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Sábado, 23 Junio 2018 16:44

The Making of a Virtual Chapter

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Bob Short – Executive Coordinator

Until a few weeks ago, there were two Affiliate virtual chapters.  The first has six members crossing three U.S. time zones and has met three times. The second is a contemplative virtual chapter that focuses on reflective conversation and prayer. Members from both of these chapters have spoken very positively about how meaningful the experiences have been.

On Sunday, October 1st, a third, hybrid Affiliate chapter entered the virtual Maryknoll Affiliate world. Approximately 15 members from three continents and as many countries: Kenya, Germany, and the US—crossing too many time zones to count—held their first meeting. This hybrid virtual chapter evolved from the creative vision and organizational acumen of Gerald Grudzen, PhD, and Marita Grudzen, who have been connected to Maryknoll in several capacities for many years. 

Gerry began his history with Maryknoll in the Seminary in the 1960s. He was ordained, and though he later sought laicization from the priesthood, he kept dedicated to the missionary spirit of Maryknoll. Marita Grudzen joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1959, but left in 1967 to serve in other ways. Their educational achievements have focused on diverse religious traditions: Gerry helped found Global Ministries University with faculty representing Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, completed a doctorate from Columbia University in the history of Christianity and Islam, and became involved in interfaith programs in Bangladesh, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, and Kenya, sometimes working with Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Add to that background his incorporation of the latest educational technologies, combining both classroom and Internet based learning and teaching.

Marita also brings her earlier experience with service through intentional Christian communities and her teaching and writing about health care for elders of different religious traditions. Marita has trained Maryknoll Lay Missioners regarding interfaith collaboration and has presented at the Maryknoll Mission Institute.

At the invitation of Maryknoll Lay Missioner Judy Walters, the Grudzens came to Kenya and laid the groundwork for establishing a Maryknoll Affiliate chapter there. Some of their friends and colleagues in Germany and the United States also became interested in meeting virtually. They used the Zoom program to connect, which worked well except for one problem in Mombasa.

The ambitious agenda of their first meeting began their journey of exploration of the Maryknoll Affiliates: what Affiliates are and why the group should consider being Maryknoll Affiliates. The 12-month formation process for new Affiliate chapters was explained: the themes it covers and the four pillars it emphasizes. They discussed the Affiliate vocation and what forming a community would offer them individually and together. They reviewed the mission statements of Maryknoll Priests, Sisters, and Lay Missioners in Kenya and looked at Maryknoll Affiliate presence in Tanzania. They asked, what would such a spiritual community offer Kenya? The members divided into three subgroups to discuss what had been presented and then returned to the full group to introduce themselves and share something in response to the program. 

I don’t think the Affiliate Board could have anticipated that a virtual chapter could take on such a far-reaching character when it was first proposed. It’s a very encouraging development for mission

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