This is a story of three friends and a journey. The friends are Kathy, Pam and Gerry. The journey begins in 2003 and continues—it spans four continents and 9 countries. The backdrop is Maryknoll. Who were these friends when we embarked? Who are we now? What happened in between? Where are we now?
Kathy, Pam, and Gerry knew each other for some years before the journey. We shared traditional Catholic, Christian roots. We shared professional identities as mental health clinicians. We were good people who cared for our families and provided service to our clients in American society.
Then we encountered Maryknoll. Kathy had a head start as the sister of Judy, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, who served in Chile. Kathy and Judy hosted us on a visit to Chile over the new year in 2004. There, we learned some important history—including the darkness in our Church’s history of complicity in the abuses of colonialism and in our country’s foreign policy which provided comfort to Augusto Pinochet with his abuses of human rights in the 1970s and 1980s. We saw light as well in the challenging and healing posture of Maryknoll.
Following this adventure in Chile, we became intrigued with Maryknoll. We began a series of Friends Across Borders visits—to Tanzania in 2007, to Cambodia in 2010, and to Bolivia in 2012. These were not the mission trips of “doing for others” that family and friends expected. We enjoyed a richer experience of walking with sisters and brothers of different cultures and sharing and learning.
We colored and played with the street boys of Mwanza, Tanzania. We experienced the exuberant music and an African blessing extended through the outstretched hands of the entire Sunday Mass congregation. We witnessed Liz Mach’s loving and healing touch for her fistula girls at Bugando Hospital.
In contrast to Tanzania, in Cambodia was the quiet serenity of Hindu and Buddhist history and culture. We learned of darkness again—the cruelties of Tuol Sleng prison and the killing fields during the Khmer Rouge terror. Again Maryknoll showed us light in the work of Father Charlie Dittmeier, who is bringing the previously unserved and rejected hearing-impaired population into connection with Cambodian society. Father Kevin Conroy is establishing psychological healing in a country in so much need of these services.
Bolivia provided an opportunity for contact with the indigenous—the Aymara and Quechua—and their gifts of welcome with blankets full of food, woven goods, and dance. The personal encounters provided deeper meaning: the old man on the shore of Lake Titicaca expressing his happiness that we visited his village to be with him; the prisoner in Cochabamba showing his appreciation for our attendance at Easter Mass with the community of prisoners.
Beginning in 2014, our journey continued with travels to Latin America with the assistance of two other organizations—GATE (Global Awareness Through Experience), and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. These stops included Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, and the United States border with Mexico. Again, we were witnesses to darkness—the decades- long genocide in Guatemala with US government complicity, the cruelty of the Cuban embargo, and the ongoing suffering of Mexican migrants who seek a share of God’s gifts across their border with the United States despite US “keep out” efforts. Again, there was light—the Saints—Stanley Rother in Guatemala and Oscar Romero of El Salvador—the migrant outreach of the interfaith border ministry in Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico, the universal education and health care in Cuba. Most of all, again, the brightest light was that provided by the people who welcomed us and appreciated our witness to them and their experience.
So here we are now—what are we to make of all of this? Our world is bigger and more complicated than was our experience before the journey. It is filled with pain and darkness, both past and present. It is also filled with light. We—Kathy, Pam, and Gerry—agree that the most memorable and meaningful light has been our encounters and connections with our fellow human beings—indeed our sisters and brothers—across different cultures and life experiences who share our humanity—who live and love and suffer as we do—and who can appreciate and share with us as I hope we do with them. In this journey, the spiritual connection among the three of us has deepened as well. We continue this journey through the establishing of a Maryknoll Affiliate chapter in Northeast Ohio.
Finally, as we found God present in these cultures and people, in their struggles, in their gifts to us, and in the loving and healing works of saints, we can conclude that God is bigger and better than we imagined, bigger and better than the darkness and pain of life. We are challenged to live believing this. We are challenged to contest walls and to continue living lives of encountering and connecting with all of our sisters and brothers.
*This article was first published in Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Voices of Compassion as “A Memorable Journey,“ p. 22, Volume 18, Issue 1.
Are you ready to plan your own immersion experience? Find out about
upcoming trips at: http://www.friendsacrossborders.org/
Our Affiliate Global Vision helps us to see immigrants as brothers and sisters in need of our care and understanding. We are all members of families and cannot imagine the horror that families separated at the border are experiencing, the newest chapter in their migration tragedy.
