Not So Far Afield is a bimonthly publication of the Maryknoll Affiliates. The name is a play on the title of the original Maryknoll Magazine: The Field Afar.
You may subscribe to Not So Far Afield by email or to be notified when it is posted on our website.
You may also download PDF versions of Not So Far Afield here.
Chapters, consider creating your own welcome statement for use
when inviting others to join you in actualizing your vision.*
We would like to let you know that you belong...
People of African, Asian, European, or First Nations descent, and people of mixed and multiple descents. We say, “You belong.”
People along the continuum of gender identity and expression: gay, bisexual, heterosexual, transgender, cisgender, or queer folks, and everyone for whom those labels don’t apply. We say, “You belong.”
Bodies with abilities and challenges, living with chronic medical conditions, visible or invisible, mental or physical. We say, “You belong.”
People who are activists and those who aren’t. Mystics, believers, seekers of all kinds. People of all ages. We say, “You belong.”
Your emotions: joy, fear, grief, contentment, disappointment, surprise, and all else that flows through you. We say, “You belong.”
Your families, genetic and otherwise. Those dear to us who have died. Our ancestors and the future ones. The ancestors who lived where these buildings are now . . . we honor you through this work that we are undertaking. We say,
People who feel broken, lost, struggling; who suffer from self-doubt and self-judgment. We say, “You belong.”
All beings that inhabit this earth, human or otherwise: the two-legged, the four-legged, winged and finned, those that walk, fly, and crawl, above the ground and below, in air and water. We say, “You belong.”
*This statement was adapted from “Diversity Welcome,” which is made available for download by Training for Change, along with a long list of other tools for workshops.
I joined the Affiliate Board in November of 2018. My chapter, Northeast Florida, was nurtured by Fr. Bob Carleton, MM; beginning our initial formation in 2009, we became a chapter in 2011. As the test case for the Affiliate Formation Program, we underwent an arduous nearly two years of reading, watching, discussing, and discerning. I was initially attracted to the Affiliates despite never having met a Maryknoller prior to our formation, though I generally knew of Maryknoll by their reputation for early mission efforts.
I have been involved in ministries for most of my adult life. I had attended a Cursillo retreat in 1975 and was active for about 25 years. After that, my wife, Mary and I have worked in marriage preparation ministry to this day. Early in my involvement, I was concerned that our ministry did not mirror that of most Affiliates, but I was greatly supported by Fr. Jim Madden, who shared my concern for marriage and assured me that what we were doing was completely consistent with being an Affiliate.
Upon becoming an Affiliate, I agreed to co-coordinate the Southeast region with Mary. We attended the 2011 MAC, which solidified my commitment to the Affiliates. As RCs, we have made varied and often not so successful attempts to spread the Affiliate message in our region. Also, as a survivor of the Affiliate Formation Program, I was asked to help revise the program to make it more appropriate for initial chapter use and for individual formation. Truthfully, despite some limitations, I thought the program was great!
I am willing to contribute what gifts I have to the Affiliate movement. I believe that we Affiliates have an opportunity to be a vital element of mission in the future. How this evolves is in process. I have never thought about myself as a board member type of person. When people start talking about amending the minutes of the last board meeting, my eyes glaze over, I see in black and white, and all the words become blah, blah, blah. Nevertheless, I look forward to participating in the servant leadership of the Maryknoll Affiliate Board.
Last Fall, as the new Affiliate Board Chair, I emphasized two characteristics of a successful movement—connection and communication. These are equally related to the Affiliate Board’s key responsibilities, namely:
It would be difficult to achieve these without connection and communication. Considering the nature and loose structure of the Affiliates, to be successful will require that both Affiliate leaders and members commit to dialogue. I can’t emphasize this enough!
As my personal commitment to this dialogue, I want to keep reaching out and connecting with Affiliates. All Affiliates and/or Chapters are invited to participate. If you are reading this, you are invited. Participation can be one-on-one conversations or connecting during a Chapter meeting. We can connect by phone or on the internet, via Zoom video conferencing or Skype. If okay, I’d like to expand this connection by inviting another Board member and/or Regional Coordinator to the call, as well.
To participate in this dialogue, please email me at
These conversations are just one way to enjoy mutual dialogue and engagement between leadership and the wider Affiliate movement. I hope you can join with me in this effort. Let’s have morning coffee or a nightcap together!
