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.
In his address to the Maryknoll Society Centennial Symposium in 2011*, Fr. Steven Judd, MM, reminded us of three traditional marks or traits that characterize Maryknoll Spirituality. They are affability, availability, and adaptability. When I read his comments on them recently, I said to myself, “Well, they’re pretty accurate.” If I were to describe Maryknollers, I might not use the same words, but the ideas are readily apparent to anyone who has been around the Maryknoll family. I began to realize that these three qualities are reflective of the Maryknoll people we encounter and love, and are also aspirational. They present for us real goals, lofty and achievable, that help define who we are.
In August 2014, I learned through Partners of the Americas (Oregon is Costa Rica’s Partner) about the JumpStart Program’s need for English teachers in Costa Rica. I had wanted to visit Costa Rica again, and this seemed like a good way to both volunteer and revisit the country.
Robert Guice, contact person for the Houston Affiliates, describes their chapter as “actively pursuing and supporting short term mission.”
This chapter is grateful for the presence of Fr. Gerry Kelly, MM, and for the Houston Maryknoll House where they hold their meetings. They are active supporters of Maryknoll, helping at mission fairs and at diocesan meetings. The Galveston-Houston Diocese strongly supports mission, having many sister parishes, short-term mission trips to the border regions, and great synergy with Affiliates. Many of the members are very active with the diocese and the Texas Mission Council. Since many of the Affiliates go to various mission sites, chapter meetings are planned when people are in town.
The heavens opened over San Salvador on May 22, 2015, during the evening of the beatification ceremony of Oscar Romero. Tens of thousands of people from every corner of the world, the majority campesinos from El Salvador, congregated for the vigil Mass. For the Salvadoran campesinos, this had been a mostly dry “rainy season,” and the pouring rain was a blessing. As the vigil Mass continued, I sought refuge from the curtains of water in the midst of the sea of people around me. Soon I made eye contact with an old lady who was standing under her umbrella. Most likely my look made her signal me to join her. Not too long after, another old lady who was trying to cover herself with a small piece of plastic came to stand with us; then a boy of about 12 years with a gentle look in his eyes also joined us.
In 2014, several Affiliates reported on their part in Campaign Nonviolence (CNV) in the Not So Far Afield, and the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns endorsed the Campaign. The CNV web site reports that over 100 actions are already planned to connect the dots between war, poverty, and climate change.
In 2004, my wife, Katy, and I took a break from teaching and moved to Reno to do organizing work for the 2004 election. After the election, we returned to teaching and opened up a project-based middle school program with an existing Montessori school. Both experiences connected us to a great community of energetic locals who eventually helped us launch “Be the Change.”
Some people enter our lives
slipping in and out
of the woods.
They touch our earth
and as we stop
to look at them
they disappear as quietly
as they came
But you feel blessed
for having experienced
their gentle presence
And you give thanks
that the world
is a better place
because of the joy
—Sr. Joan Metzner, MM
Reno Affiliate Ellie Hays, a military veteran, former pit boss at Harrah’s Casino, special friend of the Maryknoll Sisters, and a dedicated advocate for peace and justice, has made it her personal mission to give laminated prayer cards to whomever she thinks needs some special attention.
This poem is one of her favorites. Sr. Joan Metzner, who was on mission in Japan, passed away December 31, 2004.
A forum of adult learning and reflection on world church and mission
July 5-10 Albino Barrera, OP – Everyday Holiness: Sacred Scripture’s Teaching on Economic Life
July 12-17 Ched Myers, MA – Denial or Discipleship? Bioregional Theology and Practice in a World
of Ecological Ultimatums
July 19-24 Antoinette (Nonie) Gutzler, MM – Compassion: Witness to Love
Sept. 16-19 Edwina Gateley, MA – Our Call to Personal and Global Transformation (Los Altos, CA)
Sept. 20-25 Edwina Gateley, MA – Soul Sisters: Women Called to Connect, Bond and Heal in a Broken World (Monrovia, CA)
For details, visit http://maryknollsisters.org/maryknoll-mission-institute.
