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July 15, 2004

Ministry with the Laity is Central to our Identity

Even on Vacations, there always seem to be deadlines that intrude. My next article for Precious Blood Family is due today.

Ok it was done on limited resources. All my books are packed away, and reports are that they arrived in California today. It is a topic near and dear to my heart. I helped to begin Precious Blood Companions in the Province of the Pacific and was their director for several years.

The article was supposed to be 500-700 words. It is 900. Still I am sure that I left things out. I will wait to hear what that is when the Companions par excellence who drop by here leave their comments.

Click on the link below to read the whole article.

Ministry with the Laity is Central to our Identity
Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS

Ministry among, with and for the laity has been central to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood since the beginning. The Unio Sanguis Christi is the canonical association ministering alongside the missionaries since 1851 along with the Archconfraternity of the Precious Blood and other forms of association. Since 1990 Precious Blood Companions have been associated with the other North American Provinces. Through this association with the community they share in the mission, community life and spirituality of the Congregation.

St. Gaspar del Bufalo (1786-1837) was, from the beginning of his ministry, constantly involved with the preaching of missions and the promotion of associations for the laity. He collaborated with several individuals in the foundation of oratories and other associations. On October 23, 1808 Canon Gaspar del Bufalo, along with Father(later Bishop) Gaetano Bonanni and Antonio Santelli, established in the Church of S. Maria in Vincis, an Evening Oratory for the benefit of farm workers and other laborers who lived near the Piazza Montanara. (1) Later, on December 8, 1808, Gaspar preached in the Church of S. Nicola in Carcere on the occasion of the foundation of an association in honor of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, an association begun by Canon Francesco Albertini who would later become Gaspar's spiritual director. In 1813, as an consequence of their involvement with the Evening Oratory, Bonanni, Santelli and others began a formal, though unofficial, mission society entitled "Opera degli Operai Evangelici (Gospel Workers)" for the purpose of conducting retreats and missions. Gaspar, who wished to be involved in some missionary enterprise related to his devotion to the Most Precious Blood, joined the Gospel Workers Enterprise in 1814 when he returned to Rome from exile and prison. (2) It was members of this group, including Bonanni and Gaspar, that formed the Congregation of Missionaries of The Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Giano, August 15, 1815.

In the missions that Gaspar preached, he became a great promoter of the "Association of the Precious Blood", now an Archconfraternity. He considered it a great instrument for the renewal of Christian Life. On the occasion of the more than 150 missions which Gaspar preached over the next several years, he began apostolic groups and pious associations, an ecclesial movement which included not only the laity, but also many priests and religious, who found in it a source of renewal for their life and ministry. (3)

The "Method of Missions of the Missionaries of The Most Precious Blood(1883)" (4) presupposed that several societies or "pious unions" would be founded on the conclusion of a preached mission. The principal foundation would be of the "Pious Union of The Precious Blood", which would continue and extend the effects of the mission, provide a diversion from the "snares" of the world, promote devotion to the Precious Blood and the celebration of the appropriate feasts in honor of the Precious Blood. Other societies founded would meet the needs of the people in that community: The "Sodality of St. Francis Xavier" for the men, the "Union of the Ladies of Mary" for the Women, the "Sodality of the Children of Mary" for the young girls and the "Society of St. Aloysius of Gonzaga" for the young boys. There is also mentioned a "Confraternity for the Country People" who would meet on feast days to hear a sermon adapted to their needs. Each of these societies had their own set of particular rules and would be established in order to promote a Christian way of life, foster particular devotions and practices, provide support for the frequent reception of the sacraments, preserve the purity of morals and the spirit of religion, provide for the care of the poor, the sick and abandoned and the preservation of justice, order and righteousness which is of "great assistance to the private and public good".

The choice of the sodalities founded would be made on the advice of the resident clergy and a few of the "better people". Not all societies would necessarily be started, but only those that would meet the need of the people and have a reasonable chance of success. Some laity and a few "fervent" clergy would be solicited to lead the groups, and the faithful would be urged from the pulpit to join the appropriate association. Great care was to be taken in the selection of leaders and coordinators, as it was taken for granted that they would not long be able to lead the sodalities without the assistance and cooperation of the local ecclesiastical Superior or support from initial pastoral agents involved in follow-up work.

[One] point for our meditation is our activity in furthering those objectives which lead towards the glory of the Lord. This we do in seeking to give them permanence through the Associations which our Community proposes, using the means that it designates as well as the practices which it encourages. (5)

It is important simply to gather the people and begin remembering that we gather to support each other and to form a foundation for our common mission. We gather not because we are good at it or because we have a particularly clear vision of the future. We gather because we share a tremendously important gift in this spirituality, we are in need of communal support in living Christian lives, and we wait to hear our own story in the Word of Life remembering again that the word of God was written by human hand and has lived in human flesh. We gather because we know that we are a living expression of what it means to be "church." We are not alone. The mission of the church has been given to all the baptized. The C.PP.S mission is a gift and challenge to the C.PP.S. Community, and also to the Laity.


1.Andrew Pollack, C.PP.S., Historical Sketches Of The C.PP.S., C.PP.S. Resources, No. 1., (Carthagena, Ohio: The Messenger Press, 1988), p. 3-4.

2.Luigi Contegiacomo, C.PP.S., St. Gaspar's Prison Experiences 1810-1813, trans. Raymond Cera, C.PP.S., C.PP.S. Resources, No. 3, (Carthagena, Ohio: The Messenger Press, 1988)

3.Union of The Blood of Christ, "Sanguis Christi", General And Regional Statutes, (San Pablo: Society Of The Precious Blood, 1983)

4.Henry Rizzoli, C.PP.S., Method Of Missions of The Missionaries of The Most Precious Blood, trans. anon., (Carthagena, Ohio: The Messenger Press, 1883), pp. 29-30.

5 St. Gaspar del Bufalo, Circular Letter 11

Posted by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. at July 15, 2004 2:53 PM

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dear Father Jeff,

this is very nice, especially for the Atlantic Province (who publish the little magazine in which this will appear) who have the Union instead of Companions.

at the same time, you did sort of manage to include us without making a big deal of the differences in emphasis and vision for these different sorts of association.

Posted by: Maureen Lahiff at July 16, 2004 9:50 AM

Fr. Jeff,

Your piece is uplifting. You folks - priests and religious - give us layfolks a context for our daily trek - and, yes, it could be said that you "give our stumblings direction." :)

Posted by: dave byron at July 17, 2004 12:05 AM