In mid-April, a female robin began constructing a nest on the flower trellis just outside our back door. Completed in a few days, the nest looked perfect. To the best of my knowledge, the robin had no access to YouTube or Building a Bird Nest for Dummies to help her with the construction. I spent the next four weeks observing Robi (naming creativity not being my strong suit) several times each day. Though Robi never gave any indication she wanted to become a Maryknoll Affiliate, what I observed over those weeks was an inspiration to me.
Day and night, she spent ninety percent of her time maintaining the nest, often through long periods of cold and rain. Then the eggs came and her motherly resolve grew stronger. Robi was acutely vigilant, as birds need to be, but in time she came to trust and allowed me to get very close to the nest. On each visit I carried on a conversation, essentially the same one every time. Many would say that’s all we humans ever do anyway. I also assured her that I’d do my best to protect her from the neighborhood cat that frequently visited our yard. Robi appeared attentive and receptive but never uttered a peep in return. Even so, I convinced myself that we had become friends.
Then, on the morning of the eleventh day of incubation, a day or two before the eggs were ready to hatch, I opened the back door to ask Robi how her night had been, but she was gone. In her place, inches from the nest, was a squirrel rotating a blue egg, the last one of the clutch, in its front claws – just as squirrels do with an acorn before biting into it.
I couldn’t begin to process all this. How must Robi feel!? Was she distraught, defeated, filled with revenge? Do birds feel, think, have a hidden belief-system or life philosophy to help them deal with such terrible losses? Did she stamp her tiny claws and ask, ‘Why me?!’ Did she just accept it as one of nature’s inevitable cruelties? I wondered too if on some instinctual level birds have a built-in moral code about murder and ornithological injustices; or, perhaps a batch of existential questions around sin, redemption, and an afterlife. Admittedly, these are almost assuredly the entirely wrong questions emerging from a small, inchoate human mind. I had to check myself. Were all these queries and projections simply yet another example of anthropomorphic excess that we humans apply to so much else in the cosmos, including God?
Yet, I couldn’t let go of the possibility that there must be a lesson in this for me. Robi, like everything in nature except us humans, never left the confines (and freedom) of life’s natural rhythms. She knew in a different, non-cerebral way without needing to ask either existential questions or the tedious ones that often consume our lives. She knew in a different way—perhaps much like the monk who, after forty years of searching for ‘the answers,’ came around the bend on a mountain trail one early spring morning, saw a peach tree in full bloom, and proclaimed to himself, “Now I understand!”
Last week a robin built a new nest; this time on the door ledge of the porch outside the entrance door of our house. Squirrels could never get to this one. I have to believe it’s Robi. We’ve resumed our conversation.
The Affiliate Hospitality Initiative core group—Patty Hinton, Roxanne Hughes-Wheatland, Manny Hotchkiss, and Bob Short—are compiling a list of Affiliate households that are available to offer hospitality to Maryknollers traveling for work or pleasure. Once the list is completed, we will post the number of potential hosts by geographic area (e.g., Boston, Saint Louis, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, etc.) but no names or addresses. Maryknollers, including Affiliates, requesting hospitality in a given area would contact Bob Short, who will assess the request. If an Affiliate host is available, Bob will have the host contact the interested Maryknoller.
Hospitality Data Gathering – If you are interested in participating, please respond to HospitalityForm. Don’t forget to fill out the anti-robot code box. When completed, hit SUBMIT.
One of the most important things we can do as Affiliates is to stay connected—to our local communities, to Maryknoll Sisters, Fathers, Brothers, Lay Missioners and to other Affiliate chapters. It is through these connections that we experience the charism of Maryknoll. Proximity to Maryknoll in Ossining, New York, has allowed many of the Albany chapter members to form ongoing relationships with Maryknollers who reside there, but proximity is only one aspect of forming relationships.