The fate of Marco Antonio Munoz (find on https://www.washingtonpost.com), who was found dead in his cell after being forcibly separated from his 3 year old son at the US border tears at our hearts.
The Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns provides some concrete actions we can take. See Maryknollogc.org. We urge you to join the many organizations demonstrating in the streets, to advocate to the government officials for immediate compassionate immigration reform, to provide physical and emotional support to refugees in our communities, and to lift up our united voices in prayer in our churches for our detained sisters and brothers.
This is an invitation to continue in the spirit of “Buen Vivir”. (We miss you. How are you doing?) We can each share what we are doing personally globally, spiritually, and in action in this beautiful Maryknoll community.
Our sharing: Maimuna is a lively young girl living at St. Agnes Chipole Children’s Home, Tanzania. We met her in 2012 when she was an infant brought to the orphanage because she wasn’t expected to live. Since then, when visiting the children, we have been charmed by Maimuna’s sense of fun and spirit. She is always at the center of activities playing with the other kids her age, peeling peanuts, and carrying wood, a smile always on her face. She is just beginning elementary school with life ahead of her.
I attended the most recent Maryknoll Affiliate Board meeting at Maryknoll, NY, as a new board member. It was a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with the other board members and see firsthand the level of dedication and hard work that is required to support the Affiliate members who carry out the Affiliate mission in their individual communities. Prior to arriving at the meeting, I certainly had many questions. What could I contribute to the board? Did I have enough experience as a Maryknoll Affiliate to be an asset and an effective board member? It is through this lens that I viewed my trip up to Maryknoll, NY, from just outside Baltimore, Maryland, on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
I arrived at Maryknoll on a cool and cloudy afternoon, and later that evening, after the other new board member—Rosa Beatriz Castañeda de Larios from Guatemala—and I received a warm welcome, the work of the board was underway. The meeting began with reflections from every board member regarding salient events and people who shaped their lives.
Rudy Cypser, an extraordinarily gifted visionary and longtime Maryknoll Affiliate, passed on to New Life in February. He was 94 years old and is survived by Betty, his wife for seventy years. Together they led extraordinary lives of service to others. They were passionate in promoting restorative justice policies in many prison systems throughout the world, and they directly impacted the lives of many in prisons.
Rudy understood complex problems on many levels and then developed effective approaches to improve human service systems. He and Betty conducted bible study groups in prisons for 30 years and also conducted Alternatives to Violence training for inmates for many years. Rudy, working together with others, spread the Alternatives to Violence program to sixty countries in the world. He was deeply motivated by compassion for others and by his Christian faith in the goodness of the human person.
Rudy and Betty traveled to 26 countries in Asia and Europe and studied prison systems in Canada on a quest to learn about restorative justice programs in those countries. Then they took on an advisory role with a Committee of the Catholic Bishops of New York State and were effective in assisting the bishops in bringing about improvements in New York prisons.
This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Campaign started by Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of Americans, alarmed at their government’s blindness to human need. As his Poor People marched, Dr. King paused to answer a plea for support from sanitation workers on strike in Memphis. There an assassin snatched his life on April 4th. Dr. King was assassinated before the March, but others took the lead. Now a new campaign continues his legacy.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.
Campaign Nonviolence, Sojourners Magazine, and Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation have all endorsed and joined with it.
*Abridged from Tom Hastings’ post at HastingsNonviolence.blogspot.com/2017/10/this-land-is-your-land.html. Tom H. Hastings teaches Conflict Resolution at Portland State University and directs Oregon Peace Institute’s program, PeaceVoice.
I traveled to North Dakota to join others in supporting a gentle man who tried to help everyone. For that, he was convicted of several crimes and will be heading to a North Dakota prison.
Michael Foster was born and raised in Texas, in an oil family. His crime in North Dakota was turning off the Keystone pipeline in a symbolic but real call to all of us to do what we can to stop global climate chaos.
That North Dakota valve turn was one of five similar actions last October—two women, three men, five valves on lines in Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all done in resonance with the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.
We see the consequences of paying no attention to our oil consumption: Harvey drowns Houston, fires rip through the West, every hurricane is more intense than it otherwise would be, droughts last longer, lakes are drying up, the seas are rising and surging, and, with fracking, even earthquakes are no longer a pure act of God. Most previously natural disasters are now unnatural disasters, made worse by our hand more than the hand of God or Mother Nature.
