The Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR) established the Kinship Award in 2014 to recognize community contributions and/or social justice efforts that have strengthened the Precious Blood Center’s mission of providing hope, healing, and hospitality to at-risk youth in the Back of the Yards and New City neighborhoods of Chicago. The award consists of artwork created by youth or an instructor in the Precious Blood Center’s programs. The award is presented in the spring at PBMR’s fundraising luncheon.
2019 RECIPIENTS: Mike Donovan and Sara Nuñez
Mike Donovan and Sara Nuñez, two dedicated volunteer chaplains reaching out to and accompanying young people in prison, are the recipients of the 2019 Kinship Award from the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR). For 15 years, Mike Donovan has volunteered for Kolbe House as a chaplain at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. Kolbe House is the Catholic jail ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He has also been a leader with PBMR for 14 years. Donovan is a former executive who retired from a distinguished 30-year career with the Internal Revenue Service in New York. Since moving to Chicago, he has dedicated himself to reaching out to young people lost in the criminal justice system. He started by answering a call to “visit the imprisoned.” When those he met at the juvenile detention center went on to lengthy sentences in adult prisons hours away from Chicago, he remained determined to keep the connections. “Most of them get no other visitors,” Donovan says, and I am there as a ministry of presence, to listen.” At PBMR, Donovan also mentors many young men coming home from prison, helping with mentoring, job placement and other re-entry resources. Over the years, he has even opened his home to many. Sara Nuñez has also served for more than 12 years as a volunteer chaplain at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. At PBMR, she and Precious Blood Sister Donna Liette launched an outreach to mothers who have lost children to violence as well as those who have lost children to incarceration. Their peace circle program has attracted national attention for its unique approach to healing and reconciliation. Nuñez, a retired nurse, has continued to accompany the mothers’ circle. As a mother and grandmother, she says, “I see the suffering in their eyes that comes from their broken hearts. I also see that the pain and suffering is lifted a little when one mom realizes that there are others like her and together they can reach out and hold each other up, in spirit, thoughts and prayer.”
2018 RECIPIENT: Community Anti-Violence Education (C.A.V.E.)
Community Anti-Violence Education (C.A.V.E.) is the recipient of the 2018 Kinship Award from the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR). C.A.V.E. is an intergenerational, community-based support system for those who have been affected by trauma, specifically adverse childhood experiences. The purpose of C.A.V.E. is to reduce violence by providing safe spaces, trauma-informed education, and peer support for youth and adults so that they may heal and help heal one another by telling their stories, their truth. As a result, the members of C.A.V.E. learn how to be peacemakers in their own communities. The group was organized in 2010 by twelve incarcerated men at the Danville Correctional Center; these men were concerned about violence in Chicago and wanted to provide a positive impact in the community from which they came, but always with the goal of impacting other Chicago neighborhoods. Today, C.A.V.E. still serves incarcerated men at Danville Correctional Center, as well as young people in the Back of the Yards neighborhood where PBMR is located. Although C.A.V.E. circles center on trauma-informed care and cognitive-behavior therapy, the group serves the emerging adult population (ages 16–24) once a week and formerly incarcerated adults once a month. C.A.V.E. also organizes social events and outings aimed at bringing together youth and adults who have been impacted by mass incarceration. Through sports, the arts, and various recreation activities, C.A.V.E. helps to build and foster healthy, intergenerational relationships in the community. It is in this way that they aim to build that which has been destroyed by the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex.
