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
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”
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.
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.
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
Do you ever wonder what other Affiliates think about a particular topic? Curious about how alike or different Affiliates are from each other? Are there things that other Affiliates are doing that could have some impact on you personally or on your Chapter life? As members of the Maryknoll Affiliates, belonging to different Chapters and separated by distance, traditions, culture, and language, we may sometimes ask ourselves and/or other Chapter members similar questions.
The Affiliates’ “Question of the Month” (QTM) initiative provides a forum that responds to these questions and is an opportunity for Affiliates to be in dialogue with the greater Affiliate movement. This dialogue is one of the ways that each of us can become better informed about our movement, discover the wisdom within and among us, and ultimately have a part in guiding, supporting and strengthening the bonds of the Affiliate movement. We hope all Affiliates share in this desire and will participate in this QTM initiative.
Each month, along with the responses to the previous month’s question, a QTM form will be e-mailed to all Affiliates who have their e-mail addresses on file. Responses are anonymous, unless you wish to share your name and contact information. And since it is the intent and hope that QTMs will come from individual Affiliates or Chapters, you can also suggest a question that will be considered for a future QTM. The questions are as important as the responses to them and will generally be selected by considering whether it will have the effect of evoking responses that will foster and enhance our Affiliate movement.
This month’s QTM is really one question, but asked three different ways:
“What does it mean to you to be a Maryknoll Affiliate? Why are you an Affiliate? What meaning or purpose, if at all, does being an Affiliate bring to your life?”
We thank you for your participation in helping to make our Maryknoll Affiliate movement stronger.
I am so happy to have found the Maryknoll Affiliates. It was an answer to prayer. After returning from a semester in Lima, Peru, where I went to finish my requirements for a Master of Arts degree in international development, I was looking for an opportunity to combine my interest in international issues with my Catholic faith. While searching online for a language program that would help me continue to improve my Spanish, I stumbled upon The Language Program at the Maryknoll Mission Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. That led me to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and information about the Maryknoll Affiliates. I was thrilled to find out that there was an Affiliates group in Washington, DC, which is close to my home in Columbia, Maryland. After contacting the coordinator for the group, I began attending the monthly meetings and the rest is history.
I met a wonderful group of people that have helped expand my spiritual life, and in time, I became the group’s coordinator. While the role of coordinator for the Washington, DC Maryknoll Affiliates is demanding, I find the opportunity rewarding. I am also blessed to have had the opportunity to attend MAC 2014 in New York and MAC 2017 in Guatemala along with my husband, John. Since 2018, I have been serving on the Maryknoll Affiliates Board, which has given me the opportunity to expand my association with the Maryknoll Affiliates and contribute to maintaining the viability of the Maryknoll Affiliates movement.
Personal Facts: I am married and have one adult daughter living in Canada who is a computer scientist. I also have a private psychology practice in Maryland. My favorite pastimes include reading, traveling, listening to music, attending religious retreats, keeping abreast of concerns being addressed at the United Nations, and walking in nature.
On Friday noon, after four and a half days of restoring a house with the Houston Chapter Mission project, two of the facilitators, Bob & Ruth Kleeman, took the Affiliate mission members on a trip to give us a taste of rural Texas. We hopped into three cars and headed out on a two-hour ride across the vast, flat landscape of southeastern Texas to a little town called Nada.
For those with even a cursory knowledge of Spanish, “Nada” initially seemed like a perfectly fitting name. The town-folk we spoke with estimated that there were a little over 300 people in town. However, the last available census in 2000 counted only 165. The discrepancy is probably attributable to genuine local pride. Reportedly, Nada boasts a grocery store and US Post Office. All any of us could see that day along Highway 71, which cuts through the center of town, were an auto garage and Leo’s Place, a bar and restaurant. Checking on Facebook for “Things to do in Nada, TX” brings up a photo of an open crop field with a John Deere combine and a truck in the distance. No other photos or text appear on the page.
An exciting exploration of new ways to be Affiliates is blossoming in Kenya. Fourteen prospective Affiliates from Mombasa, Nairobi, California, Chicago, Florida, and Germany have been coming together for formation, discussion and prayer, in person and virtually, since 2017. Interfaith collaboration is a guiding principle of their chapter. Members include Catholic and non-Catholic Christians and a Muslim. The chapter has a strong interaction with various Maryknollers. The Affiliate Board accepted their application in January. We look to learn much from this new chapter.
As Executive Director for Maryknoll Lay Missioners since December 2017, I also serve on the Maryknoll Affiliate Board as its liaison with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. In this position, I am discovering ways that all Maryknollers can work together in mission.
