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Wednesday, 26 October 2011 17:20

Maryknoll Centennial Symposium

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An attempt to summarize the Maryknoll centennial symposium, Church in Mission: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
October 6 – 8, 2011
Catholic Theological Union
Chicago, Illinois

The 2-day centennial symposium on "The Church in Mission: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" explored the development/revelation of the gift of mission in Maryknoll's history. It's secondary but no less important purpose, according to the Symposium brochure, was the discovery of the gift of mission in one's own life journey.

The Symposium was held from Thursday to Saturday, October 6 – 8, 2011 at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Attended by about 200 people, Sisters, priests, brothers, lay missioners, Maryknollers and others, including faculty and students of the Catholic Theological Union, which hosted the gathering.

This report necessarily covers only the plenary sessions; much more information and discussion took place in the break-out sessions. Here are only a few threads of the many riches provided in the presentations.

October 6, 2011, "Mission Ad Gentes: Maryknoll's Journey"

Opening Plenary:

Rev. Stephen Judd, M.M.: Served for three years in the U.S. Air Force. Entered Maryknoll; was ordained a priest in 1978. Was assigned to Peru for 12 years; served on the General Council of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers from 1990 – 1996; reassigned to Peru. Currently is director of the Language Institute in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Sr. Janice McLaughlin, M.M. : Was press secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in the former Rhodesia before being detained and deported by the Ian Smith government. Returned to Zimbabwe to work as education consultant in the President's office, and as training coordinator for Silveira House, a leadership training and development education center. Became president of the Maryknoll Sisters in 2009.

Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick, M.M: Served in Guatamala and on the Vocation Task Force for Recruitment in the U.S. He was the first Brother ever elected to Maryknoll's General Council. Presently is director of life-long formation and continuing Education for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

In the Opening Plenary, the frame of reference was set for the Symposium by Father Steve Judd, M.M. who connected the 1988 Reparations Act, which mandated that reparations be made to the Japanese interned in camps throughout the U.S. during the Second World War, with a turn in Maryknoll's own mission philosophy. The Maryknoll Sisters and priests who chose to stay with those interned to continue their ministry to them, helped to reverse the U.S. xenophobia of Teddy Roosevelt's era. They definitively broke the mission territorial divisions of the Church. Maryknoll joined other pioneers at this new "front line" of the Church.

Sister Janice McLaughlin, president of the Maryknoll Sisters, added that this change in the face of mission moved the Church away from national boundaries, as the geographical locus for mission. A new international solidarity was born, both of missioners and mission. Missioners were, as Steve Judd just showed, those who are the storytellers as well as those who are uprooted and displaced with the people. A missioner, she continued, is one who makes others needed and loved despite where they are located, and in the process one who uncovers and analyzes the root causes of injustice. Above all, to do this, a missioner must be a contemplative in action -–to quote Mother Mary Joseph, the Foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters.

Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick, M.M. continued to lead us to explore Fr. Judd's talk, but from the Brothers' point of view. Brother Thomas McCann, was the first Maryknoll brother. On June 1, 1912, when he arrived at Maryknoll, he challenged the organizers of Maryknoll to think outside the box. "Why not brothers in mission?" he asked. "What dimension could brothers add to the mission effort?"

Wayne picked up also on the contemplative theme that Sr. Janice had added to the discussion. Missioners had to be grounded in the contemplative dimension. Contemplation was not an optional individual form of prayer; it was meant to be part of the spirituality of all Maryknollers. Story telling is also part of the spirituality and part of the work. Missioners bring stories of people from all corners of the world to the rest of the Church.

The future of Maryknoll belongs to the new members, the contemplatives, the lay people; a new Maryknoll mosaic is in the making. He mentioned Dr. Schreiter's "The Challenges Today to Mission Objectives" as a resource to explain the paradigm shift within Maryknoll. How will the many facets of diversity change the work of Maryknoll? Now we are forced to be on the cutting edge in cosmic terms.

What does this mean for collaborative mission work? Can there be a collaborative partnership among missioners? There needs to be a new reawakening on whether we are apostles or disciples (referring to the traditional calling of the followers of Jesus). James E. Walsh said in 1936: "Consider yourselves apostles."

The current context would seem to ask us to fit ourselves as apostles for reconciliation, justice, and peace.

Friday, October 7, 2011 "Mission in the Global Context"

Fr. Robert Schreiter, CPPS:  Holds the Vatican Council II Professorship of Theology at Catholic Theological Union. He lectures and writes in the areas of religion and culture, the mission of the Church, and international peacebuilding and reconciliation.

Sr. Antoinette "Nonie" Gutzler, M.M.: Holds a doctorate in systematic theology from Fordham University, New York. She has served in Tanzania and in Taiwan where she is currently associate professor of theology at Fu Jen University – Faculty of Theology.

Fr. Schreiter:

Maryknoll was founded as an Ad Gentes (going out) mission society. In the context of Vatican II, the responsibility for mission sending was recognized as belonging to all of the baptized. What does this mean for the future forms of mission?