2017 RECIPIENT: Communities & Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children (CRIIC)
Communities & Relatives of Illinois Incarcerated Children (CRIIC) is the recipient of the 2017 Kinship Award from the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. Begun in 2012, CRIIC is a community-based support group for those who have loved ones serving life without parole or extreme sentences imposed on them before their 18th birthday. The group is organized by Julie Anderson, whose son was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 at the age of 15. Through monthly meetings, CRIIC keeps track of current legislative efforts and litigation as well as offers support and encouragement. In a world where families with incarcerated loved ones often feel ashamed, guilty, and judged, the CRIIC monthly meetings provide members with a forum to share and offer each other comfort. CRIIC has organized nearly a half dozen trips to Menard Correctional Center in southern Illinois, approximately 370 miles from Chicago. Anderson notes that it is often difficult for families to make a visit on their own and she recalls that on one of the first trips, a grandmother went along to see her grandson whom she had not seen in eight years. “Menard is a maximum security prison and there are not many happy moments when someone you love is locked up,” Anderson said. “The visits bring an air of happiness to family and to those incarcerated.” CRIIC is also involved in Criminal Justice Reform, focusing on conditions of confinement and bringing back second chances for children in Illinois, which would allow those sentenced before their 21st birthday to a review after serving 20 years. Illinois currently does not have any type of review. CRIIC is also working with Illinois State Representative Justin Slaughter (D-27th District) to develop a Prison Family Bill of Rights that would give family members the right to in-person visits with their loved ones, which is currently subject to the discretion of the prison’s warden.
2016 RECIPIENT: Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University
The Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University is the recipient of the 2016 Kinship Award from the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR). The Sheil Catholic Center is a faith community of students and families in Evanston, Ill., and through the pastoral leadership of Father Kevin Feeney and Campus Minister Tim Higgins, has generously provided student and adult volunteers to minister to youth incarcerated at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (CCJTDC) in Chicago for the past 14 years. In addition, Sheil annually donates turkeys at Thanksgiving for the families of PBMR youth, and also contributes Christmas gifts to youth as part of their Mitten Tree Program. Sheil has hosted PBMR art shows featuring works by juvenile and adult inmates, Confirmation candidates from their School of Religion have written to residents at the CCJTDC receiving their Confirmation, students from the School of Religion have supported PBMR’s Mothers Group, and both college students and adults regularly write letters to prison inmates.
2015 Recipient: St. John of the Cross Parish
St. John of the Cross Parish, a Catholic faith community in suburban Western Springs, IL, is the 2015 recipient of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation’s Kinship Award. Through the pastoral leadership of Father David Dowdle, St. John of the Cross has generously contributed resources to fortify hope, healing and hospitality at the Precious Blood Center. For several years, the parish has pitched in to provide substantial financial support along with donations of clothing, school supplies, kitchen utensils, and food. The plants around the center’s Community Vegetable Garden and Peace Flower Garden, the patio cement for the outdoor gathering space, and the lighting for the new project space—Art on 51st—are courtesy of St. John of the Cross. Parishioners not only attend Precious Blood Center’s fundraisers, they share their talent and expertise on its Fundraiser Committee. Even young parishioners have reached out: the seventh grade confirmation class wrote reflections on poetry created by incarcerated youth. Their reflections were then sent to the incarcerated authors. In addition, St. John’s Vacation Bible School is a customer of PBMR’s fledgling t-shirt silk-screening operation, which provides at-risk youths with a job opportunity.
2014 Recipients: The Home Depot and Anthony Suárez-Abraham
The Home Depot is a 2014 recipient of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation’s Kinship Award. The Home Depot invested in the community when it built a store several years ago at 4555 S. Western Boulevard, Chicago. In addition to being a neighborhood presence, the Home Depot has generously shared resources to support the Precious Blood Center’s efforts in beautifying its grounds to fortify hope, healing and hospitality. The shrubbery and plants around the Healing Garden and the outdoor Peacemaking Circle as well as the tool shed and plants for the Community Garden in the northeast yard were all accomplished with the help of the Home Depot. The Community Garden has fed dozens of families with the harvest, the Healing Garden has provided solace, and the Peacemaking Circle has been an important community space for conflict resolution and accompaniment of those seeking healing.
Anthony Suárez-Abraham is a 2014 recipient of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation’s Kinship Award. Suárez-Abraham is a theology instructor at Dominican University and the former director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Peace and Justice. A longtime advocate of clemency toward juvenile offenders, he was instrumental in getting the Catholic Conference of Illinois in August 2013 to join in an amicus brief in a case before the Illinois Supreme Court calling for retroactive review of mandatory life sentences without parole for juveniles. In September 2011, he urged Cardinal George to write a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn asking him to commute the sentence of a juvenile offender who has spent more than two decades behind bars, has accepted responsibility for his actions, attained his General Education Diploma, and works with a Catholic priest to counsel and deter at-risk children from criminal activity.