Not So Far Afield is a bimonthly publication of the Maryknoll Affiliates. The name is a play on the title of the original Maryknoll Magazine: The Field Afar.
You may subscribe to Not So Far Afield by email or to be notified when it is posted on our website.
You may also download PDF versions of Not So Far Afield here.
Maryknoll is a movement that began over 100 years ago in the US and has since developed its missionary work throughout the world. This movement is made up of four expressions: Maryknoll Society of Priests and Brothers, Maryknoll Sisters, Maryknoll Lay Missioners and Maryknoll Affiliates. Even though the four expressions evolved at different moments in history and with specific mission focuses, we ask the question, what unites us?
About every other edition, the co-editors of NSFA ask me (I kiddingly claim with some arm-twisting going on) to consider writing an article. Sometimes they suggest a theme and provide leading questions to do so. Here are the fluffy-soft questions they came up with this time: What signs of hope do you see among us? How have we been connecting with the rest of Maryknoll? What is our biggest challenge? All any of us would need to effectively address these questions is a lifetime plus a few more weeks. Of course, these are very worthy questions for where we find ourselves today. With that in mind, and with unawareness of my limitations, some thought on those questions follows.
I have been working on answering that question my whole life. Perhaps that is what enticed me to become involved with the Maryknoll Affiliate pilot of the same name: Quo Vadis, Where Are You Going? Maryknoll Affiliate Executive Coordinator Bob Short, board member Bill Murphy, and Greater Boston Affiliate Kathy Morrison met to write the draft of this pilot program after learning that, according to some sources, over 2,000,000 people go on immersion trips each year. How are these cross-cultural experiences affecting their lives? What impact, if any, will their experiences have on decisions they make later in life? What kinds of jobs they will take; how will they view and treat those who look and act differently based on culture, race, and/or socio-economical differences? Where is God in all of this? These questions became the basis of the pilot program.
Local churches and community advocates took to the streets for a Palm Sunday Peace Parade of about 225 community members, including five Maryknoll Affiliates and eight Maryknoll Sisters. The Los Angeles Maryknoll Affiliates and several other organizations sponsored the Pasadena Palm Sunday Peace Parade. The parade marchers first gathered at the Reformation Lutheran Church where they listened to brief inspirational words from community members before parading to Paseo Colorado. They went out with “palm branches in one hand and peace signs in the other” in a Palm Sunday-style celebration of peace.
The word “water” is cited forty-seven times in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’. This demonstrates the great value and concern Pope Francis places on water as a sacred and essential part of life.
Though water is essential to life, we take it for granted when we reach for a glass of water. Most humans will perish after three days without drinking water. It is so central to maintaining life on our planet that, at times throughout history, water has been used as a tool in military confrontations and has been the source of regional and local conflicts and transboundary disputes.
Pope Francis identifies key problems related to water:
Since we are looking forward to the 2017MAC in Guatemala, which is offering a post conference trip to El Salvador, anything Salvadoran catches our eye. The Catholic News Service and other publications recently announced that a law passed in 2017 phases out all mining for metals in that Central American country. Last year the Salvadoran government won a $300 million lawsuit brought against it by a unit of a Canadian-Australian mining giant, Oceana Gold. The government had denied mining permits to a new project; the company then sued for lost profits. Activists reported that recent deaths were related to disputes over mining and that mining operations have caused water and soil contamination. Demonstrations, a petition signed by 30,000 people, and advocacy by the Salvadoran Catholic Church pushed their congress to institute the ban.
Similarly, a New York Times article, “El Salvador, Prizing Water Over Gold, Bans All Metal Mining,” reported, “Declaring that El Salvador’s fragile environment could not sustain metal mining operations, legislators across the political spectrum approved the ban, which had broad support, particularly from the influential Roman Catholic Church.” (March 29, 2017 - https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/world/americas/el-salvador-prizing-water-over-gold-bans-all-metal-mining.html?_r=0)
Did you or your Maryknoll Affiliate chapter celebrate Earth Day? Were you able to participate in the Climate March in Washington, DC, April 29, or in some related event in your community?
