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.
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.
After about two years of co-meditation in a small Maryknoll contemplative group, I am sharing and putting into words what our experience is and what it means to me. Since I have many years in the traditional church structure, I approach my experience of our co-meditation group within the context of sacrament.
These definitions clarify my use of the term sacrament:
The Sacramental Principle: That which is always and everywhere true (the eternal Cosmic Christ), on occasion needs to be recognized, acknowledged, and celebrated. —Michael Himes,1996
Fr. Himes uses the term true; I expand that notion to that which is beautiful, transformative, anything which leads us to an in-depth encounter with our true self and the other.
The Global Vision of Affiliates shines forth in this issue. Global Vision is one of the Pillars of the Maryknoll Affiliate Movement, along with Spirituality, Community, and Action. In this issue we see Affiliates praying for detained children, holding public demonstrations against the separation of immigrant parents and children, and assisting their parish in welcoming and supporting refugees. From Haiti to Mexico to Tanzania, Peru and Cuba, across the US and beyond, the Global Vision of Affiliates recognizes the beauty in other people and other cultures.
Given the fear of the other and violence against refugees or immigrants in the US and in the world, how do Affiliates develop such a Global Vision? Maryknollers and Affiliates come together in chapters for prayer, forming a community and taking action—some in their home communities, some abroad. They cross borders to encounter the other. Getting to know another person and culture seems to dispel fear of the other and develop what we call Global Vision. Sometimes we even “catch” Global Vision at a regional or international meeting such as at MAC 2020 in New York, or MAC 2017 in Guatemala. Visits from missioners who have it, or Maryknoll magazine, can also help Global Vision “go viral.” Tell us how you “caught” Global Vision.
Articles in this issue:
Refugees: Refused or Welcomed? – "As a Maryknoll Affiliate, I am proud to be part of this ministry to vulnerable people from whom I learn so much."—Gail Kelley
2019 All Maryknoll Contemplative Retreat – "As always, the Holy Spirit was very active."—Bertha Haas
Looking Forward to MAC 2020 – "Perhaps we are being asked to respond in new ways..."—Nancy Sylvester, IHM
Spiritual Healers Gather – Sweet Medicine Nation would speak for “all of those who have no voice ... the trees, the water, and the animals.”
Solidarity, the Border, and Right-to-Life – "Every night my sisters keep asking me, ‘When will our mommy come to get us?' "—a detained immigrant youth
Working with the Migrants – "These people leave their homes with little in the way of material items, spend nights outside in the cold desert, and yet are patient and grateful."—Maureen Doyle
Affiliates Join Fort Sill Protest -– "Our 10-hour bus ride to and from Fort Sill was little inconvenience compared to what those on the border are having to deal with!"—Patty Hinton
When Two or Three Are Gathered -– "Haitians are proud of their history as early adopters of democracy."—Renate Schneider
Active in Seattle – "We are nurtured by our community and by the support we all receive from connecting at the monthly meetings."
How to Cultivate Nonviolence? – "We’d appreciate your suggestions for cultivating the nonviolent message of Christ."—Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss
Learn more about your Maryknoll Affiliate Board and Executive Coordinator in these articles:
And be sure to enjoy the Features in this issue:
If you are more comfortable reading the Not So Far Afield in its print form, you may download a pdf of the November/December issue.
The Trump administration slashed the “cap” on the number of refugees accepted into the US in fiscal year 2019 to 30,000, and has admitted just 18,051 as of May 31, 2019.* The Pew Research Center says, “the United States plans to admit a maximum of 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020, down from a cap of 30,000 in the one that ended Sept. 30, 2019, under a new refugee admissions ceiling set by the Trump administration.”
Affiliate Gail Kelley responds to refugees differently. She wrote for Maryknoll magazine in 2016 about “Seeing the Face of Christ” in refugees and now gives an update on the progress of one refugee family. Quoting from the 2016 article: “The Refugee Resettlement Ministry (RRM) at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, my parish in Raleigh, NC, … which was initiated in 1986, has assisted in resettling 33 families.” Gail says the Semahoro family is typical of their experience.
Gail Kelley greets the Semahoros in the airport.
Bashir Semahoro, a Congolese native, arrived with his family in Raleigh in October 2013. “We were cattle ranchers in the Congo when we were attacked by another indigenous tribe,” he said. “My parents were killed, my wife raped, and one of my children lost. My wife, three daughters, my brother, and I escaped with nothing but the clothes on our backs. It took us four months to walk to Ethiopia, where we were placed in a refugee camp operated by the United Nations.”
Gail wrote, “The members of our RRM have indeed seen the face of Christ in the strangers we have welcomed. They have inspired us with their unshakable faith, their unquenchable desire to be free in spite of persecution and imprisonment, their family values, their joy in simplicity, and their determination to become full and productive Americans. As a Maryknoll Affiliate, I am proud to be part of this ministry to vulnerable people from whom I learn so much.”