The bigger picture within which Ad Gentes is taking place is:

  • the mission history of the Church is uneven. In many cases, it was closely allied with colonization. In the 19th and 20th centuries it relied on development of infrastructure, especially roads. Of course, a Biblical motivation was always there in Matthew 28 ("Therefore, go and make disciples...") and Luke 14:23 (" Go out into the roads and country lanes and make them come in...")
  • In the past 500 years, globalization has helped to push mission. There has been a spectacular growth of Christianity in some parts of the world – like Africa - yet the number of Christians in the world has remained steady (about 33%)
  • The current context seems to be changing the role of mission sending societies and missioners with the increasing role of the laity, the impact of migration, and globalization. The current context has dramatically compressed time and space. What was the "field afar" is now near. The "gentes" formerly far away are now all around us. Territoriality is no longer part of mission. Life-long dedication to mission work has become shorter term. Nothing is in a pure form anymore: Who is the other? To whom are we sent? Are we the ones to whom others are sent?

Nevertheless, through the use of imagination, mission sending societies were generally the right form for the right time.

Schreiter offered four models of mission today.

  • Mission ad extra – not necessarily going to exotic places, but a self-emptying.
  • Mission ad altera, meaning "the other" or "the different" which might well be around us.
  • Mission in alta, meaning work in depth, unobtrusively, with one's own individual projects (very American)
  • Mission ad vulnera, or mission to the "wound," the wounds in society: between the rich and poor, against injustice; climate change, or advocacy for the earth. In working in the wound, missioners are the bridge-builders.

Maryknoll has served well. Whether it extends itself into the decades ahead depends on its handling of new conditions and a willingness to go "to where God is calling us."

Sr. Nonie Gutzler, M.M.

Sr. gave a positive response to Fr. Schreiter's presentation. She emphasized the "qualitative leap" (that is, the recognition of the Spirit's presence and the new spiritual awareness) that current missioners must take to enter a globalized mission world today.

She added a fifth "mission ad..." to Schreiter's four models: mission ad intra. By this she meant a moment of kenosis, the grace of self-doubt. She also called this a Caananite moment (Matthew 15:21 – 28) Whereas we used to teach and preach as if we possessed the whole of Christ's message, we now enter a new moment, a listening moment, a desert moment of renewal, where we hear the revelation of God coming through the people to whom we are sent.

She asked some questions to test our spirit as missioners.

Do we wish to make the journey? Do we want to enter the post-colonial world, and support the giftedness of the new Christians? Our western form of the message of Jesus is not a potted plant which can simply be carried from culture to culture.

What kind of mission do we want to do? How do we want to enter the present world?

What does Maryknoll have to give to the Church? Maryknoll brings the theological significance of diversity; and a love of the questions of mission more than the answers.

Are we happy missioners? Are we passionate about mission? While God's ways are unfathomable, we can learn from Jesus how to live mission lives.

Before the next plenary session, Gustavo Gutierez, who was attending the conference that day, was introduced to the assembly. He congratulated the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers on their 100th anniversary, and spoke briefly of the mission of the Church today.

2nd Plenary: "Mission in the Global Context – Challenges and Opportunities"

Dr. Dana Robert: is Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission, Boston University School of Theology. She is a lay United Methodist scholar who, with her husband – M.L. Daneel, an expert on African initiated churches in Southern Africa, - she directs the Center for Global Christianity and Mission at the Boston University School of Theology.

Fr. Peter Phan: Born in Vietnam and a priest of the Diocese of Dallas, Texas. Fr. Phan is currently Ignacio Ellacuria Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Peter Phan:

Peter was to talk about the opportunities and the challenges of mission today. His views on the opportunities, he said, were already expressed in the last issue of Concilium. There he presented a study of Christianity and contemporary Communism in North Korea, Myanmar, China and Vietnam. In China, he remarked, Christian mission is at an end. By 2000 there was a vibrant Christianity there which took hold among the laity. The period from 1975 to the present in Vietnam was a period of purification for the Catholic Church.

The challenges for Christians today are:

  • The Catholic Church is still associated with Western colonialism; the Catholic Church is seen also as a political institution. We have to be careful to prove the independence of the Church.
  • He asks: Does it make sense anymore to divide people around national boundaries. Yet we must still consider the role of Christians as part of a political force.
  • We must encounter other religions.
  • We must encounter the challenge of materialism and consumerism. Christianity is wrapped up in capitalism today.
  • What do we do with freedom of religion when people (the laity) don't know what to do about it?

Dr. Dana Robert:

Christian communities are at the core of mission. The laity is involved in evangelization, but they don't have enough theology to express it. Mission ad gentes is alive and well, but coming through a period where we are the "ad gentes" to which others are going.

Among the laity, they feel the spirit, but don't have the vocabulary or theological language with which to talk about it. We have to talk about mission.