In Washington, DC, the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns met for Mass at St. Dominic Church before the Climate March on Saturday, April 29th. The day before the March, MOGC invited participants to the Catholic Climate Covenant’s free lobby training (http://www.catholicclimatecovenant.org/) , followed by a pot luck dinner, film, and prayers.
A recent communication from Maryknoll Affiliate Robert Guice of Houston shows what active missioners the Houston Affiliates are:
In January, Dick Horstman joined a group of parishioners to take more than 100 gifts to the children of Piedras Negras, help at a soup kitchen, and deliver other gifts to an orphanage there. In March and April, he helped take youth and adults from four different high schools and a parish on mission trips to Eagle Pass, near the US/Mexico border.
Bob and Ruth Kleeman also went on a mission trip to Eagle Pass at a different time in March.
Ron Covey continues spending considerable time at his mission, Caminando Por La Paz in Guatemala City, where they work in many ways to be good neighbors, including tutoring 60 young students and distributing free shoes. Ron and Robert also staffed the Maryknoll Booth at a Vocation Expo at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston. In July, Ron and Henry Yu will staff the “Sweatshop” booth at the Diocesan Youth Conference.
Several members will be traveling to Guatemala in November to participate in MAC 2017. If you will be there, too, plan to chat with the Houston Affiliates for ideas to take home to your own chapter.
At the Seattle Maryknoll Affiliates’ April meeting, Ralph Maughan, an Affiliate since 1996, spoke about his recent trip to Bangkok to visit Maryknoll Brothers John Beeching and Tim Raible and to pursue his other mission activities in Southeast Asia.
Both Brothers John and Tim have been friends of the Seattle Affiliates for many years. In 1997, Brother John visited the Seattle Affiliate Chapter and gave a talk about his work in Thailand. As a consequence, the chapter invited Brother John to be the keynote speaker at the first regional conference Seattle hosted in 2003. Brother Tim Raible was in charge of the Seattle Maryknoll House for five or more years in the early 2000s. Brother Tim was actively engaged with the Seattle Affiliates during that time, attending monthly meetings and assisting and involving the Affiliates in numerous ways.
Brother John’s influence also impacted many of the Affiliates besides Ralph. He invited Affiliates to come to Bangkok and to teach English to the monks and refugees in the Buddhist wats. Brother John’s message certainly impacted the lives of Ralph and his wife Kate. Both of them have visited Bangkok almost yearly to assist Brother John in teaching English to the monks.
Their mission trips gradually extended beyond Bangkok. Ralph and Kate spent six weeks in East Timor with Fr. Bill O’ Leary, MM. They installed solar panels in some buildings, repaired the rectory bathroom, and assisted in a feeding program. They are most likely the first and last Affiliates to work in East Timor with Maryknoll.
Ralph and Kate have also made almost yearly trips to Burma (Myanmar) through the invitation of Brother John. The area they visit in Northeastern Myanmar has been one of the most problematic and dangerous parts of the country. The Maughans worked in partnership with a congregation of sisters from Ireland. In Myanmar, Ralph and Kate installed solar panels on an HIV/AIDS home, on the sisters’ residence and on a children’s home. They also bought food and medicines for some needy Myanmarese.
In a new phase of his mission life, Ralph is now serving as Co-Regional Coordinator for the Northwest Maryknoll Affiliates along with me, Janet Quillian.
Stimulated by the Affiliate Book Group’s discussion of Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Abounding in Kindness, I eagerly anticipated hearing her talk at a local university. She asked, “Is God’s Charity Broad Enough for Bears?” Johnson has been criticized by some Catholic groups because of her support for giving women greater authority in the church and her willingness to speak at meetings of Catholics who disagree with the church on some issues, but here she was greeted as a one who should be on a theological Mt. Rushmore because of her achievements and role in American theological thought.