Gail Kelley, surrounded by the Semahoro family, developed a long-term friendship with them during their years in Raleigh.
Update: Gail keeps in contact with the family and sends this update: The Semahoro Family now lives in Austin, Texas, have a mortgage on a home, and are speaking fluent English. Both parents have full-time jobs. Aline, their oldest daughter, is attending community college on a scholarship to study nursing.
The Refugee Resettlement Ministry in Raleigh has since settled two families from the Congo and a Muslim family from Afghanistan. It now looks forward, at the end of 2019, to settling its 36th family.
If you are interested in Refugee Resettlement, initial or ongoing, go to: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr and click on State Program Directory for the voluntary agencies in your area.
*Note: Read more about the US reductions of legally vetted refugees at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/26/us/politics/trump-refugees.html.
Coming in June 2020 is the Maryknoll Affiliate Conference—a once-in-three-years experience not to be missed. MAC 2020 will be held at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center in the Hudson Valley, New York, from Thursday through Sunday, June 25-28. To learn more about what is planned, see the conference website, MKMAC.org.
To encourage broad attendance, the Maryknoll Affiliate Board is again offering grants for full or partial coverage of the conference fee and travel costs. Ideally, every chapter of the over 50 chapters worldwide will have a representative at the Conference. Are finances keeping you from attending?
To apply for funding, go to MKMAC.org and click on either English or Spanish at the top. On the drop-down menu, choose Register. On that page, click on the Travel Grant option. Following instructions, fill out and submit the form. Ask your Chapter Contact or Regional Coordinator to send a letter of recommendation to the address shown on the form.
Along with the Travel Grant, we encourage you to explore and consider other supplemental funding sources. For example, some chapters may help with either funds or frequent flyer miles. At recent MACs, as many as 15 attendees benefited from grant assistance, and we hope that as many or more will be assisted through the 2020 program.
My week in an all-Maryknoll contemplative retreat, held at the Lake House of Prayer in Mwanza, Tanzania, was special and very beneficial. The view of Lake Victoria was conducive to silent prayer and refreshment. Members of each of the four Maryknoll entities participated, coming from the US, Japan, Kenya, and Tanzania.
In September, While the stage was being set for the October Amazon Synod in Rome, Maryknoll Lay Missioner Kathy Bond, who has been serving in Brazil for decades, attended the Convergence of International Women: We are Medicine conference in Peru. She asked several attendees what their message would be for the Amazon Synod. These are two of her reports:
Miliwanga Wurrben, a traditional healer and elder, represents a remote area in Northern Territory, Australia.
Sweet Medicine Nation from Oregon, of Chickasaw lineage and of multicultural heritage, said if invited to the Amazon Synod, she would speak for “all of those who have no voice ... the trees, the water, and the animals.”
To learn more about the issues the indigenous peoples face in the Americas and elsewhere, search on “indigenous” on https://maryknollogc.org/.
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.
We gathered in solidarity with the immigrant children being held in detention at the US border, and in support of a Catholic Day of Action in El Paso, October 12. A small group of Catholics, including Maryknoll Affiliates, gathered in front of the Cathedral of St. Mary in Portland that same Saturday. Our actions were inspired by the three national “Catholic Day of Action” events held on July 18 in Washington, DC, September 4 in New Jersey, and October 12 in El Paso. The Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, at https://maryknollogc.org/calendar/el-paso-catholic-day-action-immigrant-children explained why:
We launched the campaign after we were shocked by images in a recent Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general’s report showing immigrant and refugee children detained in cages, separated from family members, and living in unsanitary, unhealthy conditions.
When we arrived in Green Valley, AZ, this year, my husband Bob wanted to work with the migrants in some way. Little did we know that a floodgate-full of opportunities would flow to us.
It started with the Santa Cruz Valley Border Issues Fair and Common Ground on the Border conference in Sahuarita, AZ. About 300 people from many faith traditions attended, many of them local but others from all over the US and even as far away as Italy. The program introduction stated, “The Borderlands is the perfect place to explore the arts, touch the culture, and have deeper conversations about the complicated issues that collide here.”
First we went on a field trip, hiking through the desert. I found it challenging, and it had to be difficult for the two men and one teenager we honored that day—they must have run out of food and water. We honored each one with poetry and songs as we came upon the crosses where their remains had been discovered. Three thousand bodies have been discovered in the Tucson area since the year 2000.
The end of July, I traveled with the group, Heartland for Human Justice, to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Over 100 from St. Louis joined us. All of us wanted to emphasize that the current situation for immigrants entering our country lacks common decency. Children are separated from their parents and placed in an inadequate shelter, where food and medical care are sorely lacking. Our 10-hour bus ride to and from Fort Sill was little inconvenience compared to what those on the border are having to deal with!
