In this issue we have tried to transmit what transpired in Guatemala at the 2017 Maryknoll Affiliate Conference (MAC)—Harmony, Unity, Love—all that Maryknoll is to us. We hope that the Pillars of the Affiliate Movement: Spirituality, Community, Global Vision, and Action, will be reinvigorated in you as you travel through this issue with the Affiliates who visited various mission sites of the Sisters, Fathers and Brothers, Lay Missioners, and Affiliates in Guatemala and El Salvador after the Conference. Mission has planted many seeds. So much is coming to fruition. So much remains to be done. We hope to share in a later issue our visits to the sites of the Salvadoran martyrs, recognizing what mission can demand.
Articles in this issue:
Buen Vivir: Living in Harmony – "Singing, dancing, walking, eating together blossomed into a unity of purpose and engendered a new Maryknoll Affiliate essence."—Kitty Schiltz
Serving the “Other” in Coatepeque – As with all mission trips, I discovered the connections that exist between all of us, and that even though we are many, we are one!"—Patty Hinton
Salvadoran Affiliates and CONTRASIDA – "Sister Mary initially wanted to elevate the dignity of the AIDS patients, to prepare them to die, but now the center prepares the patients to live fully."—Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss
A Pilgrimage Immersion Experience in Guatemala – "The Maryknollers are reaching far beyond the limits of their numbers as they invite a newness of consciousness that reflects an ever-evolving world."—John Moritz
My MAC 2017 Experience – "Many times we were challenged to think how we felt about our mission as Maryknoll Affiliates and how we perceived the future."—Susan Porrovecchio
Affiliates Walking into the Future – “The doors of Caminando Por la Paz are open for everyone.”—Lennie Sazo
Salvadoran Affiliate Chapter Is Building – "Fr. Jack invited her to an Affiliate meeting three or four years ago. Now Cecibel is the contact person for the Affiliate group."
Circles-—“That’s What It’s All About” – "Yes, circles! 'That’s what it’s all about!' Let’s do the Hokey Pokey."—Roger Schiltz
Casa Materna Mary Ann Jackman: Ray of Hope and Legacy of Friendship – "Through the years, my letters sought to give you a sense of being right here with us in our sacred work of accompaniment..."—Kitty Madden
From the Board:
News from the Board: Telling Our Maryknoll Stories (Sr. Teruko Ito, MM)
And don't miss our Features:
We Are Corn and Beans – poem by Daniel Cano
To view this issue in its print form, download the January/February 2018 Not So Far Afield PDF.
Kitty sent her reflection as she and Roger were preparing to leave for Africa to attend the graduation of one of the children they have been helping with school since they were Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Tanzania.
Harmony seems like a stretch in these days of super egos and partisanship, but I saw it develop and flourish over the four days of the MAC 2017 in Guatemala. The deepest feeling I have about the conference is oneness. It wasn’t an invasion of North Americans telling Central Americans; it was complete sharing. The celebration of Mayan spirituality brought us together as a sharing in the cosmos. We arrived as individuals and left as one.
All the ceremonies/liturgies, group work and celebrations brought us together. Language was not a problem—there were words spoken in Spanish translated into English and English into Spanish but no need to translate the smiles and good will of all. Singing, dancing, walking, eating together blossomed into a unity of purpose and engendered a new Maryknoll Affiliate essence. At 25 years, we are still beginning.
Here we are.
I am the corn
and you are the bean plant.
Your roots intertwine with mine
we flourish together
in this field
that is life.
We are thankful for 2017’s many good memories: chapters hosting Maryknoll missioners, marching for the homeless in Los Angeles, working tirelessly for immigrant rights, and more.
Affiliates also gathered in Guatemala for MAC2017, our triennial international conference. The Capítulo de Afiliados Maryknoll of Guatemala superbly organized our first one held outside the US. The Affiliate Board appreciates their creativity and hard work in bringing a conference to us that will become a highlight of Affiliate history.
The various post-conference mission trips also deserve special mention: three in Guatemala and one in El Salvador, in which I participated. Fr. John Spain, MM, who lived through the years of the Salvadoran Civil War, brought history alive for us. We visited diverse and inspiring mission projects, particularly those of the Lay Missioners, who are led by Peter Altman, MKLM Regional Coordinator for El Salvador.