Members of the NE Ohio chapter live near Cleveland and meet monthly in members’ homes. A couple members have retired, but most of them are still helping people on a daily basis in their professions as therapists, a nurse/yoga instructor, and a lawyer. They were quick to advocate for immigrants and refugees, gun control and concern about shootings, and the poor and hungry.
Curt and Jan Alberti and Pam Cibik were in the recent massive March for Our Lives in Chicago. Pam insisted, “We’ve got to support the young people who are demanding safety and better gun control.”
Kathy Ress participated the Ecumenical Advocacy Day in Washington DC—co-sponsored by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns—that addressed both immigration and gun control. (Watch for her article, “Advocacy for Immigrants,” in the next issue.) She participates in a local group that succeeded after eight months and thousands of dollars in legal and other fees, in having one man released from ICE detention. Her parish is discerning being a sanctuary church.
Moving our Broader Community to Nonviolence and Peace
Sept. 21-23, 2018
All Maryknoll Affiliates are invited!
Friday, 6PM – Affiliate Social and casual dinner
Saturday, 9-4 – Active Nonviolence Workshop
Sunday, 12:30PM – Affiliate gathering and lunch
To RSVP, use the downloadable form.
What do the Orbis authors offer to us Affiliates, both as individuals and as an expression of Maryknoll, lately? Here are four books that are very different, yet each makes a significant contribution to the discussion of issues and concerns facing the Affiliate world of today.
The Courage To Be Happy, by Pope Francis, is written for youth by an old man who hasn’t forgotten the best parts of being young. It is a spirituality of ascent for people in the first half of life. Pope Francis both understands and appreciates what the Gospel is calling youth to. Perhaps some of us who have moved into the second half of life have forgotten to hold onto that enthusiastic hope that once inspired us. This book will rekindle the fire of missionary zeal in all of us.
Choosing Peace, edited by Marie Dennis. It’s said that Maryknollers are better at declaiming than proclaiming. Choosing Peace looks at our prophetic voice of declaiming violence and proclaiming just peace. This assemblage of letters, essays, and reflections, written in conjunction with the April 2016 Conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace, proclaims the Gospel through many examples of positive, proactive voices for peace while declaiming a “fallen world” of war and systemic violence.
The Catholic Ethicist in the Local Church, edited by Antonio Autiero and Laurenti Magesa, explores the relationship of the local church with the universal church as a basis for understanding the complex and dynamic ecclesiology which Pope Francis is asking us to not only appreciate but live. The existential periphery, (read: The Field Afar, Not So Far Afield, mission, where you and I live) becomes the center point of our lived church experience. The notion of local magisterium rests on this understanding. In our complex world, culture, economics, and social structure all influence our moral decisions. It is not possible or effective to attempt to make anything more than broad statements at the universal level. So we are asked to reflect upon where lies the moral magesterium responsibility. The book presents local issues and questions from around the globe to illustrate this as a more mature approach to what it means to be church.
A side note: one interesting essay in this book deals with “digital localities.” With the growth of virtual communities and new ways of being Maryknoll Affiliates, what are the ethical questions surrounding the growth of the digital realities, electronic “places” with a sense of group identity. What are the components required for virtual communities to be real communities?
Cuentame: Narrative in the Ecclesial Present, by Natalia Imperatori Lee, is a “Latinx Church Experience for Gringos.” It introduced me to a whole vocabulary that I didn’t know that I need to know. This introduction to Latina/o church experience is written in English for an English-speaking audience. Imperatori Lee, of Cuban American heritage from Miami, uses narrative as a basis for her understanding of church. Our family story becomes the Story for us. Together our stories become the Story for the Church. And the Story is the truth, the Good News. Put in theological language, Sensus Fidelium is the basis of a narrative ecclesiology which the church has consistently taught to be infallible in its belief. Her narrative is an alternative story to the mainstream Catholic American story that has great truth and value. It places the sacredness of everyday life (lo cotidiano) as the source of holiness in the church. This storybook shares a vision that seems simple yet is profoundly perceptive. Imperatori Lee is a true teacher who puts rare understanding within the grasp of the many.
Affiliates receive 40% off at Orbisbooks.com.