Rich Lessard, Affiliate Board Chair
The Maryknoll Affiliate Mission Statement includes the phrase,
“Maryknoll Affiliates challenge one another to witness to mission as a way of life by going beyond borders (italics added for emphasis)...,”
but this issue gives examples of Maryknollers and Affiliates not going beyond borders, but rather going to the southern US border and serving the great needs there.
Several articles show it is not even necessary to physically go to the border to make a difference. David Schaffner points out that shoelaces are such a simple item but are providing a tangible way to connect with those in need and also to educate the local community about the situation at the border! Affiliates in this issue also say their mission is in the community: teaching English to immigrants, offering hospitality to traveling Maryknollers, or joining a Campaign Nonviolence action. Santa Orlando points out the many ways the Albany Chapter maintains connections and is a catalyst and conduit of communication. She says Affiliates are called to Relationship.
Articles in this issue:
Staying Connected - "It was wonderful to have representatives from the Sisters and Fathers with us."—Santa Orlando
Meeting Maryknoll in St. Louis - "When we admired a symbol Debbie was wearing, she asked, “What is the symbol of the Maryknoll Affiliates?”—Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss
Boston Affiliate Working with Rotary - "The goal of the project was to change the practice of cooking with open fires on the floor, eliminating exposure to smoke and reducing health issues."—Jim Comes
More Excitement? - "A little preparation can lead to a lively meeting."—Matt Rousso
Maryknoll Lay Missioner/Lawyer - "Walls and detention centers are not the answer. Central America needs to be a place where people can stay if they want, with job opportunities, fair wages, and security."—Heidi Cerneka
Maryknoll Nuns at the Border - “God does not ask us to ask if people we help have all their immigration papers in order, or are they legally asking for asylum, before we feed, clothe and give them something to eat or give them shelter."—Sr. Maggie Sierra, MM
At the El Paso Migrant Refuge - "One of the best things about doing volunteer work is meeting other volunteers from different locations."—Don Gonzalez
The Shoelace Project - "Thus, the Humanitarian Respite Center operated by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, and similar facilities along the border, need a constant supply of shoelaces."—David Schaffner
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 July/August issue.
Have you considered attending a Mission Institute program?
If New York is too far for you, consider the California offerings!
There’s still time to sign up!
July 7-12 Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
Rev. John Philip Newell, PhD, and Cami Twilling
July 14-19 Teilhard and Struggle: Drawn to the Road of Fire
Sr. Kathleen Duffy, SSJ, PhD
July 21-26 Sacred Heart of the Cosmos: Mission Spirit in Modern Time
Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS, MFA
Sept. 8-13 Mission Spirituality: Releasing the Fire Within – Monrovia, CA
Sr. Claudette LaVerdiere, MM, STL
Sept. 17-20 Mission Spirituality: Releasing the Fire Within – Los Altos, CA
Sr. Claudette LaVerdiere, MM, STL
Find the complete schedule and application forms at:
Register online or request an application form by:
Phone: 914-941-7575 @ 5671
Mail: Maryknoll Mission Institute
PO Box 311
Maryknoll, NY 10545-0311
At its May meeting, the Maryknoll Affiliate Board heard updates on the four prototype projects which had been proposed and initiated at the November 2018 Board meeting. This is what has been accomplished in just six months:
Quo Vadis – Per Bill Murphy, a local marketing team has been formed in the NY/New England area, and they are presenting the workshop to cross-cultural immersion groups to beta test it. If successful, the resulting final version of QUO VADIS will be presented at the November Board/RC meeting before broader marketing of the workshop.
Affiliates Connecting – Rich Lessard, Board Chair and Albany Affiliate, has connected with several Affiliates and Chapters through phone
Affiliate Hospitality – Roxanne Hughes-Wheatland said a survey asks Affiliates about their willingness and ability to provide hospitality to traveling Maryknollers, including Affiliates. See “Welcoming Maryknollers”
Our chapter has organized a “Shoelace Project” for the months of June and July in St. Patrick’s Parish, Arroyo Grande. The idea for this campaign came from an NSFA article, “Compassion and Hospitality on the Border,” (March/April 2019). In this article, Jerrie Drinkwine mentioned that the detention center removes shoelaces and belts from asylum seekers as they are processed by ICE. When they are delivered to a respite center, they receive replacement shoelaces. Thus, the Humanitarian Respite Center operated by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, and similar facilities along the border, need a constant supply of shoelaces.