At our May chapter meeting, the Albany Chapter Skyped with the Guatemala Chapter. This had been previously arranged via a series of emails to coordinate a common meeting time. Both groups were looking forward to this meeting to reconnect with Affiliates we had met at MAC 2017 or at other times. Laughter was shared together as we adjusted the cameras to focus on the Affiliates, not on the ceiling! We prayed together and wished the Guatemala Chapter a Happy 10th Anniversary by providing them with a cake and candles—which we enjoyed for them. We briefly shared what our chapters do throughout the year, acknowledging differences and commonalities. It was a joyful meeting and we plan on continuing this practice in the future.
Without consciously planning to, most of the articles in this issue mention ways to strengthen chapters and the Affiliate Movement. You could solidify your chapter by having a Covenant renewal, as was done by Misioneras Hispanas Santa Maria in North Carolina. To help recruit new members, Seattle will distribute information about their chapter when they help at Maryknoll events. Sharing your meeting minutes with your regional coordinator, the Executive coordinator, and the NSFA will keep you and them in the loop. Individually you can strengthen your connection with other Affiliates by responding to the Question of the Month. Hosting a regional conference would allow you to meet and be inspired by Affiliates outside your chapter. Bringing a Quo Vadis presentation to your area would also introduce you to new people and deepen your dedication to mission.
Chapters and Affiliates can be animated by working together on a project such as serving at the Border, as described by Roger Schiltz. The Las Vegas Chapter picks local nonprofits to support financially or with a special event. Las Vegas also suggests using Skype to connect with another chapter. Inviting visitors, as Northeastern Florida does, can enliven your chapter meetings.
Articles in this issue:
Promoting Maryknoll and Your Chapter – We encourage your chapter to customize and utilize a handout about your chapter...
Why Quo Vadis? – "Why might Quo Vadis be important for the Maryknoll Affiliate Movement?'—Bill Murphy
Maryknoll Leads Them to Action – "We try to take the positive from each group we meet.”—Punch Fermin
One Woman’s Missions – "On December 3rd, I took my Vow of Nonviolence* at Carmel of Reno for the 31st straight year."—Ellie Hays
Greetings from Peru – "A group of us collaborates at Casa Bartimeo, which is directed by Maryknoll Father Kyungsu Son, MM."—Hugo Castro Campos
Covenant Continues – "...these women were walking in the footsteps of the 'Tar Heel Apostle'—Father Thomas Price."—Gail Kelley
A Special Visitor from Tanzania – "Do you know how many houses that could buy where I live?”—Sister Mariana Clemence
Water, Water, Everywhere? – "I have been thinking a lot about how blessed I am to have such easy access to clean water..."—Matt Rousso
Border Volunteers from Kirkland, WA – "What a beautiful experience we had working together cleaning the filthy toilets and washing towels and clothes."—Roger Schiltz
Learn more about your Maryknoll Affiliate Board and Executive Coordinator in these articles:
And be sure to enjoy the Features in this issue:
If you are more comfortable reading the Not So Far Afield in its print form, you may download a pdf of the May/June issue.
Affiliate chapters often lend a hand when visiting Maryknoll missioners give a talk or say Mass in their area. They often hand out Maryknoll magazines and donation envelopes. Affiliates could use this as an opportunity to tell people about the Affiliates and to invite them to visit their chapter.
Knowing that they will be assisting visiting Maryknollers this summer, the Seattle Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter has drafted a handout which could be attached to the Affiliate brochure, or perhaps tucked into the Maryknoll magazines they will distribute. First they discussed and drafted a meaningful description of their chapter and designed it to match the dimensions of the Maryknoll Affiliates’ tri-fold brochure (about 3 ½” by 8 ½”). Before finalizing it, they asked the entire chapter to review the draft. Here is the April 18 draft of Seattle’s description:
Quo Vadis? Where Are You Going? ... The Next Step is a Board-supported program which a team of Maryknoll Affiliates designed to complement already existing immersion programs. It is a time for people returning from immersion experiences to consider how to integrate significant cross-cultural insights into their life choices.