Johnson told the packed auditorium that nineteenth century naturalist John Muir claimed God’s charity is broad enough for bears. If so, she asked us why believers and theologians haven’t stepped in to protect the earth from its destruction by human domination and consumerism. She presented one obstacle and proposed three remedies to this disastrous situation. Johnson posited that the major obstacle to protecting the earth is a theology that puts humans at the peak of a pinnacle, a little lower than God, but in dominion/domination above all creatures and the material world. Drawing from evolutionary science and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, she presented the challenge that loving the Earth and its species as a neighbor must become an intrinsic part of faith in God. She emphasized that humans are a part, not the pinnacle, and even a recent arrival according to evolutionary science, to the circle of creation.
After quoting extensively from Laudato Si’, Johnson proposed three spiritual practices to foster care for the earth: Contemplation, Asceticism, and Advocacy. Contemplation will bring us into connection with our true nature and our proper relationship with the earth and fellow creatures. An Asceticism that turns us from unbridled consumerism will allow us to recognize our appetites and will minimize our harming the rest of creation. Once we truly feel and accept that we are just a part of this vast community of creation we will feel impelled to Advocate for the well-being for the whole of creation.
As a US Maryknoll Affiliate, MLK Day and the presidential inauguration caused me to step back to re-evaluate and consider how we might step forward. So I have gone back to notes and excerpts from books I’ve read the last couple years to look for helpful guidance. 2017 is an amazing time, in so many respects. I feel very unqualified to be living now and to respond to all that this era demands. In particular, we face a crisis of millennia with climate change – a crisis we/our culture have brought on, and which will take the lives of many if we do not do something about it very soon. We are late in the game, so I must and will say very clearly: it is time for us to get off of fossil fuels—now—all of us. Ethical, even pro-life action carries a deeper urgency and moral call. This is something we must do. It’s as big a deal as the Holocaust.
The 2017 Maryknoll Affiliate Book Groups are enjoying reading the Orbis book, Abounding in Kindness, by Elizabeth Johnson. The two groups, who meet on Tuesday and Sunday, are composed of people calling in from across the United States. They look forward to the weekly telephone conference calls and share highlights of the discussion by email. Some questions and reflections are posted on Facebook or the Affiliate web site.
Caminando Por La Paz focuses on education of children in one of the most marginalized barrios of Guatemala City. However, this Catholic Worker house, staffed by Affiliates from both Guatemala and Texas, uses a variety of ways to educate, including financial support, tutoring, healthy meals, community connections and spiritual activities, enrichment and development trips, and coffee sales.
Now, in 2017, 24 children in various schools, including four students in universities, receive financial support. Some children receive full scholarships while others receive only partial assistance, based on need.
Tutors work with the older children in the morning and the younger in the afternoon. The tutoring program, an important aspect of the educational effort, includes more than 60 kids and is growing. It is close to outgrowing the space available. As part of our tutoring program, we provide a nutritious meal before tutoring begins. Cross Catholic International provides partial support for the meals.
Although educating children remains our focus, we have provided several educational and spiritual trips for students and neighbors to allow them to better know their own culture and to build community. We have taken these biannual trips to Esquipulas and Antigua. We visited the revered black crucifix in the southern city of Esquipulas and took a guided walk in Antigua to visit locations related to the life of the local saint, Hermano Pedro. In addition to planned activities on the trips, some free time is allowed, and the day ends with a holy hour.
We also hold a holy hour each week at the Caminando Por La Paz house. The holy-hour format is simple: an opening prayer, the readings of the day, discussion, and a closing prayer. The number of neighbors participating varies and is slowly increasing.
We strive to be an important and accepted member of the community. A new program that we will continue in 2017 is shoe distribution. In 2016, we distributed shoes from Shoes to the World (http://www.shoestotheworld.org/) to about 200 neighborhood children.
We are very excited that MAC 2017 will be in Guatemala and have helped in the planning. We hope conference attendees can bring donations for our program. We need school and sports supplies, and more. You may download a list of needs (Click here.). We are praying for a super angel to help replace our aging pick-up truck and even to obtain another house to be used for tutoring and other programs. (Contact Ron with your questions or for financial donations.)
We look forward to seeing you at the conference and invite you to visit Caminando Por La Paz whenever you come to Guatemala.