A Review of God Lifts – Everyday Gifts*
By Patty Ward, Mary Moritz, and Peggy Wescott
I was delighted to receive a copy of this book from Mary Moritz after she mentioned that she and two of her sisters had collaborated on it. Mary, the Affiliates’ Southeast Regional Coordinator, has always spoken incisively, and her clear thinking shines through in her writing.
Thinking I would like to post a review, I had two problems with this book. The first was that I didn’t want to just read it from front to back; it’s a book to be savored in daily sips. So I decided to spend three weeks reading the first seven entries from each sister. The second problem is that there are not enough entries for a full year. This lack can only be solved by starting over from the beginning once I have read all 183 entries, which would probably be very worthwhile.
I have read other collections of spiritual readings, such as in Lenten or Advent guides, and always had to work to put myself into the author’s frame of reference. God Lifts – Everyday Gifts speaks to my lifestyle; all three authors share memories or situations they encountered as parents, grandparents, or members of communities, and I immediately recognize where they are coming from. Then they find God in those small events of their daily lives. They show me how a precocious grandchild can reflect the goodness of God, or how an insect in the car can be God’s gift of slowing one down enough to avoid a collision.
The final line on each reading is a text, whisper, or smile—a message of a few words, how they imagine God would respond to their reflection, making it feel more like a two-way conversation.
Now, as I continue reading the rest of the stories, I am learning to recognize God’s presence in my own simple, everyday experiences. God speaks to each of us in languages we can understand.
*Sold on Amazon: amazon.com/s?k=god+Lifts+Everyday+Gifts&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss
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.
On MKMAC.org, I read that Nancy Sylvester, IHM, will be the keynote speaker at MAC 2020 next June. Not being well-read in theology or contemplation, I had not heard of her before, and I wanted to get a feel for what wisdom she will be offering to Maryknoll Affiliates. Following the link to https://iccdinstitute.org, I explored her website, finally landing on the Resources page. There I found lists of Downloads, Readings, Poetry and Art, and Talks. Spinning the proverbial wheel of fortune, my pointer landed on her essay, “Finding Our Balance in the Political Landscape,” written in 2017.
A couple years ago, my husband, David, and I were contacted by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Sam Stanton and his wife Cecelia Espinosa, to see if we could help her with a church date in northern Santa Barbara County while he covered a church farther south. We had a wonderful visit with Cecelia while offering not only bed and board, but also transportation to a couple different Masses.
We saw that Affiliates could be helpful to the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in their promotional efforts, and the Hospitality Initiative suggested to Ted Miles, current Executive Director of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, that we may be able to offer Maryknoll Lay Missioners a place to sleep, possibly local transportation, and support at the churches where they are speaking. In late July, Ted shared the list of 2019 dates on which Lay Missioners will speak at churches to raise awareness and funds for all their mission needs. Offering this hospitality not only expresses our charism of welcoming, but it is a local short-term volunteer opportunity—a way to be of service to the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in their missionary efforts.
Please check the list of 2019 Church Dates and see if a Maryknoll Lay Missioner will be speaking near your home. Your hospitality will not only help further their efforts; you’ll probably make a lasting connection with a fellow missioner.
When the opportunity has presented itself, I have enjoyed being physically present to engage in short-term mission work. However, this time the call came as a request for “someone to help update our website” in Chicago Affiliate Renate Schneider’s Haitian Connection newsletter. My husband and I had twice volunteered at the university she spearheaded after the 2011 earthquake, and we knew of some of the various programs Renate shepherds through her NGO. Having learned how to post articles on our Maryknoll Affiliates’ website and not having an overloaded schedule, I thought I could help support her efforts in this way.
The updating became a matter of starting a new website from scratch with a WordPress format, partly because I don’t know how to “write code,” the way her original website had been developed. I had to learn new skills even to do this, but no one else had offered to help, and Renate was extremely patient. After only about six months, off and on, we were able to launch the new website. From now on, my volunteer job will be only to post occasional updates.
Although I sat on my couch to do this volunteer work, I felt it was a worthwhile offering. My frequent struggles reminded me of one bible scholar’s comment that God asks us to perform from our weakness, not our strength. Maybe that’s so we’ll realize God was helping us when we succeed.
