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.
This year, from October 15-19, the grand-daddy of all inter-faith assemblies will convene in Salt Lake City to celebrate “Reclaiming the heart of our humanity: Working together for a world of compassion, peace, justice and sustainability.” This Parliament of World Religions has quite a history, and I have gained much from my association with it.
The first Parliament of World Religions (http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/) took place September 11-27, 1893, and was a resounding success, with 4,000 participants and representatives from forty churches and traditions. With its goal to bring together in one place the many religious traditions of the world, it was hailed as a pioneering event. The goal was to express the harmony that can and should prevail among believers in God, despite our different garbs and tongues, traditions and rituals. Some established Christian churches were repulsed by the idea that leaders of non-Christian traditions would be included. Still the organizing went on.
Despite the bias toward European and North American Christian presence and organization, the breadth of topics and the extensive participation of believers of many traditions from many lands accounted for the very positive reactions to this event. It was perhaps the largest and most influential interfaith gathering among peoples of the world to date.
This Parliament resulted in the founding in 1900 in Boston the International Association for Religious Freedom (https://iarf.net), the first-ever international interfaith group. In 1936, Sir Francis Younghusband founded the World Congress of Faiths and in 1960, the dream of Judith Hollister came true in the Temple of Understanding. 1970 saw the birth of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (now Religions for Peace – http://www.rfpusa.org/). Their present secretary general is former Maryknoll Lay Missioner William Vendley, and our John McAuley, MM, worked there also. This legacy includes countless groups organized within many religious traditions dedicated to the dream of religious harmony and collaboration among all believers.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) from India was an instant success from the start of his speech addressed to “Sisters and Brothers of America.” His guru Swami Ramakrishna was a reclusive renunciant in Calcutta, West Bengal, whose lineage has been propagated by the organizing efforts of his most famous disciple in the West as well as in India. I had the privilege of visiting his ashram and being the guest of the Ramakrishna Order while in India myself.
Swami Paramananda (1884-1940), an early disciple of Vivekananda, came to the United States in 1906 and established an ashram in Cohasset, Massachusetts. He later selected his niece Mataji Gayatri Devi (born in Barisal, Bangladesh) to direct the community at his passing. I had the privilege of knowing her; she initiated me as a sannyasin (renunciant). I maintain my contact with this inspiring community.
I attended the congress in Bangalore, India, organized by the four interfaith groups cited above. I had lived in Bangladesh from 1975 through 1981 and had been living since 1991 in West Bengal, so I already knew the Bengali language. The long discussions on the proposal from Hans Kung, “A Global Ethic,” were a salient feature of this congress.
Increasingly, I see how these events and encounters have enriched my life. My mind and heart and spirit have been expanded to become more tolerant, less inclined to judge. My perspective has become one of universalism, of respecting others as true believers in the one god of all. I see religious diversity as a gift helping us all to live by our faith traditions.
Several JustFaith groups and the Portland Maryknoll Affiliates, inspired by our concern for social justice, combined efforts to educate about the death penalty in Oregon. We hoped to touch people emotionally and help them think in a new way about the death penalty.
For two weeks in mid-December Patty Barneond de Garcia Tres, Affiliate Board member and liaison to Latin America, and Bob Short traveled to Bolivia and Peru to meet with Affiliates and Maryknollers in those two countries. This is Bob’s second article on that trip.
Within two days after arriving in Cochabamba and meeting with the Affiliates there, it became apparent that something was different; that, in several ways, a different calculus was applied to how life is lived and mission embraced. As Patty and I continued our trip, visiting Santa Cruz and the Peruvian populations of Lima, Arequipa, and Chiguata, a small village in the mountains outside of Arequipa, that perception stayed with me.
They found him in chains—he and another boy who was also deaf. Someone brought the boys here to our Deaf Development Programme (DDP) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where deaf students 15 years old and up learn sign-language, as well as basic education and life skills. By all indications, these two boys had been abused, traumatized, and isolated for a long time. Often, in remote villages, people do not understand deafness. The deaf person is thought to be mentally deficient, possessed, or even being punished for their or a parent’s wrongdoing.
The NE Florida affiliate community had a brief but joyous visit, which can most accurately be described as a holiday family visit, by a part of our extended Maryknoll family. On Dec 18, 2014, Sister Margarita Jamias, MM, shared with local affiliates and the wider community her passion for cosmology and the environment. Our chapter hosted a gathering where Sr. Margarita showed the video, Journey of the Universe, followed by a discussion of what moved and challenged us in the video.
