The Precious Blood priests, brothers and lay associates from around the world recently celebrated 200 years of devotion to the Blood of Christ with a celebration in Rome. To honor its origin and continue the vision of its founder, many events mark the apostolic community’s bi-centennial year. In 2015 locally, the Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood celebrates the 200th anniversary and also its own 50th anniversary.
Three Precious Blood priests of the Kansas City Province serve as pastors in the Diocese of Davenport. They are Father Mike Volkmer, St. Mary Parish, Albia; Father Bill Hubmann, St. Mary Parish, Centerville; and Father Jim Betzen, St. Mary of the Visitation Parish, Ottumwa.
The beginnings of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood date back to the birth of St. Gaspar del Bufalo in Rome on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6, 1786. At a young age, St. Gaspar felt a call to something higher and more profound, visiting the sick and the poor. He was ordained a priest at age 22.
Caught in the political crisis of the French Revolution and Napoleon’s “reign of terror” and anti-clerical government, St. Gaspar refused to deny the pope and pledge his allegiance to Napoleon. The French exiled and imprisoned him for four years. Following Napoleon’s defeat and his release, St. Gaspar continued his preaching and ministry work to heal and revive the Catholic Church in torn Papal States. The people proclaimed Fr. Gaspar the “Angel of Peace” and the “Trumpet of Divine Blood.”
On Aug. 15, 1815, St. Gaspar founded the Congregation of the Most Precious Blood (C.PP.S.) in Giano, Italy. Along with his three original members, St. Gaspar reached out to those alienated from society, sharing God’s Word, building missions and encouraging more followers. He died in 1837. Pope Pius XII canonized St. Gaspar in 1954.
St. Gaspar’s apostles expanded his mission, eventually crossing the Atlantic in 1843 to minister to German-speaking immigrants in Ohio. Putting down deep and lasting roots in the Americas, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood expanded greatly prior to the Second Vatican Council.
Missionaries of the Precious Blood minister in over 20 countries today. The worldwide congregation is comprised of seven provinces and nine vicariates and missions. The Kansas City Province is one of three in North America. Three pillars — mission, community and spirituality — inspire members to serve as pastors, missionaries, teachers, retreat leaders, theologians and advocates for those on the margins of society and for those seeking peace and social justice.
“We are doing tremendous ministry through St. Gaspar’s vision,” said Father Joseph Nassal, C.P.P.S, beginning his second four-year term as provincial director of the Kansas City Province. That province commemorated its anniversary Aug. 16.