Why might Quo Vadis be important for the Maryknoll Affiliate Movement? Quo Vadis:
The Las Vegas Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter formed 15 years ago after Los Angeles Affiliates Lee and Punch Fermin moved to Las Vegas. The group has now grown to ten people, including four nurses and a recently retired doctor. We were fortunate to gather over a casual dinner with Lee and Punch Fermin, Nicet Santos, and Evelyn Pua. Nicet explained, “Many of us knew about Maryknoll and the Sisters and Fathers from when we were growing up in the Philippines.”
This is a chapter of busy, mostly retired people. They gather to share their lives and support each other. Many of their other activities are spiritually oriented. Their dedication belies the Las Vegas nickname of Sin City.
You can make your RCs* very happy just by adding their email address to your Chapter distribution list. Then they will automatically receive the notices and notes of your Chapter gatherings. RCs want to know how they can help you and connect your chapter to others with similar interests. If you have a change in membership or contact person, let them know.
* RC = Maryknoll Affiliate Regional Coordinator. Find your Regional Coordinator’s name and email
With my highlighter in hand, I read the NSFA, marking things that especially interest me. I loved seeing the suggestion to use the Maryknoll Affiliate pillars of Spirituality, Community, Global Vision, and Action at meetings. Sr. Norie’s January article, “Norie—A Presence with Past Connections,” reminded me of an article I wrote for the February 1995 Not So Far Afield. At that time, I had given away 5,700 Presence cards by Sister Joan Metzner, MM. I was a casino floor supervisor (pit boss) at Harrah’s Casino and I gave them to any and all I thought to be receptive. I retired in 2002, but it is still my mission. I just had 2,000 more Presence cards laminated, bringing my total to around 17,000.
Hello, we twenty Affiliates of Capítulo Niño Jesús are former catechists of the Parish of the Child Jesus, where Maryknoll Fathers worked in the past. We meet the first Sunday of each month.
We are collaborating and helping in a couple of areas. A group of us collaborates at Casa Bartimeo, which is directed by the Maryknoll father, Kyungsu Son, MM. There they train the visually impaired in massage therapy through both theory classes and practice.* In other projects, we work with elders and with young people at the secondary level of Colegio Estatal.
* See the article, “Casa Bartimeo, A light of hope for the blind in Peru,” in the March 2017 issue of
Maryknoll Magazine. The above photo was reprinted from this article.
On February 18, 2019, 13 of the 15 members of the Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter Misioneras Hispanas Santa Maria, founded in 2011, gathered together. They renewed their Covenant to be missionaries in the spirit of the Maryknoll Mission Movement: to bring Christ’s words and love to where it is not known, especially to the poor and unempowered, while living a life of simplicity, spirituality, global vision, community and action. They are unique among the 36 Affiliate Chapters in the United States in that their membership is comprised of all Latina women, working within a Parish structure. Their mission is the evangelization of Hispanic people living in the fourteen trailer parks around the Wilmington Area.
Melita Angel and Gloria Tan, the present and past coordinators, worked with Norma Rivera, the Basilica of St. Mary’s coordinator of Spanish Ministries, to define this unaddressed need. Father Chesco Garcia, the Parochial Vicar of the Basilica of St. Mary’s, blessed the women before their Covenant was received and accepted by Gail Kelley, representing the Maryknoll Affiliates’ local Regional Coordinator and the Executive Coordinator.
Gail pointed out that these women were walking in the footsteps of the “Tar Heel Apostle”—Father Thomas Price. Father Price, the first North Carolinian ordained to the priesthood, was born in Wilmington. Eventually becoming the Co-Founder of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, he is being proposed for canonization and is represented by the Raleigh Diocese.
The Northeast Florida Affiliate Chapter was blessed to have Sister Mariana Clemence from Tanzania speak at the April meeting. She is a Franciscan Sister of St. Bernadette, and a parish in St. Augustine, Florida sponsored her trip to the US. Sister Mariana said the order has 220 active Sisters and almost 50 more women are preparing to join them.