Mission is a relationship, relationships with others across boundaries. The biblical foundations for this are that Jesus ate with people, Jesus had friends.

Our job is to develop the theological language to support the experience.

Christians need to create a space where hospitality can be experienced. Mission, through hospitality, is the start of global churches.

Dana asked a few questions about hospitality.

  • Why is friendship and hospitality not enough? It should shift to partnership re: issues of peace and justice.
  • How does it get started? How long does it take?
  • Knowing the language and culture is how it gets started. Establishing friendship, especially the deeper bond beyond friendship is how it gets started. It takes a long time. We are in the second wave of globalization, moving into the third wave. Moving into this third wave, we have to refocus on mission formation; we shouldn't make the same mistakes as the children of the 60's who did not mentor the next generation.

Saturday, October 8, 2011 "The U.S. Church in Mission Ad Gentes"

Francis Cardinal George, OMI: First native Chicagoan to serve as Archbishop of Chicago. Entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1957. In November, 2007, Cardinal George was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a three-year term. As Archbishop of Chicago, he has issued two pastoral letters: on evangelization, "Becoming an Evangelizing People," and on racism, "Dwell in My Love."

Sr. Madge Karecki, SSJ-TOSF:  member of the Sisters of St. Joseph TOSF and is the director of the Office for Mission Education and Animation in the Archdiocese of Chicago. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein, Illinois. She spent 21 years in South Africa.

Francis Cardinal George:

When speaking of the purpose of mission, Maryknoll has been essential to the context of the USCCB (US Council of Catholic Bishops). Cardinal George has always wanted to set up a dialogue between Maryknoll (which brings Christ to the world) and the Paulist Fathers (who were the first U.S. community dedicated to bringing Christ to the U.S.)

Why do people turn to Christ? Because they are searching for 1)completion and 2)conversion or healing.

The Church exists for mission. In the early Church, Paul in Acts had an explosive message: that someone had risen from the dead. The people turned away.

In Gaudium et Spes, the theology of communion is explosive. We are all brothers and sisters, and Vatican Council II was held to change the world through this message.

The classical missionary approach is to convert individuals and to implant the church. Now it is the reverse of giving. Even the missioners receive something from the people to whom they go. Christ is shared.

Primary evangelization takes place in lands where Christ has never been preached before. Secondary evangelization is the renewal of the moral life; we are called to bring the world back to Christ. John Paul II said we are to bring culture back to Christ.

While Vatican II said the purpose of mission is to tell the Truth, John Paul II proclaimed Bishops as pastors; priests are also called to a pastoral role. The context of mission involves lay people at the highest level. Mission is not necessarily done through cardinals!

Missioners have to struggle with the inculturation of Christianity. We inevitably bring culture along with the Christian message, but we shouldn't impose it. Missioners are never totally one with the new culture; but are never totally one with their own culture either.

The missionary approach, given the impact of culture, is to listen, help our own U.S. people into a more cooperative world. We should be ourselves, but in an open way.

Sr. Madge Karecki, SSJ TOSF:

(Sr. explained that her presentation is not a direct response to the Cardinal's presentation, but an individual contribution to the Symposium.)

What would it take to attract young people today to a deep understanding of mission? They have a strong identity with the Catholic Faith as a personal choice, and have evangelical energy. As such, they are the church's future mission leadership.

Their commitment to the Church is a commitment to mission. We should tell them that the mission vocation is less a task than a way of life. It involves a double movement of being called and being sent.

We should tell them of the importance of contemplation. We should tell them that to be in mission is to adopt the way of life of the poor (downward mobility). Mission is an outreach beyond parish borders and the outcome of baptismal commitment. Missioners are called to help people become aware of the transcendent in life. Mission is the lens through which we view the Church.

The legacy of the American missionary movement deserves nothing less.


Dr. Carmen Nanko-Fernandez
Rev. Stephen Bevans, SVD
Rev. James Kroeger, MM

Fr. Kroeger summarized that mission is a gift; it is an exchange – a giving and a receiving. Stories (narrative missiology) convey this, making people feel understood and loved. Mission is relationship and hospitality. The Church is a community of shared gifts, and we have gratitude to all.

Fr. Bevans had hopes for the future. We are living, he said, in the time of the "qualitative leap." Ad Gentes, the mission "cowboy," the "marines of the church" are all finished. The immigrants pouring into the U.S. are here to convert us. The geographical understanding of mission is finished. The foreign missions, which are now the priority of Maryknoll, may shift to mission in the U.S.

We can't do mission in the same way. How is God leading us today?

Dr. Nanko-Fernandez said that missioners work at the margins. In a post-colonial world we must break the chains of colonization. We have to recognize the option for the poor, and see the roots of power for what they are. (Isaiah 65: 17 and Revelation).

Despite all that was so well said at this conference, there is objection to "ad gentes." It is considered too militaristic; there is too much emphasis on the "ad" and too little emphasis on the people, the "gentes."

The Holy Spirit is acting powerfully today and we have to turn and listen!

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