My mission background started when I was “ruined for life” with a little help from the Jesuits. After my B.A. at Loyola University, Maryland, and M.A. from Bucknell University, I volunteered with Jesuit Volunteers for two years in education and youth empowerment programs in Belize and Guatemala.
Since then, I have served in parish ministry, Catholic high school education, and archdiocesan leadership development for more than three decades. My most recent position was as Catholic Relief Services’ Relationship Manager for Youth and Education and coordinator of the agency’s youth outreach in the US. I’m humbled that the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry awarded me a national award for leadership in youth ministry in the area of gospel values of peace and justice.
Fun Facts: My favorite pastimes include time with my niece and two nephews, following the Baltimore Orioles, and swimming, camping, and hiking, the latter fueling my passion to work for climate justice.
At their most recent gathering of the first virtual chapter*, members spontaneously surfaced the thought that maybe there are just too many words attached to almost everything these days… dishonest political words, manipulative marketing words, sanctimonious religious words, ego words that compare, compete, connive, contrast, contrive and, perhaps the biggest offenders, all those unsettling words and scenarios that incessantly play out in our heads. Understandably, some of you reading this might be feeling that this article is itself quickly becoming an offender in this verbosity plague.
Words are important. Poetic, truthful words, and others like, thank you, forgive me, I love you, whoops, and, for carnivores, medium rare, surely have a place. Still, we haven’t done very well at sticking to the good words. How can we best get hold of all this?
Over-explanation separates us
from astonishment. – Eugene Ionesco
As the conversation evolved, we talked (admittedly, in words) about those wordless spaces – walking in the forest, standing by the ocean, listening to music, sitting in a chapel, holding a newborn – wherein peace washes over us and we come to know in a different, peaceful and compelling way. You too might be tempted to add to the list. Hopefully, neither Chardonnay nor Merlot would get many honest votes in this regard.
Mostly, our time together focused on how each of us has come to a place of deeper knowing. Jim Coady insightfully added that almost always, “We learn more from experiences than from documents.” Although not physically present in this virtual community, Richard Rohr helped us out when he wrote that, “Knowing is the empty space around the words, allowing God to fill in all the gaps in an ‘unspeakable’ way.” That could serve as a definition for faith.
From a distance, all this might seem a bit fuzzy and/or dense. Even that characterization will be euphemistic for some. Still, as 2019 begins to unfold and all of us in Maryknoll strive to live with integrity, love, and groundedness in these very uncertain, noisy times, we can gain strength and courage by visiting these wordless spaces. I think that those in the Contemplative Virtual Chapter would concur.
*Currently, three chapters meet virtually: one of Affiliates who've moved, the Contemplative Virtual Chapter, and an international chapter.
I had been involved with the Maryknoll Affiliates since the first conference of Maryknoll Affiliates held here at Maryknoll and was a part-time member of the Westchester Chapter before I returned to Korea. In Korea, some other Sisters and I decided to invite the Maryknoll Fathers in Korea to join us in starting a Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter there. However, it was not accepted by some of the members, although a couple of Maryknoll Fathers, including Russ Feldmeier, joined us occasionally.
The Maryknoll Sisters decided to have a retreat with the prospective interested members, and at the end of the retreat, we explained about the Affiliate program—its covenant, etc., and each one of them decided to join. There were about eight to ten members at that time. We had monthly reflection and study of the covenant and other articles about the Affiliate movement. They had faithfully come to monthly meetings, even though they were not officially accepted as Maryknoll Affiliates. After ten years, they finally got approval, when the Maryknoll Affiliate Board were given the responsibility to approve new chapters.
About my background: I was born in the Philippines. After I finished Nursing training and worked for a year in the Philippines, I ventured out to work in the US and Canada. It was in Montreal that I decided to become a missionary. I entered Maryknoll in 1976 and was assigned to Korea in 1978, where I worked in a Psychiatric Clinic. In 1984, I did pastoral ministry with the urban poor, living in an integrated community of clergy, religious and lay people. We made home visits, listened to people’s issues and needs, organized scripture study groups, and gave spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. From 1988-90, I continued to work with the urban poor and with Korean factory workers in other areas. Then I returned to Maryknoll, NY, for Congregational Service, and when I went back to Korea, I continued my work with women and also with migrant workers and women married to Koreans. After several years I returned to NY to do another Congregational Service and later on was elected to our leadership.
Because of my interest in our Affiliate movement, I am happy to be one of the liaisons to the Maryknoll Affiliates. It has been a delight to get to know many Affiliates and see the wonderful works you are involved in for the sake of the Gospel.