Sister spoke of the many ways the Sisters reach out to the poor and needy in Tanzania, in the spirit of both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Bernadette. These include educational and medical work, as well as caring for orphans, lepers, and refugees. The Sisters don’t wait for poor people to come to them for help but travel to the smaller villages to “find them in their environment.” She noted that the many African dialects make communication difficult and impressed us with her command of English, her third language.
Sister Mariana helps unemployed youths and single mothers become self-employed and works on projects to provide reliable and clean water, the lack of which leads to water-borne diseases.
As Affiliate Brian Schoonover drove Sister Mariana to our meeting, she asked him the cost of the minivan that they were riding in. When he told her that it was a $30,000 car when new, she gasped and said, “Do you know how many houses that could buy where I live?”
We were all reminded of how much we have and how our lives are very different from those of the people whom Sister Mariana serves. But despite the poverty that Sister confronts daily, her smile never left her face. As we listened to her, we shared a wonderful bag of cashews that she had brought from Tanzania. We also enjoyed seeing her wear a Flagler College sweatshirt over her habit, a gift to her from Brian, her “chauffeur.” Affiliate Shelby Miller concluded that “Sister is a warm, generous, and joyful woman, firm in her faith and vocation.” Our understanding of life in Tanzania was enhanced by Sister’s open sharing with us.
Wilton, a young unschooled boy, lives across the road from our community garden in the back corner of barrio Santa Ana in the town of Esquipulas, Guatemala. Wilton stays with his mother and father in a very simple two room house—it has only a single light bulb hanging in the front room and one water faucet, which seldom gives water, attached to a make-shift sink. Because of drought during most of the year, the municipality does not receive enough water from its source for all the inhabitants of Esquipulas, especially those who live on the outskirts. Wilton also has a 19-year-old sister, Wendy, who lives in an adjacent structure with her 2-year-old baby.
During a recent mission immersion program in Santa Ana, I was working in the garden with eight of our seminarians from St. Joseph Seminary in Covington, LA, along with Don Chencho, our gardener, and his young helper, Pablo. Several years ago we had to hand-dig a well in our garden because we could only get a little water from the nearby stream where women come daily to wash clothes. In the midst of the morning work, Wilton walked up to me shyly and handed me a folded piece of paper, saying it was de mi papa. I opened the paper and read the scribbled Spanish note, having to decipher some of the words which were badly misspelled. The letter was a heartfelt plea for help!
“Dear brother Mateo and the other brothers. I make a cordial greeting in the name of Señor Jesús and our mother, always virgin María. The objective of the present (note) is to beg a favor that if you can give us water because my wife and children are dying of thirst because there is no water. Jesus says in his word that the one who gives a glass of water to these little ones makes it with me. Signed: Catalino Vasquez, husband of Josefina Hernandez.”
In March, Kitty and I welcomed asylum seekers from Latin America on the Texas-Mexico border at McAllen, Texas.
Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change.
– Pope Francis, Lent 2017
Bienvenido! Welcome! We welcomed the families, moms, dads, and kids with smiles, handshakes, and kindness. Moms and dads were immediately relieved to be in a safe, kind, and loving place—the Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. We felt like real Americans with our history of welcoming strangers into our country and real Christians with love in our hearts.
Sr. Ann, a Sister of Mercy from Philadelphia, oriented us to the well-used former nursing home. We followed her wondering what task we could do as volunteers. The first room was packed full of donated clothing from all over the US that needed to be sorted into women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing. Someone had to do this separation of clothing. Next were the rooms for clean clothes, a separate room for infants’ clothes, shoe room, coat room, and men’s clothing rooms. The women’s room was a special place for the women volunteers and women to meet. They fitted and refitted clothing considering style and preference. What a beautiful and loving experience for all. I didn't think I would be of much help here.