Looking forward to 2018, we are continuing to ask, “Where do we want to be in five years?” At our combined Board/Regional Coordinator meeting in Guatemala City, we appointed an ad hoc committee—Rich Lessard, Albany; John and Mary Moritz, Northeast Florida; Bob Short, Executive Coordinator; and hopefully one international representative—to develop four topics identified at the Guatemala City meeting: collaboration, identity, international cross-cultural aspects, and models.
At the Fall 2018 Board/RC meeting, we will use these topics to develop initiatives and suggest actions for Affiliates. In the meantime, many chapters have used the September/October NSFA “Easy Meeting” to brainstorm the future direction(s) of the Affiliates. If it hasn’t done so yet, I encourage your chapter to try this process.
Comings and Goings:
Your generosity in responding to our annual appeal keeps our basic operational budget stable but also allows us to pursue special initiatives, such as assisting Board members who could not otherwise afford to travel to Board meetings. Finance Chair Manny Hotchkiss sent out this year’s appeal letter in November. If it’s lost in your holiday mail, perhaps it is not too late to dig it out.
Blessings on your new Affiliate year!
I had the good fortune to travel with three other Affiliates—Susan Porrovecchio, Jim Comes, and Gerry Mullaney—on our post-MAC tour to the Coatepeque region of Guatemala.
First, we spent time with Sister-Doctor Dee Smith, MM, and saw her tremendous accomplishments—finding and treating those diagnosed with HIV in and around Coatepeque. Most of those infected live in extreme poverty and also must deal with the stigma of this disease and rejection by their families. With a caring and dedicated staff, Sr. Dee has developed an outreach program to educate not only those in schools, but also families dealing with an infected family member.
Sr. Dee began the Santa Maria center in 2004, where attention is given to improving not only physical but also emotional care. They provide counseling, spiritual support, nutrition education, and physiotherapy as those inected continue their anti-retroviral treatment. Part of their holistic approach is to encourage the families to establish gardens with vegetables and healing herbs, as nutrition is key to strengthening immune systems. The center needs two new exercise bikes to help counter the various degrees of paralysis the disease can cause.
CONTRASIDA* was the mission of Maria Recinos and Irma Ventura de Ábrego years before they began attending the Maryknoll Affiliate gatherings. Dr. Mary Annel, MM, founded the CONTRASIDA Center in the 1990s in one of the poorer districts of San Salvador, El Salvador. Sr. Gloria Ardenio Agnes, MM, is now the only Maryknoll sister at the CONTRASIDA Center, but several other of the Salvadoran Maryknoll Affiliates also volunteer there. Affiliates and CONTRASIDA volunteers Norma Araujo de Orellana and Luis are in the photo. Affiliate Irma, not pictured, said she had worked with Sr. Mary (who only recently returned to the US due to illness) at CONTRASIDA for 13 years.
Sister. Mary initially wanted to elevate the dignity of the AIDS patients, to prepare them to die, but now the center prepares the patients to live fully. Their 170 patients range in age from 2 to 74 years. After receiving retrovirals, one patient has now survived 22 years.
Following MAC 2017, 11 of us journeyed via the Pan American Highway into the western mountains of Guatemala. Our trip took us first to the beautiful volcanic area of Lake Atitlan and the towns around the lake, where one of our guides, Sr. Bernice Kita, MM, spent many years in pastoral ministry. We traveled by water taxi from San Antonio Palopó across the lake to the town of Santiago Atitlan, where we saw the location of Fr. Stanley Rother’s martyrdom, and, perhaps more poignantly, the massacre of many indigenous peoples with whom he lived in solidarity. This was a prayerful and meditative time for all of us. Because of her close association with Fr. Stan, Sr. Bernice made this experience come alive for us.
Montana had two feet of snow on the ground when I left home for this much anticipated adventure. Flying into Guatemala early in the morning, as the sun was rising over the mountains, was an awesome sight I will never forget. I was not prepared for the city hustle and bustle of Guatemala City. But Verbo Encarnado Retreat House was out of the city, in a very beautiful tropical setting, a paradise for the senses, and warm.
In all the church and health conferences I have attended, never have I had a better conference experience anywhere! Rosa Beatriz and the whole organizing committee were amazing. Our every need was attended to. Many times we were challenged to think how we felt about our mission as Maryknoll Affiliates and how we perceived the future. We had many opportunities to meet with and share ideas with the attendees. It was encouraging to see how the Guatemala Affiliates included many young people and their families. The unique character of Maryknoll—embracing and being open to different cultures and walking with the people—was wonderfully present throughout the gathering. The poet and Mayan spiritual guide, Daniel Caño’s presentation was worth the price of admission!