Besides sharing this experience to encourage you to be open to new ways of doing mission, I want to invite you to visit Renate’s new website:
Learn about the many initiatives she has developed—building homes for women, microcredit, small business startups, mental health programs, and more. Maybe you will see a way that you can help!
Co-editor Paula here, filling in for co-editor Mary as she and her husband Manny are on the road. I like to refer to them as the Affiliate ambassadors-at-large.
This issue is filled with Action and Community. Chapters from South Korea to Petaluma to Houston have reflected on their Affiliate lives. Mary and Manny report on chapters they visited as they crossed the US to attend the Maryknoll Affiliates’ April board meeting at the Maryknoll Sisters’ in Ossining, NY. That included participating in the Northeast Region’s conference on Balance (see page 1). To round out this issue, we have invitations to attend the Maryknoll Sisters’ Mission Institute, to take an online class, to get involved in Quo Vadis, or to read a good book.
On Mary and Manny’s return trek, they have visited several more chapters, which we’ll hear about in the next issue. As they travel, they are organizing a Northwest Regional mini-conference on active nonviolence for September 22 in Portland. (See this page!) Mary says, “Y’all come!”
To read this issue in print form, you may download a pdf of the May/June 2018 Not So Far Afield.
A big part of my work is helping people process and relate to encounters with social and economic inequality, and to do so with the intentionality necessary to develop nuanced, respectful responses that engender authentic solidarity. This requires my own continued examination of common reactions by privileged people to encounters with people in more marginalized positions, and to develop intentional language to preempt, challenge, and reframe those reactions.
In that vein, I’ve been thinking a lot about the all too common takeaway, “They’re poor, but they’re joyful.” I’m not unique in feeling that this language is problematic (to paraphrase Paul Farmer in regard to impoverished Haitians: they may have nice smiles and good senses of humor, but they still know they’re living in desperate conditions). But I am finding it necessary to more thoughtfully reflect on what accounts for this reaction, what truths are present within it, and, more importantly, why we need to challenge others (and ourselves) to think and speak differently.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver
My wife, Jane, and I joined 21 Maryknoll jubilarians, who were marking 65th, 60th, 50th, or 40th anniversaries of ordination last June. The two-day celebration involved small gatherings of families and friends, as well as a huge and colorful liturgy in the chapel. Representatives of the four Maryknoll expressions—the Society, Congregation, Lay Missioners, and Affiliates—attended, and the chapel’s walls and windows reverberated with the sounds of brass horns, basses, and drums in full accompaniment.
After filling up on the spirit in the liturgy, we feasted on that special Maryknoll hospitality, a picnic with no end to the variety and quantity of food. People may not live by bread alone, but food is a good place to start.
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.
Easy Meeting: Family – The Affiliate Community – The Kin-dom of God
(To reprint this Easy Meeting on two pages, go to the Download: Not So Far Afield – Supplemental Material – 2016 09 10 Easy Meeting.)
Begin by reading “Family of God” (Maryknoll Book of Prayer, page 18):
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”—John 13:34-35
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts. … If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it.-—1 Corinthinians 12:12, 26-27
Nothing can separate us from the love of God and nothing can separate us from each other. We are made in the image and likeness of God.
Prayer begins with the awesome recognition of our oneness with God. It continues with the realization of our unity with each other. We are all members of one family—the family of God. Let us Pray.
Read the articles mentioned below from the September/October 2016 NSFA, and consider these questions:
1. Compare your experience of family with that in the article from NTLH, “Family in Guatemala.”
3. How does your Affiliate community prefigure the Kin-dom of God?
Close with the prayer, “God made us a family” (Maryknoll Book of Prayer, page 19):
God made us a family
We need one another
We love one another
We forgive one another
We work together
We play together
We worship together
Together we use God’s word
Together we grow in Christ
Together we love all people
Together we serve our God
Together we hope for Heaven
These are our hopes and ideals.
Help us to attain them, O God,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
—Florence Sossong, Pittsburgh, PA