Sept. 14 to 22 is 2019’s Week of Actions, and Campaign Nonviolence plans to have 3,000 actions around the world! Several Affiliate groups have participated in this annual effort, “working for a new culture of nonviolence free from war, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction.”
Learning, growing, transforming, and deepening ourselves and our society are signs of life.
Through my involvement with the Affiliates, I have embraced and continue deepening my identification with nonviolence. The JustFaith module, Cultivating Nonviolence, offers to us Maryknoll Affiliates a way to keep growing, cultivating.
It was my turn to prepare a “State of the Heart” report at the conclusion of the May 3-5, 2019 meeting of the Maryknoll Affiliate Board. The meeting’s central theme was contemplative action, and my response to what I heard and experienced took the form of the poem below.
Fracking the Heart
How do I turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh?
I used to think the waters of baptism were sufficient:
Gentle, flowing waters can soothe but rarely awaken;
Still waters warm and calm but hardly get me moving.
Maybe knowledge was the answer?
Theology or the facts and figures of science and computers
Would guide me to a meaningful life and best solutions.
Sit with the darkness; it becomes light
Listen in the silence
Share stories of life:
accompanying gospels of struggles, pains, joys -
compassion for ourselves as well as others
breaks open my heart.
Don’t just move, stand there
move in the direction that beckons me.
Maryknollers, including Affiliates, have been attending to the needs of migrants at the US-Mexico border. (Affiliates have written about helping at McAllen, TX, and on page 8, Don Gonzalez tells about El Paso.) Sr. Lil Mattingly, MM, responded graciously to our email when we arrived in El Paso in April. She arranged for us to meet the Maryknoll sisters working at the US Border near El Paso and hear their stories. Sr. Lil and Sr. Maggie Sierra are both working with immigrants in El Paso. Sr. Susan Nchubiri, MM, who is based at Maryknoll, NY, is working with them for a month responding to the massive increase in refugees from Central and South America.
Last November I volunteered at the refugee center located within the grounds of the Diocese of El Paso. It is a good-sized room with its own kitchen and eating facility. The bishop of El Paso and seminarians reside nearby, and most volunteers stay in the seminarians’ sleeping quarters, where they are comfortable and have a regular bed unless there is a lack of space; then volunteers might sleep on a cot.
Volunteers learn how to perform a number of functions, then do what is requested as needed.
Deepen our compassion, O God.
You are the judge, not us.
Our sister left behind home, family, culture, language
When she fled to protect her life,
her children, their future,
As greed and power ravaged her nation.
Our brother asked for refuge,
A refuge promised by the UN and the US,
But we welcomed him with detention,
Separation from loved ones.
Teach us to walk a mile in their sandals
And be moved to indignation and action.
Stretch our compassion, O God,
To embrace those
Who see this reality differently.
Move us beyond entrenched beliefs,
Inspire us to creative responses
And justice that restores relationships
And hope for all.
May those who knock at our door
Seeking refuge and hope,
Who are met with condemnation and walls
by this nation,
May they challenge us
To live our baptismal promise to the Gospel,
And may they judge us with compassion
when we fail.
Note: This prayer first appeared in the Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Voices of Compassion, Spring 2019. Reprinted with permission.
On our annual road trip, I met briefly with Heidi Cerneka, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, in El Paso.
Heidi said she was inspired to join the Lay Missioners while she was still in college and heard about the church women being martyred in El Salvador. Rather than being frightened, their dedication excited her. As a Lay Missioner, Heidi worked many years in Brazil with women in prisons, but at 50 years of age she decided to go to law school. Now she works for a nonprofit, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, as an immigration lawyer. Most of her work involves asylum cases. In this part of Texas only about 3% of asylum applicants are successful. She said that in other jurisdictions, e.g., parts of New York or Portland, Oregon, about 50% of asylum applicants are eventually granted asylum.
The Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy center needs volunteers and interns. Besides the obvious need for workers with legal expertise, Heidi specifically mentioned that social workers or counselors could interview clients. The organization’s website—Las-Americas.org—includes two pages requesting interns and volunteers and listing needs.
I asked Heidi her message for Affiliates. She emphasized, “Walls and detention centers are not the answer. Central America needs to be a place where people can stay if they want, with job opportunities, fair wages, and security. The US needs to be a place where people can come with fair immigration policies. … All the people that leave the government’s detention centers are now documented; they’re not undocumented or illegal!”