The newly formed Precious Blood Spirituality Institute (PBSI) has a lot to offer to people of faith, says its newly appointed executive director. One of the most valuable might be creating a space where people can meet each other in a place where all are valued, all can speak freely about their faith, and all feel accepted as children of God.
“Our first dreams are, how do we begin to look at where we are as a community and as a church today,” said Vicky Otto, who will assume her new role with the PBSI on July 1. “Let’s face it, we’re in a hot mess. We need some place for people to talk and share stories. We need to talk to the people who are walking away—we want to hear why. We need to help rebuild those relationships.”
Drawing people near is an important part of Precious Blood spirituality, she said: “We as a Church need to have a more welcoming presence. Your local (church) community might be doing quite well, but we need to challenge ourselves to look around and see who’s not there.”
Welcoming those who feel estranged, offering reconciliation to those who suffer from the divisions in our Church and our society, giving ministers a place where they can feel encouraged and enlivened: those are some of the goals of the new institute. Otto will work alongside the PBSI board, made up of representatives from the three founding congregations, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, the Sisters of the Precious Blood and the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
The PBSI is making plans for its first offerings. Priorities for its first year include: fostering a greater awareness and appreciation of the unique charisms the congregations that share Precious Blood spirituality; and to bring the healing power of the Blood of Christ to a fractured Church. This will involve developing a program for pastors and parochial staffs that offers them both spiritual support and practical tools for parochial ministry in these difficult ecclesial times.
The PBSI does not yet have a physical office—Otto will work out of her home in Kansas City “until we figure out what’s needed,” she said. Its programs may be offered in several locations to reach as many people as possible.
Otto, who for the past eight years was the director of Companions (lay associates) for the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, said she will also place a priority on visiting the mission sites of the sponsoring congregations. “I want to reach out to the Adorers and the CPPS sisters, to get to know them better,” she said.
She will also be working with the Catholic Theological Union (CTU), which is the host institution of the PBSI at CTU. “I imagine a lot of trips back and forth to Chicago,” to CTU’s campus in Hyde Park, she said.
A native of Tucson, Otto has worked for parishes and for religious congregations. She is equally comfortable talking with bishops, religious, and lay people—and academics. Otto recently completed her Doctor of Ministry degree from Fordham University. She also holds an MBA from Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
She resisted the doctorate program because she didn’t want to write a dissertation, she said. But she got enough nudges from the Holy Spirit that eventually she said, “Okay, God, I guess you want me to do this.” Her dissertation, on a topic she knows well, is “The Changing Role of Lay Associates in the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.”
Ultimately, she said, “I felt like I needed to do this because I have more to say, and as a lay woman in the Church, I’m not going to be heard unless I have letters after my name. In our first class at Fordham, the professor addressed us as theologians and we all looked around as if to say, ‘Who is he talking about?’ But he told us we have to get comfortable thinking of ourselves theologians and added, ‘Your work is going to change the Church.’”
She is already comfortable with Precious Blood spirituality, which it will be her mission to promote through the PBSI. “I’ve experienced many forms of spirituality in my life,” she said. “When I was introduced to Precious Blood spirituality, and I met people committed to the Precious Blood way of life, I knew it was what I’d been looking for.”
She describes it as “a sense of hospitality, of inclusion, a knowledge that there is a circle of life and we are committed to ensuring that everyone has a place in that circle. It’s not for a select few; it’s for everyone. That has always been a passion for me.”
Otto said she plans to remain a covenanted Companion with the Missionaries, and she is grateful for her eight years of leadership with the Companions movement. “I intend to be active in the Companions movement,” she said. “I’m so grateful to every single Companion. They are a testament to living out Precious Blood spirituality, and I have learned so much from them—it’s almost incomprehensible to measure it. It has truly been a privilege to walk with them over the last eight years.”