliation. Sister Donna Liette serves as Family Forward Program Coordinator at the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, founded in 2004 by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood to serve young people and families on the South Side of Chicago.
Here, Sister Donna shares some examples of the ways in which she ministers to those most affected by violence and structural inequity.
Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR)
PBMR is a safe place for youth and their families in a neighborhood in South Side Chicago that is devastated by violence, poverty and lack of opportunities for jobs and/or quality education. With the resources that we have, we attempt to offer our youth and their families programming that will give them hope for a brighter future. PBMR is supported and staffed by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in collaboration with the Sisters of the Precious Blood of Dayton, Ohio.
Inspired by the spirituality of the Precious Blood, we are a ministry of reconciliation that responds to violence and conflict within the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago. The PBMR center is located in the midst of poverty, violence, racism and lack of resources.
The center has 40 full- and part-time staff including myself and Precious Blood Sister Carolyn Hoying; Fathers David Kelly and Denny Kinderman, both Missionaries of the Precious Blood; Sister Janet Ryan, OSF; and Holly O’Hara, currently a candidate with the Sisters of the Precious Blood. A board of directors oversees the organization.
This ministry fits our spirituality. We are about being a life-giving presence in this community where violent death is a daily reality. Through our circles of reconciliation we begin to bring close those who are “far off.” We believe every person is worth redemption and truly feel it is our ministry to help each person in our neighborhood to know they are worthy of God’s love and to respect that in themselves and each other. We are fools enough to believe this could stop the killing!
Youth drop by for cereal and milk before going to school. Those not in school come to our center for safety and job training, for bus passes, or to meet with their mentor. Mothers stop by for food; for a cup of coffee and some support; for help with bills; help with writing their resumes; help with using a computer for job searches; for bus passes for visiting their incarcerated sons or daughters; and many more needs.
Kids came rushing in to tell us that one of their “brothers” was just killed going out to move his car as the street cleaners were coming. He had just gotten home from work. He was 24 years old. This is a typical day. Violence is an everyday happening in our neighborhood.
After school, kids (often, boys and young men from 14-24) stop by for something to eat and to just be with friends in a safe place; then they go to their chosen programming: media lab, theater, art, mentoring, tutoring, drug counseling, etc.
Mothers stop by to talk about their struggles: children drawn to the streets, incarcerated, murdered. Each month, we have a healing circle for mothers who have lost their children to violence or incarceration or the streets or gangs.
Our center is a restorative justice hub focused on restoring relationships rather than using a punitive approach. We hold many circles of reconciliation, healing or celebration with families; youth; victims and offenders; and judges and lawyers.
I might spend some time with mothers in the Peace Garden — walking the labyrinth, sitting by the “Healing Waters,” or delighting in the flowers and beauty of this place of peace in the midst of boarded-up houses, gunshots ringing out, and kids riding their bikes while watching their back and hoping they get home safely.
It is a privilege to be in this ministry where blood cries out and hearts cry for comfort. As one person put it, PBMR is an oasis in a neighborhood where life is not respected and blood is poured out on our streets every day. We strive to “put neighbor back in the ‘hood, so that we can have a NEIGHBORHOOD!” It is a privilege to provide a safe place for children and mothers and neighbors to gather to pray, to circle, to reconcile, to be fed physically and spiritually. It is a privilege to minister with other CPPS men and women in a ministry that cries out — Precious Blood!
As Alan Jackson sings in his song “There Is Power in the Blood,” “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb”!