By Celine Klosterman
CENTERVILLE — For 75 years, priests of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood have led members of St. Mary Parish to the Father and built up a community of faith, Bishop Martin Amos told parishioners July 28.
The priests have offered witness through not just their words or homilies, but their own lives, he said during a Mass celebrating the religious order’s decades of service to the parish.
Concelebrating the liturgy were Father Bill Hubmann, C.PP.S., pastor, and Father Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., a former associate pastor of St. Mary’s and current provincial director of the Kansas City Province of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Former Centerville associate pastor Father Mike Volkmer, C.PP.S., now pastor of St. Mary’s in Albia, joined the day’s festivities as well.
Also during the celebration, Carla Assell, Sandy Conn and Lorraine Ramos renewed their covenants as Precious Blood lay Companions.
Bishop Amos said Precious Blood Sisters and priests staffed his home parish in Ohio and taught him religion. “I served Mass for the priests and said my first Mass with them at my side. Before entering the diocesan seminary, I contemplated joining the community.”
Three priests from that community began serving Appanoose County parishes, including St. Mary’s in Centerville, in 1938. Bishop Henry Rohlman invited the clergy to the most southwestern county of the Davenport Diocese amid a “scarcity of priests,” according to a 1939 Precious Blood publication quoted in a parish historical account. Seventy priests, Brothers and students have since served there, according to Fr. Hubmann.
From 1982-84, Fr. Nassal completed his first assignment as a priest at St. Mary’s, which was then a neighbor to parishes in several nearby towns of Appanoose County. “There was great energy and life in these parishes, with social outreach and religious education, with book clubs and free lunches to help folks stretch their budgets during the farm crisis,” he said. “There were well-planned liturgies and the strong awareness that our celebration of the Eucharist led us — as our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has reminded us often in these last few months — out of the sanctuary and into the streets.”
St. Mary’s inspired him to propose starting a Precious Blood lay Companions movement in 1989. “Here we saw how committed lay people working for and volunteering in the parish were living Precious Blood spirituality,” he said. “They already had the charism and spirituality of the blood of Christ, and in a very real sense, our lay associate movement, Precious Blood Companions, simply named the relationship that many were already living.”
Centerville had one of the first Companion groups in the early 1990s, he told The Catholic Messenger. About 10 Companions there now meet monthly.
Fr. Volkmer said ministering from 1976-82 in Centerville — his first parish assignment — helped him come to love parish life. “I began to be involved in the lives of the people through religious formation, sacramental celebrations and friendships,” he told the Messenger. “It was a rather small rural community; the people were friendly and welcoming, and I found much satisfaction in my ministry.”
In his homily, Bishop Amos voiced gratitude for past and present Precious Blood Missionaries. “We thank you for sharing your ministry, your wisdom, your care and concern, and your very lives.”
About the order
In 1815, Italian priest St. Gaspar del Bufalo founded the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, also known as the Congregation of the Precious Blood or the Society of the Precious Blood. The apostolic community shares a mission of service to the Church, community life and a spirituality of the blood of Christ. Members strive to serve all people, especially the poor, with compassion.
Precious Blood priests serve two parishes in the Diocese of Davenport: St. Mary’s in Centerville and St. Mary’s in Albia. The Kansas City Province currently has 51 members serving in eight Midwestern and western states and in Vietnam, according to www.kcprovince.org. The Missionaries of the Precious Blood minister in 20 countries.
The letters C.PP.S., which members use after their name, stand for Congregatio Pretiosissimi Sanguinis.