At Northeast Florida Chapter’s recent meeting, David Courtwright, Affiliate Shelby Miller’s husband, spoke about his 2019 book, The Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business.* David’s scholarship has centered on the history of addiction in the US and worldwide.
Using illustrations and eliciting comments from the group, he traced how humans searched for new and potentially dangerous pleasures, from honey sought by cave dwellers to today’s digital technology and highly processed food. Many products and activities are potentially addictive, not just those we traditionally think of as vices: alcohol, gambling, prostitution, pornography, and drugs. Today, we face compulsive overeating, machine gambling, excessive social-media use, and even habitual tanning. These have medical and social costs and potential for addiction.
What is an addiction? It is a vice that has become unusually strong, preoccupying and damaging. An addiction is usually a subset of vice, and a vice is usually a subset of pleasure. Addictions cause harm. What counts as a pleasure, vice or addiction changes with time, culture and technology. For example, in Europe and the Americas sugar-rich food is being redefined as a vice, while the traditional vice of marijuana use is becoming a commercial pleasure though a contested one. Tobacco products are another example. Through global public health counter-offensives, cigarette use has declined. However, other forms of excessive consumption and addiction continue with the help of global industries, governments, and criminal organizations.
Is there anything we can do? Age restrictions on certain products help, but we must learn how products are enhanced to make us unwilling consumers.
After the talk, Mary Moritz said, “It was very meaningful to think of all the ways we can become addicted. It reminds us to be mindful of what we do and why we do it. David said that our brains actually get changed by addiction so that we need more and more of what we are addicted to in order to be satisfied.”
*An on-line book forum, ROROTOKO, describes the book and explains why David wrote it. See http://rorotoko.com/interview/20191204_courtwright_david_on_book_age_addiction_bad_habits_big_business/?page=1
Imagine the one billion Catholics worldwide insisting that the just war theory is against our religion. Not only that, we won’t allow capital punishment to be done in our name. I had that vision after Marie Dennis joined the closing session of our Cultivating Nonviolence group. She told us about the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI) formed by Pax Christi, our own Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, and other Catholic organizations.
The CNI website, https://nonviolencejustpeace.net, gives information about their meetings and the workshop, 2019 Path of Nonviolence: Towards a Culture of Peace, held at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative asks that we
A two page statement from the April 2019 meeting (PCI-CNI Statement from Path of Nonviolence workshop 2019) lists many efforts we could participate in. At the closing session of our Cultivating Nonviolence group, we committed to asking our local Catholic colleges to implement nonviolence training in their curricula, and we made or repeated the Vow of Nonviolence (https://paxchristiusa.org/resources/vow-of-nonviolence/). Join us in our New Year’s resolutions to help all to live in nonviolence.
Ken Butigan, a nonviolence trainer with Pace e Bene, suggested that the participants of our Cultivating Nonviolence study group write a letter to Pope Francis asking the pope for an encyclical on nonviolence.
We struggle to be Church and value your leadership. You wrote, “In our complex and violent world, it is truly a formidable undertaking to work for peace by living the practice of nonviolence.” in a message to participants in the “Nonviolence and Just Peace” conference in Rome in 2016.
We are inspired and challenged whenever we come together with Affiliates. We try to contact Affiliate chapters or Maryknollers wherever we travel. The Hospitality List maintained by Bob Short shows that many Affiliates and Chapters welcome visitors. Recently, Mary and John Moritz in Jacksonville, Florida, arranged for us to join them and a couple from their chapter, Mary Morris Williams and Bryan Williams, for a casual dinner in the Moritz home.
Recently, I was privileged to take a Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Mission Immersion trip to Taiwan and Cambodia. The North Bay Affiliate Chapter has been involved in immigration issues and has been helping refugee families, so an interaction with an organization in Cambodia named Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organization (KVAO) assisting deportees from the US was of particular interest. Maryknoll Sister Len Montiel was our tour leader for Cambodia, and she had been on the Board of Directors of KVAO.
Generally, the deportees came to the US as refugees, were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, often in their younger years, had served their time in prison, and were living productive lives with families. They are usually permanent residents, and some may have failed to complete paperwork to become citizens (which they regret) and then are served with deportation orders. The numbers have grown in recent years. The agency has helped 743 deportees since its founding in 2002, and 65-70% of them are now working. In 2018, 110 Cambodians were deported, and that number was expected to rise to 200 in 2019.
Renate, a Maryknoll Affiliate, has been living and working in Haiti for 22 years.
I just recently decided to return to Chicago, because life had become almost unbearable for me in Jeremie, Haiti. All of the constraints of living under the conditions in Jeremie have crept up on me gradually. But towards the end, it was becoming more than I could bear. The worst was to be a prisoner in my own house, hesitant to venture out.
For the seventh consecutive year, the Affiliate Chapters of San Francisco, Niño Jesús and Santa Rosa de Peru, together with a parish group, celebrate the International Day of Nonviolence on October 2nd. We march through the streets of Pamplona Alta, in the district of San Juan Miraflores, in southern Lima. This year, the march was attended by more than 800 people, including school children, neighbors, and leaders of the sector.
Pope Francis, in his Encyclical Laudato Si, calls on us to create a different scale of human values, to found a new humanism, that of Good Living, which departs from the logic of the extractivist economy and accommodates a new way of relating to each other and to the Earth. This new way of connecting must protect and promote both human rights and the rights of Mother Earth.
The Pope points out that today’s way of life is not sustainable for the Earth. Good Living calls us to establish a different relationship with the Earth, within the framework of fair wages, work, and decent life for all; It implies changing the rules of the game between us and nature to preserve our “Common House.” The amount of waste we produce today is not sustainable. Hence, waste management and the way we produce food are key elements of Good Living and of Pope Francis’s call to establish a new relationship with the earth.
