Our objective for this California Adventure was to attend a gathering of each chapter to meet affiliates, get to know the Chapters, exchange ideas, update information, see how we can be useful to the members, invite candidates for the board and Regional Coordinators and generally update ourselves on how things are going. We also promoted our upcoming Conference and the request for items for the Time Capsule and nominees for the Affiliate Award. Joe is on a committee that will evaluate the new organization, including the Regional Coordinators model, so we thought it would be helpful to introduce Appreciative Inquiry and get feedback from as many affiliates as possible. In addition, it is always fun to listen to everyone's mission stories.
We first drove to San Lorenzo, CA where the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have a Regional Mission Center in the San Francisco Bay Area. Matt Dulka had invited us to stay in the Center. Although Matt was traveling during our stay there, Kris East showed us the traditional Maryknoll hospitality. We also spent time (including sipping sherry late one night) with Marie Wren, who occasionally works at the Center doing fund raising. Our first night there, we visited St. John the Baptist Church. The Parish rents the Center building to Maryknoll. We arrived in Church just as an Hispanic Charismatic assembly was starting, so we had our first experience celebrating with this energetic, welcoming, faith and music filled and community.
On our second day we became familiar with the surrounding neighborhood, by walking and driving, including a visit to the nearby Meek Mansion State Park.
At 5:00 p.m. we met with the North Bay and East Bay Chapter in a joint meeting that included pizza and salads. Attending were Leslie Coady, Nancy and Bob McFarland, Marie Wren, Kathy Culhane from the North Bay Chapter. Leslee and Richard Youngkin have been active with the Death penalty Movement, but most act individually. Gov. Jerry Brown canceled construction of a $356-million death row building at San Quentin prison, saying it would be "unconscionable" to spend so much on condemned inmates as the state is slashing budgets for education and other social services. Immigration is also a topic of discussion as the California Dream Act has passed but there is no funding. The film “Why They are Coming” was recommended. After our meeting, we all gathered at a Mission Forum with Sr. Luise Ahrens, Maryknoll Sister from Cambodia. The commitment, intelligence and courage of the Maryknoll Sisters was truly represented by Sr. Luise’s presenation. We also met Gretchen and Bridget Lott, sisters of our friend Sr. Anastasia Lott MM who is in New York. They helped prepare the meal for the benefactors in attendance.
The East Bay members who attended were Jean Easterly, Eva Kamakea, Rosalie Rienzo, Mary Ellen Waite, Guillermo Gonzalez. Some of their recent activities include an Interfaith Project, going to an Islamic Cultural Center, attending a Bar Mitzvah, as well as other intercultural events. They have sister affiliate chapters in Tanzania and Peru. Members have worked at the Catholic Worker and participated in a “Walk Against Genocide”. They have had a retreat in Los Altos, and at the Center this past Palm Sunday. They were interested in the “Just Faith” video that was recently sent out.
From San Lorenzo we drove to Los Altos and met with Spencer Shaw for lunch at the Maryknoll Priests and Brothers House. We had the opportunity to say hello to Fr. Byrne, who had celebrated mass for us at the Missoula, Montana Affiliate Conference. We also spent time with Fr. Bill Boteler, who was key in helping us start the San Diego Chapter. He continues to be very supportive of the Los Altos Chapter. This Chapter is in transition, struggling and going meeting by meeting. It has been mostly involved in presenting speakers. Spencer was finishing details for a presentation on Project Viet Nam that following Saturday by a representative of Catholic Relief Services. Spencer is active with a children's disabilities project in Viet Nam.
After leaving Los Altos, and its beautiful gardens, we drove to Sacramento and were welcomed in the home of Patty and Joe Symkowick. We went out for Thai food and stimulating conversation before going to the Sacramento State Newman Center for the Chapter meeting. Those attending were Carol Murphey, Ann Carroll, Charlotte Donovan, Ernie Gilloley, Bob Ocenosak, Greg Wolfe, Nancy Link, Patty and Joe. The program included a presentation by Nancy Link, a nutritionist, about her experience in Esquipulas, Guatemala with Catholic Health West and Mercy Hospital. Her presentation from the perspective of nutrition was eye opening. The Chapter has collections for “Casa Materna” in Nicaragua, where Nancy has visited through a contact with Kitty Madden.
In response to some basic Appreciative Inquiry questions, some heart warming experiences were Joe and Pattyʼs participation the previous week in New York with the Maryknoll Fathers Deacon Project planning session. The purpose is to have deacons be mission animators. Other examples are: Tony, a young man who works at the Newman Center, served an internship with the Maryknoll Office of Social Concerns and has become an Affiliate; trips to overseas experiences; Fr. Royʼs talk at the Newman Center; sharing experiences of mission travel; CRS speakers; Just Faith connection; Orbis Books is exciting and important for Catholic intellectual thinking; being able to hear about what members are doing and to sustain lay missioners. Their vision for Affiliateʼs future is the Fourth Pillar, ACTION in public policy dealing with global concerns and overseas.
From Sacramento, we continued south and west to the seaside city of Arroyo Grande. We were welcomed in the home of Paula and Dave Schaffner. Dave is a Maryknoll Affiliates Board member. Dave and Paula became affiliates through long time affiliate Mary Ryan Hotchkiss, Paulaʼs sister. That evening we participated in the Central Coast Chapter meeting and pot luck dinner at St. Patrickʼs Catholic Parish. Those attending were Joan McKenna, Margaret Mott, Joyce Milner, Paula and Dave. They discussed “Just Faith” and saw it as a complement to the Affiliates and will consider a joint program to include three parishes in the area. They will submit items for the Time Capsule at the Conference and nominated Mary Ryan Hotchkiss for the Affiliate Award. We all enthusiastically endorsed Maryʼs nomination because of her leadership and tireless work as an affiliate.
The members shared their responses to the Appreciative Inquiry basic question of what was a particularly heartwarming experience. They stated that becoming an Affiliate Chapter, the commitment ceremony and Fr. Charles, from Malawi, celebrating mass were definitely special. Elements important to success were that they are comfortable being organizers, offering service such as to Habitat for Humanity and a Maryknoll benefactors dinner. The vision that attracted them to Maryknoll Affiliates is political alignment with their thoughts, like minded people, especially on social issues.
That night, after more stimulating conversation and watching short videos of both our mission experiences in Namibia and in Mexico, accompanied by a glass of wine, we retired.
Since Dave, representing the Board, and the Santos, as Regional Coordinators (RC), were paired to reflect on four questions regarding the RC organizational experiment, we took advantage of a bagel breakfast to share our thoughts before heading south to our Santa Ana home.
We confirmed and experienced what our new Maryknoll Affiliate Booklet states:
Maryknoll Affiliates are creating a Global Community. Maryknoll Affiliates we met are faith-filled people responding in community to Godʼs call to participate in Jesusʼ mission. Our Chapters gather for prayer, reflection and action. We challenge one another to go beyond borders, locally and globally, to walk with the poor and excluded, and to strive for peace and justice for all of Godʼs creation. We recognize that the Spirit who guides us on our journey moves without boundaries and that Godʼs unconditional love is present in all cultures and peoples.