The Affiliates of Santa Maria in Wilmington, NC, are currently involved in many activities. We prepare lunches for needy people who have no homes and we work together to help families in need by dispensing basic necessties. At the same time, we continue taking Communion to the Hispanics we find in the New Hanover Hospital. Here in Wilmington, we pray the rosary before Mass and attend the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament once a month. Blessings from all of our Chapter.
Gail Kelley adds that she has been invited to attend all the Wilmington Chapter meetings and made it to a recent meeting. She explains that Gloria Tan was the Chapter Coordinator for many years and attended an Affiliate conference with her. Since Gail accompanied the Spanish-speaking Wilmington Chapter during their first orientation, Gloria asked her to give a review orientation, which will happen soon, because only three of their current active membership participated in the first orientation.
Maryknoll Affiliate groups and Parish entities have been asking what it means to do mission in the modern day. Much has been said in recent years at Affiliate gatherings about the Third Wave, agreeing that we are in a new age of mission. There was a time when mission was the special domain of those in religious life. Bishop James E. Walsh of the North American Mission Society, better known as Maryknoll, once said, “To be a missioner is to go where you are needed but not wanted and to stay until you are wanted but not needed.” Pope Francis has called upon the church to begin a new chapter in evangelization; writing in Evangeli Gaudium, he reiterates the basic reality that we are all called to mission by virtue of our baptism. Thus, we must continue to go where we are needed—at home or abroad; perhaps wanted, perhaps not.
There are as many ways of doing mission as there are baptized individuals.
How do we do this? I believe the answer is personal and that many people are doing mission and not realizing it! My prime example of this is those who volunteer in our local parishes, working in the food pantries, teaching CCD, etc. If that’s not mission, nothing is.
I have been involved with the Affiliate Movement since it began. The first Affiliate Board, begun by the Maryknoll Fathers with Jim Madden as Coordinator in September 1991, was very different from the present one, with only representatives of the Society. In April of 1992, I joined Sr. Ellen McDonald, MM, at the third Board meeting, in Chicago. Following this meeting, Sr. Ellen became Co-Coordinator of the Affiliate Movement, and I represented Full Circle. In June of 1994, I resigned and moved to Florida to take care of my mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At that time, there were thirteen Board members—seven were Affiliates and six were Maryknoll members, two from each entity. The present Board, with four Maryknoll entity members and eight Affiliates, has space for more Affiliates if you are interested in becoming a member.
When I first served on the Board, I belonged to the Westchester Affiliate Chapter. However, when I returned from Florida, Ronnie Gilligan invited me to join the Long Island Affiliate Chapter. There I have had the opportunity to help plan meetings, to create prayer services, to enter into community at our chapter meetings, and to engage in a short-term trip to Zimbabwe. This has enriched me, deepened my spirituality and enabled me to bear witness to the gift of Maryknoll in my life. This group supported me as I coordinated the first Memorial Mass for deceased Affiliates held at Maryknoll on March 4, 2017, an event that I hope will be repeated at Maryknoll or at a regional meeting.
In April of 2016, with the encouragement of the Long Island Affiliates, I was accepted as a member of the current Affiliate Board. The Affiliate Board is, I feel, the nucleus of the Affiliate Movement; a unique representation of Affiliate chapters who gather from all over the world together with members of the other Maryknoll entities. Membership in local chapters can be insular. Belonging to the Board is an opportunity to engage in the ongoing projects of Affiliates at both the national and the international level. It enables me to connect with other groups, renew my commitment to Maryknoll, and enter more fully into the movement that I helped to start more than twenty-five years ago.
The May/June 2018 Misioneros Magazine of Maryknoll features MAC 2017 and also tells of an Affiliate in Peru. See the articles online:
The Maryknoll Sisters’ Mission Institute offers two more months of great workshops. Coming in July/August:
* July 8-13 – Maureen O’Connell, PhD
From the Upper Room to Pentecost: A Feminist Ethic of Racial Mercy
* July 15-20 – John Dear, MA
Following Jesus on the Path of Nonviolence
* July 22-27 – Larry Lewis, MM, PhD
Our Incompleteness is our Dignity: Faith Confirmed in Film
At Los Altos:
* Aug. 14-17 – Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, PhD
Creating Communities of Hope on a Global Scale
* Aug. 19-24 – Maria Cimperman, RSCJ, PhD
Creating Communities of Hope on a Global Scale
For application forms, on-line registration, and program descriptions, go to:
Or you may obtain information by telephone: (914) 941-0783 ext.5671