I took the post conference Mission Trip I for its health care focus. We were av small group of four Affiliates, our driver, and our guide, two very kind and thoughtful men who showed us the hill country. They introduced us to the indigenous people who shared their stories and welcomed us so graciously into their homes. It was very evident that the Maryknoll Sisters we met— Dee, Jane, and Mary Lou—had empowered the local people, who in turn were giving voice and ministering to the needs and concerns of others, walking with them and advocating for them.
Many people who attended MAC 2017 visited Caminando Por la Paz in Zone 18 of Guatemala City. Caminando is an example of one possible future for Affiliates in mission. The Caminando was formed by Fr. Tom Goekler, MM, along with several young men who came with him from Honduras. After his untimely death a few years ago, Ron Covey and the Houston Affiliates took a bigger role in providing support and a connection with Maryknoll in the US.
The young men and women of Caminando continue to provide local children tutoring and breakfast and lunch, a safe place to gather, wholesome community activities, and coverage of some school fees. They participate in the Guatemala Affiliate Chapter and helped plan the Conference. The Maryknoll Affiliates/Catholic Workers at Caminando Por La Paz send their greetings:
Cecibel Flores and Irma Ventura de Ábrego joined the post-MAC Conference Mission Visit No. 4 in El Salvador. The fledgling Salvadoran Affiliate group had sent Cecibel and Maria Recinos as representatives to MAC 2017. Fr. Jack Northrup, MM, who tries to attend Affiliate meetings, joined the tour at AcoMujerza, the mission site of Melissa Altman, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner. Fr. Jack, with whom Cecibel works visiting the sick in hospitals, invited her to an Affiliate meeting three or four years ago. Now Cecibel is the contact person for the Affiliate group. Irma said about six or seven people typically attend their monthly Affiliate gatherings. A Maryknoll sister or priest sometimes provides the program for the Affiliate meeting.
At the MAC 2017 in Guatemala, we walked slowly, slowly, counter-clockwise around the fire, praying and being with all of nature in the cosmos. Daniel Caño, a Mayan philosopher, poet, and spiritual leader, led the prayer thanking all of nature in the cosmos. We prayed in the circle and discussed the magic in our spiritual being in a circle. Circles are everywhere, in space, math, bubbles. Even honeybees dance in a circle to communicate.
In Honeybee Democracy, Tom Seeley researched the question, “How do honeybees select a new home?” Honeybees naturally swarm. Swarming is the way honeybees reproduce. The queen and two-thirds of the bees in the hive leave the hive and congregate on a branch, the eave of a house, or a fence post, while the rest of the bees remain in the original hive. These bees will make their own new queen from a fertilized egg left by the departed old queen.
Are you trying to make sense of the immigration debate or do you know someone who is? If so, Maryknoll’s Spring Immersion trip (April 16-22, 2018) to the Texas Rio Grande Valley may be for you.
Father Gerry Kelly, MM, and Matt Rousso will be directing an innovative and exciting mission immersion program in the Rio Grande Valley in April, 2018. To learn more, view the flyer. A few spots are still available; interested persons should apply soon. Just fill out the registration form on the flyer and mail it to the New Orleans Maryknoll Mission Office.
The nights here in Matagalpa grow longer as we await the coming of the Light. I write from the Casa Materna, a project I have helped to nurture and one that has so lovingly nurtured me…for over 27 years. It is an appropriate moment to thank all of the Maryknoll Affiliates who have been a bright light for us both spiritually and financially.
I am remembering the warm invitation I received from Mary Ann Jackman in 1985 to “come and work with me and my people in Nicaragua.” Though she did not live to see the Casa that would bear her name and welcome so many mothers, we feel her presence here with us daily.
Buen Vivir—“living in harmony and equilibrium with the cycles of Mother Earth, the cosmos, and life in all its forms,” caused me to reflect on Lent in some different ways. This Lent, we might do a few things to connect with all creation:
• Take a walk at least once a week and appreciate the beauty of nature—listen and let it speak to your heart.
• Connect with an Affiliate you don’t know well—if possible, someone outside your own country.