“We are created to read the book of creation
so that we may know the Author of Life.”-
—Ilia Delio, OSF
Global Vision is one of the 4 pillars of the Maryknoll Affiliates, along with Community, Spirituality, and Action. This issue recognizes the charism of Global Vision in the special connections between Affiliates and the peoples of the Americas. On our cover Gail Kelley describes Resurrection at the US border. Victor Maqque, from Puno, Peru, now working at Notre Dame University in the US, tells a moving story of attending the beatification of the Salvadoran martyr, Oscar Romero. The profile of the Houston chapter displays their work at the border and in other countries. Another Affiliate searched out a program that gives youth in Costa Rica a jumpstart.
Resurrection At the Border – “We visited all of the community centers where members spoke of heart-wrenching experiences and the reasons they came to the US. Children shared their hopes and dreams for their future in this country.“—Gail Kelley
Saint Dorothy Day? – Ellsberg delves into not only the pros and cons of canonizing Dorothy Day, but also the whole concept of sainthood.
The Three A’s of Maryknoll Spirituality – “So, for us Affiliates, I would like to present his challenge: How do we, both as individual Affiliates and as chapters, live out affability, availability, and adaptability?”—John Moritz
Campaign Nonviolence – The CNV web site reports that over 100 actions are already planned to connect the dots between war, poverty, and climate change.
Be the Community – “We grow our own food, live electricity-, car-, and fossil-fuel free, offer classes and workshops on the gift economy, and are of service in a variety of ways.”—Kyle Chandler-Isacksen
Pilgrimage in El Salvador – “All of us attending the beatification were on a pilgrimage. We walked to the sacred places in San Salvador, encountering so many friends, and, most importantly, companions in the faith.”—Victor Maqque
Houston: an Inspiration – "Since many of the Affiliates go to various mission sites, chapter meetings are planned when people are in town."—Robert Guice
JumpStart Needed in Costa Rica – "The students realized that learning English could be fun, that they could learn by making mistakes."—Gabriela Maertens
Global Vision in Phoenix – “We are doing what Pope Francis is calling us to do, to go to the margins.”—John Meyer
for poetry, prayer requests, and links to Maryknoll Sisters’ and MOGC news and events.
“We join with you in a global vision and option for the poor. We are not alone. We are in solidarity,” say the Phoenix Affiliates to the world and to other Affiliates.
A review of Christianity and the Political Order: Conflict, Cooptation, and Cooperation, by Kenneth R Himes, published by Orbis, 2013.
Himes traces the relationship between church and state from Old Testament times to post-Vatican II. After defining terms, he relates the tug-of-war, each trying to achieve dominance until finally arriving at democracy and separation of church and state under the US Constitution. Then in the final portion of the book, Himes discusses contemporary issues that involve both the government and religion, emphasizing the evolution in the Catholic Church’s teaching.
Easter and this issue are about new beginnings and renewal. Your co-editors are celebrating our third anniversary of the month we began our role on the NSFA in response to Fred Goddard’s planned departure as the Affiliates’ executive coordinator. Since then, we have surveyed Affiliates about our communications; Paula has maintained our web presence with a blog and now on our updated website; and we have introduced some new features to the NSFA, such as the Easy Meeting: A Tale of Discernment.
The Affiliates are now updating and expanding our database and email list. Please respond to your Regional Coordinator and contact person, updating your and your chapter’s contact information. Also, be sure to complete the Board’s survey, introduced on page 1. We hope that every Affiliate who uses email will receive Affiliate email communications. If you wish, you may also receive the paper version of the NSFA.
An Affiliate has challenged us in what Bob Short characterized as a love letter to the NSFA. The letter said in part, “I have never enjoyed an issue of the NSFA as much as March/April 2015... Do it again, if you can.”