The world view of the indigenous people of the Amazon can best be characterized as:
Answer: You’ll find it in the article, “God in all things: Synod looks at indigenous ‘theology of creation'."
To learn more about the Amazon Synod, go to the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns website (https://maryknollogc.org/resources/resources-synod-amazon).
By coincidence, Affiliates Renate Schneider, from Haiti and Chicago, and Mary Gill and Patrick Denevan, from Oaxaca and Portland, were all in Portland, Oregon, on family visits at the same time recently. When we gathered and enjoyed a stimulating conversation about the challenges of life in our various communities, I was reminded of the quote, “Wherever two or three are gathered...”
Renate has worked many years in Haiti, both at the University she founded and through Haitian Connection (HatianConnection.org) building houses and working with women in Jeremie. Mary and Pat had both been Maryknollers, then raised a family that includes an adopted mixed-race daughter. They were founders of the Portland Maryknoll Affiliates, becoming Maryknoll Lay Missioners in their retirement, then finally staying in Oaxaca in their second “retirement.” They live in an ecological adobe home and demonstration farmlet and work with the local indigenous people.
Renate said that in Haiti every meeting, even government gatherings, begins with a prayer, so we did, too. We prayed for our leaders and all ethnic groups, to remember we are brothers and sisters, all children of God. Renate told us Haitians are fervently Christian but also accept voodoo as an overlay to their faith. They believe in the power of voodoo and the people frequently see spirits. Mary Gill commented that she and the Oaxacans also sense spirits. She told of a neighbor who hiked to a cave in a nearby mountain where he saw a woman all dressed in white: the Madonna?
Haitians are proud of their history as early adopters of democracy. It seems they all know their history. They are well aware that they are a beautiful people and cannot be made to feel inferior. If an outsider makes an unknowing negative remark, they try not to take it personally. They stand tall and straight even when they’re not carrying heavy loads on their heads. We shared that all our communities experience racism based on skin color. Pat said that at AA meetings in Oaxaca, many men had commented that their dark skin color made them feel inferior. Since most people in Haiti have fairly dark skin, this form of racism may not be as common there as in the US and Mexico.
Daily life in Haiti has its challenges. Intermittent electricity may make it difficult to keep cell phones and computers charged. Renate may stock the refrigerator with food only to find that the electricity will be off and then have to share the food with her neighbors rather than let it spoil. The University has an electrical generator, but then someone had to remember to have gasoline to run it on hand. In order to have water in her house, she needs to be sure the water tank on the roof gets filled.
Working with therapists and mental health professionals, Renate related how many of the Haitian’s emotional ills express themselves in pains in their bodies. The Denevans see the same phenomenon in the indigenous people of Oaxaca.
Renate was shocked by the obvious homelessness in the US.
In Haiti, people’s families take them in even if they have to sleep 20 to a room.
Political unrest in Haiti which has been in the news has caused a decrease in tourism and disrupted daily life. One hotel which had employed over 200 people was down to 20 local employees. The effects of unemployment cascade through the society because each working person might support 10 others. Airlines canceling flights at the last minute because of the unrest also created problems for travelers, workers, or volunteers coming to the island. Corruption in political and government offices is widespread and occurs at all levels.
We agreed that it is difficult to change a culture that seems to accept corruption, or bullying, or discrimination, but, each in our own way, we must live out our Christian values.
The following report is condensed from Pat Bader’s minutes of the October 12 Seattle Chapter meeting.
To begin the meeting, Al Drinkwine read his poem entitled, “An Earthly Letter to Our Heavenly Father,” his response when a priest suggested that he write a letter to God.
Discussion: We explored, “Why do we attend the monthly Affiliate meetings?” using the Four Affiliate Pillars as a starting point. Some comments:
Spirituality binds us together as a group.
Community: We are nurtured by our community and by the support we all receive from connecting at the monthly meetings.
Global Vision: The Not So Far Afield newsletters keep us in contact with Affiliate activities worldwide.
Action: We volunteer together locally and internationally.
Chapter roles: After three summers of coordinating Affiliates to help the Maryknoll priests during their weekend mission appeals at parishes, Carolyn Creighton has handed on the job to Janet Quillian. Carolyn is also stepping down as Chapter Coordinator, to be replaced by Kitty Schiltz, who was nominated and unanimously approved.
Presentation: Al and Jerrie Drinkwine gave an enthusiastic and informative presentation on their 8-day trip to Cuba in April to “Support the Cuban People.” They received friendly welcomes everywhere and stayed at B&Bs to experience local hospitality and culture. The 1950s vintage vehicles are a favorite mode of transportation for tourists. The already fragile economy had collapsed further after the Russians withdrew from Cuba in 1990.