On the 30th Anniversary of the massacre of five Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter at the University of Central America (UCA), we participated in the SOA Watch weekend in Columbus, GA. We were especially motivated to attend because we had participated in a Maryknoll Lay Missioner-led trip to the UCA in El Salvador and had seen where the Jesuits were brutally assassinated. SOA Watch began when it was learned that 19 graduates of the SOA, the School of the Americas at Fort Benning US Army base in Columbus, GA, were involved in the murder of the Jesuits in their UCA residences.
Ellen was co-founder of the Maryknoll Affiliates with Fr. Jim Madden, MM. This excerpt from her homily to the Maryknoll Sisters on Vocation Sunday, 1994 first appeared in the NSFA in 1995.
Maryknoll is like a visible symbol of a whole set of values. It speaks to us of diversity in our world; of reaching out to other peoples, nations, and cultures; of witnessing to God’s love, respect, and justice everywhere. Everyone who has ever come to Maryknoll, for however long he or she has stayed, has become a part of this Maryknoll vocation. At the same time, the personal vocation of each has taken Maryknoll out to places where we might never have gone.
The challenge of God’s word today, of this two-edged sword, is to ask ourselves where we stand in this dual strain of call: What is my personal call at this time? And how am I faithful as part of Maryknoll’s call? We need those of you who have been touched by Maryknoll and have taken Maryknoll’s call out to places we did not dream of. And you need us, who strive to keep Maryknoll’s vocation present and visible as a symbol and sign of God’s love for the whole of our world.
After about two years of co-meditation in a small Maryknoll contemplative group, I am sharing and putting into words what our experience is and what it means to me. Since I have many years in the traditional church structure, I approach my experience of our co-meditation group within the context of sacrament.
These definitions clarify my use of the term sacrament:
The Sacramental Principle: That which is always and everywhere true (the eternal Cosmic Christ), on occasion needs to be recognized, acknowledged, and celebrated. —Michael Himes,1996
Fr. Himes uses the term true; I expand that notion to that which is beautiful, transformative, anything which leads us to an in-depth encounter with our true self and the other.
The Trump administration slashed the “cap” on the number of refugees accepted into the US in fiscal year 2019 to 30,000, and has admitted just 18,051 as of May 31, 2019.* The Pew Research Center says, “the United States plans to admit a maximum of 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020, down from a cap of 30,000 in the one that ended Sept. 30, 2019, under a new refugee admissions ceiling set by the Trump administration.”
Affiliate Gail Kelley responds to refugees differently. She wrote for Maryknoll magazine in 2016 about “Seeing the Face of Christ” in refugees and now gives an update on the progress of one refugee family. Quoting from the 2016 article: “The Refugee Resettlement Ministry (RRM) at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, my parish in Raleigh, NC, … which was initiated in 1986, has assisted in resettling 33 families.” Gail says the Semahoro family is typical of their experience.
Gail Kelley greets the Semahoros in the airport.
Bashir Semahoro, a Congolese native, arrived with his family in Raleigh in October 2013. “We were cattle ranchers in the Congo when we were attacked by another indigenous tribe,” he said. “My parents were killed, my wife raped, and one of my children lost. My wife, three daughters, my brother, and I escaped with nothing but the clothes on our backs. It took us four months to walk to Ethiopia, where we were placed in a refugee camp operated by the United Nations.”
Gail wrote, “The members of our RRM have indeed seen the face of Christ in the strangers we have welcomed. They have inspired us with their unshakable faith, their unquenchable desire to be free in spite of persecution and imprisonment, their family values, their joy in simplicity, and their determination to become full and productive Americans. As a Maryknoll Affiliate, I am proud to be part of this ministry to vulnerable people from whom I learn so much.”
Gail Kelley, surrounded by the Semahoro family, developed a long-term friendship with them during their years in Raleigh.
Update: Gail keeps in contact with the family and sends this update: The Semahoro Family now lives in Austin, Texas, have a mortgage on a home, and are speaking fluent English. Both parents have full-time jobs. Aline, their oldest daughter, is attending community college on a scholarship to study nursing.
The Refugee Resettlement Ministry in Raleigh has since settled two families from the Congo and a Muslim family from Afghanistan. It now looks forward, at the end of 2019, to settling its 36th family.
If you are interested in Refugee Resettlement, initial or ongoing, go to: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr and click on State Program Directory for the voluntary agencies in your area.
*Note: Read more about the US reductions of legally vetted refugees at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/us/politics/trump-refugees.html.
My week in an all-Maryknoll contemplative retreat, held at the Lake House of Prayer in Mwanza, Tanzania, was special and very beneficial. The view of Lake Victoria was conducive to silent prayer and refreshment. Members of each of the four Maryknoll entities participated, coming from the US, Japan, Kenya, and Tanzania.
In September, While the stage was being set for the October Amazon Synod in Rome, Maryknoll Lay Missioner Kathy Bond, who has been serving in Brazil for decades, attended the Convergence of International Women: We are Medicine conference in Peru. She asked several attendees what their message would be for the Amazon Synod. These are two of her reports:
Miliwanga Wurrben, a traditional healer and elder, represents a remote area in Northern Territory, Australia.
Sweet Medicine Nation from Oregon, of Chickasaw lineage and of multicultural heritage, said if invited to the Amazon Synod, she would speak for “all of those who have no voice ... the trees, the water, and the animals.”
To learn more about the issues the indigenous peoples face in the Americas and elsewhere, search on “indigenous” on https://maryknollogc.org/.