Survey of the Affiliate Movement: A Call to Dialogue for all Affiliates – “As we move into the future and celebrate this great gift of our charism as Maryknoll Affiliates, we very much look forward to hearing from you. “—Ann Carr and Rich Lessard
Saying Goodbye to Bob Metzger – “In early March, the San Diego Chapter of Maryknoll Affiliates met in the home of Erin and Spencer Rickwa to remember Bob Metzger with stories, songs, and prayer.”—Joe Santos
A Day with Peace Activist Amos Gvirtz – “A peace activist and pacifist, his personal moral choices have come at a cost, being labeled a “self-hating Jew” shunned by family and community.”—David Stocker
Easy Meeting: A Tale of Discernment – “It's a way of trying to be in touch with what really gives us life and paying attention to how God is present in that.”—Jim and Karen Halberg Weaver
Return to Field of Dreams – “We hope these pictures of our time this year in Chipole, along with the readings, will give an idea of our journey.”—Roger and Kitty Schiltz
A Return to Galilee – “Our 24-year-old movement, influenced by challenges within and beyond Maryknoll, is growing more international, responding to the wider prophetic voices of our Church and world.”—John Moritz and Ann Carr
Western Region Affiliate Conference – "Love in Action – Mission on the Margins"
Midwest Gathering – a retreat in Wisconsin
for poetry, prayer requests, and links to Maryknoll Sisters’ and MOGC news and events.
For peace activists on the front line, it is true you can feel small, alone and ineffective. But still you demonstrate to bring issues to light. This makes authorities uncomfortable, and you may feel like well...we are just three people protesting. You will probably never know that maybe your action just prevented a massacre from going forward.
—Amos Gvirtz, Israeli peace activist, author
Photo by skip schiel © teeksaphoto.org
Amos Gvirtz is an unassuming Israeli man. A peace activist and pacifist, his personal moral choices have come at a cost, being labeled a “self hating Jew” shunned by family and community. Yet he leads tours for international humanitarian visitors and joins demonstrations in the Negev and in the West Bank to expose the atrocious human rights violations. He has had a long time to think over his position. I was excited to find out he was going to tour the US and Canada this April, and I made sure to bring him to speak in Rockford, Illinois.
Amos presented at Emmanuel Lutheran Church and at the mosque of the Muslim Association of Greater Rockford. It was a teaching of a suppressed history, refreshingly free from political agenda. Amos gave clear answers to our questions. But he also commented on the nature of community, and he shared a message for all peace activists in our struggles to Think Globally and Act Locally. He said,
What was very special for me to see was this church that is so much about peace. Where peace is central to it. It was wonderful. And to see Muslims visit the church and Christians visit the mosque to be together is really peace itself. For me this was impressive.
After his presentation, we talked till late about the power of convictions, the polarization and militarization of identity groups, and the terrible consequences of letting loyalty take the place of moral judgment.
Next morning at the bus station we ran into a Rockford philanthropist who was a sponsor in the creation of Rockford›s Keeling Puri Peace Plaza in 2000. As a music educator who is also a peace activist, I performed music and led children›s activities at the Keeling Puri Peace Plaza on International Day of Peace since the first event 9/21/01 (imagine that time) thru 2010. But I challenged the absence of the Palestinian flag from the circle of flags representing those immigrant populations that have made Rockford their home in America. The peace plaza policy regarding displayed flags required “statehood.”
What could I say to Palestinian friends here? Same as world politics...you do not exist; you must wait and be patient. I was advised by Day of Peace event organizers that my selections of peace music should not carry an anti war message. At the time I was preparing the song, “Imagine,” by John Lennon, with a group of children.
In this chance encounter at the bus station—introducing the Israeli peace activist and the Rockford philanthropist, I asked if the UN’s recognition of Palestine as a state would mean the Palestinian flag could fly over the Peace Plaza. She said maybe this could be reconsidered. A new day...
In all our lives, but especially as we ponder where and how to invest our mission efforts, we face a discernment process. What is our role in God’s plan?
1. Read through the entire meeting plan.
2. Plan who will read the passages.
3. Determine which discussion questions to use at your meeting and who will lead the discussions.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think that I am following
Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything
Apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right
Road though I may know
Nothing about it.
