It’s been a reflective summer so far for Newton Lih, who is now in special formation with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
For much of June and July, Newton has been living with the Missionaries at the Precious Blood Center in Liberty, Mo. He attends morning Mass then spends time with Fr. Keith Branson, C.PP.S. They discuss the history of the Congregation, and more. Together they are reading a book by Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., “Passionate Pilgrims.”
“That gives us the opportunity to reflect on Precious Blood spirituality in very open conversations,” Newton said. “For Fr. Keith and I, conversation flows like a river—it meanders, takes twists and turns, comes from a lot of different perspectives, brings in knowledge from different backgrounds. It’s a full conversation at a nice pace.”
The purpose of special formation is to help a candidate dive deeper into Precious Blood spirituality, Community life and its history. “It’s been really wonderful,” said Newton, who first moved into the Missionaries’ San Felice House of Formation in Chicago in the fall of 2021. Newton, who grew up in California, first became acquainted with the Community through Fr. Matt Link, C.PP.S., at Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco.
Newton made his first commitment to the Community at the US Province’s assembly in June. In Liberty, he continues to be immersed in community life, sharing evening meals with C.PP.S. Frs. Ron Will, Mike Volkmer and Jim Betzen at the center.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting. I go back to my room with all sorts of experiences to process,” he said.
For instance, recently he made a weekend visit to St. Francis Xavier Church in St. Joe, Mo., where C.PP.S. Frs. Al Ebach and Lac Pham are in ministry. They had invited some diocesan priests over for dinner, and Newton joined them.
“I thought about how in Gaspar’s day, he forged partnerships with the diocesan clergy. To think about how that happened in Gaspar’s day, then see how our Missionaries are doing the same thing, was interesting to see,” he said.
Soon, Newton will move on to the next location for his special formation year, St. James the Less Parish in Columbus, Ohio. There he will live with C.PP.S. Frs. Steve Dos Santos and Greg Evers and Brother Tom Bohman, who will supervise his experience there.
Newton said he has already discussed a goal with Brother Tom: “I haven’t had a lot of experience with being an altar server—I would like to spend some time serving at the altar, developing a ministerial presence. I feel clumsy as I move about in the sanctuary, so honing that ministerial presence will be good practice. The best altar servers are available and active, but in the background. They don’t take away from the liturgy. That’s a good challenge, to be able to blend in.”
That’s one challenge he has set for himself. There is another. “The greatest challenge is to continue to work on my Spanish. There is a wonderful Spanish-speaking community at St. James the Less, so this is a good opportunity to grow in my Spanish skills,” he said.
But he recognizes that special formation is not all about work. “One of the things to develop in terms of ministry is to know when to rest, when to lean into self-care,” he said. “There are a lot of needs in the parish, lot of excitement to have more hands on deck. This year isn’t to be fully invested in ministry, but to develop a good pace of work.
“So I’ll be doing some creative writing, praying and meditating on what I’ve been experiencing. That’s the heart of my self-care: prayer and reflecting time.”