Therefore, will I trust you
Always though I may seem lost
And in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you
Are forever with me, and you will never leave me
To face my perils alone.
While still in Bolivia but having completed their work with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, the Halberg Weavers paused to discern what their next stop would be.
Discernment is one of those words we use often as missioners. It's a way of trying to be in touch with what really gives us life and paying attention to how God is present in that.
As we began 2014, we committed—as a family—to spending each Sunday afternoon during January examining our hopes and dreams for the next stage of our lives. Taking steps into the unknown future can be daunting for an individual, so we were well aware of how difficult it would be to meet the hopes of five people. However, our sharing of those hopes fell into place, like a harvest following a good growing season.
Think of a time you had to make a major decision. Were you able to set aside time to discuss your options? How many other people did your decision affect? Were these people part of the decision-making process? Did you consciously make prayer part of your discernment process? How long did you ponder your decision?
It was immediately clear that all five of us wanted to live closer to Grandma and Grandpa Halberg, which would mean leaving Bolivia and moving to Washington State. We were also in agreement that our last year in Bolivia would be lived to the full. For the kids, it meant one more school year with their Bolivian friends.
For Karen, it meant leaving her work responsibilities and focusing on "tending the hearth." And for me, it meant that I would continue my commitment to form a primarily Bolivian parish team.
And so our three children began a new school year: Jake in 1st grade, Emma in 5th, and Daniel in 8th. They had a great year. Besides their studies, they participated in traditional Bolivian dancing and learned to play traditional Bolivian instruments. They played basketball with friends and continued to form life-long ties that I'm sure will endure, wherever we live.
My work of creating a parish-based community agriculture project continued to solidify and expand. Our parish garden produced enough vegetables to support a full-time gardener who sells its produce twice a week at the church. The German foundation, Miserior, has become a partner in a full-time team that visits families and acts as a resource for nutrition and gardening advice. Funding for this project is necessary for its continuity. Significantly, this ecological work is now included in the parish vision, formally structured in the pastoral plan.
It is said, “Maryknoll Missioners go where they are needed but not wanted and move on when they are wanted but not needed.” Have you ever faced a transition, a time of moving on, when you could see that what you had achieved would survive and grow in the hands of others? Or conversely, did you ever need to make a change because a position was so frustrating it was not healthy for you? How did your previous experience influence your decision about what to do next? Did you seek out counsel while making the decision?
Our family lived the year of 2014 appreciating all the beautiful, enriching eccentricities and cultural celebrations/customs that make Bolivia and its people so special: the Carnaval parade in March; the trip Daniel and I made to southern Bolivia; watching Daniel's best friends playing on Cochabamba’s team in the national youth soccer tournament; all the parish activities for young children. So many threads of our life in Bolivia were weaving themselves together!
At the end of the school year, we began the process of packing up and sorting out the things we had collected over the years. Without the help of our Maryknoll friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers, it would have been overwhelming.
Casta and Alejandro made many trips in their little car, hauling fridge and stove and rabbits to new homes. One family from the store where we bought most of our groceries showed up unexpectedly on our last day with chicken dinners not only for us but also for all who were there helping out. We will forever remember how Bolivians know what to do in the moment, and offering everything, with no holding back for what may be needed the next day.
We are now in Washington State, still discerning our next steps. We are in the process of purchasing some farmland near the area where Karen grew up. I am excited about pulling together my mission work by engaging in the growing movement toward local food economies and sustainable, community-supported agriculture. The chance to return to farming offers so much towards our rooting ourselves in the fabric of this rural community.
Over our 20 years in mission, our family has enjoyed an amazing web of relationships. We are grateful for the love and support of so many friends and marvel at the grace of the life we have lived thus far. We are thankful for the support of all who have joined us in our journey, as well as for the awesome Mystery that bumped us together along the way.
Having read the Halberg Weaver family’s story, what will be your approach the next time your are faced with a life-changing decision?
Closing Prayer (in the style of your chapter):
God, if this is your will, help me.
If not, stop me.