Is there a Peace Choir in your area? After seven years of organizing Search For Peace art events and participating in a weekly peace vigil, I thought I’d sought out everything peace-full in the Portland area. Last fall I was surprised to find the Portland Peace Choir on-line and then in person. Luckily, we were allowed to join the 50-person group without an audition. Since then, they have performed at a Martin Luther King, Jr., commemoration highlighting nonviolence and have sung African songs at Taste of Tanzania, a fundraiser for the Huruma school for disabled children.
The Peace Choir is clearly secular and has a repertoire that includes popular, ethnic, traditional civil rights, and even a few religious songs. They all highlight love, peace, nonviolence, and cooperation. We recently participated in a concert where five peace choirs, consisting of about 200 people from western Oregon, harmonized beautifully in sound and thought. We we told that peace choirs are a movement that is spreading across the country. What better way to make peace than to think peace, listen carefully, and live harmoniously in solidarity with your neighbors, wherever they may be. Sing out your gift of peace to the community.
In the Jan/Feb NSFA, Fr. Gene Toland, MM, invited Maryknollers to enroll in U-Lab, a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC), offered by MIT and the Presencing Institute.
Thus several Affiliates, and 25,000 of our closest friends from around the world, signed up for the free six-week course based on Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s book, Leading from the Emerging Future: from Ego-System to Eco-system Economies, Applying Theory U to Transforming Business, Society and Self. Ideally, participants met in small groups to watch the course’s videos, to prototype, and to receive coaching on their own projects face-to-face or by Skype.
After leaving Africa, Bertha Haas, now a Portland Affiliate, envisioned a compassionate community that would continue to support Huruma. Huruma is the school for disabled children that she founded in Tanzania ten years ago as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner. After she and Lay Missioners David and Caitlin Rosser of Seattle left Tanzania, no Maryknollers remained to work at the school, so Maryknoll can no longer provide support.
The involvement of the Maryknoll Affiliates and numerous other groups in the Portland area made Taste of Tanzania, a special dinner/fundraiser, very successful both financially and in forming community.
Do you hear the call of far-away places? Here are a few volunteer opportunities:
Study in Africa
Through the Maryknoll Institute Of African Studies – St. Mary’s University, Minnesota, and Tangaza College, Nairobi, participate directly in the contemporary cultures and religions of Kenya. These graduate courses combine lectures, directed professional field research assisted by a personal tutorial assistant, a 15-page research/ integration paper, and pastoral reflection. All courses are intensive, immersion-style and completed in three weeks. Courses are registered at St. Mary’s University as four-credit graduate courses. www.mias.edu
Maryknoll Institute also runs full semester programs for non-East Africans and other foreigners who come for a sabbatical of three months.
China Teachers Program
Ever consider spending a year in China teaching English as a second language? The Maryknoll China teachers program offers a unique opportunity to share and live out your Christian calling educating young Chinese university students. www.ChinaServ.org
China Teachers’ Summer Program
From mid-July to mid-August at Jilin Medical College, Jilin City. Help third-year Medical and Nursing students with spoken English through small group discussions and oral drills in four class periods per day. Eight to fourteen teachers live in community on the campus of Jilin Medical College. Program requirements and benefits are the same as the full year program.
Fr. Brian Barrons, MM, Asia Regional Superior
Bookmark this special Maryknoll Society website: http://maryknollmissiontrips.org. Visit it frequently to discover the latest opportunities not only for short-term service but also for immersion and study programs. For further information, please contact:
Rev. Michael J. Snyder, MM, Short Term
Maryknoll is one of nearly 100 Catholic national and international member groups in the newly formed Global Catholic Climate Movement (http://catholicclimatemovement.global/fast/).
This coalition of laity, religious, clergy, theologians, scientists, and activists agree with scientific findings that humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions contribute to widespread and mostly harmful changes to planetary systems. Its focus is on the moral and spiritual issues involved, and to raise awareness of Church teachings on the care of creation.
As an NGO with UN consultative status, Maryknoll was present at events aligned with the UN Climate Change Conference held in Lima, Peru in December 2014. World leaders are working to establish the fundamentals of a strong, global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, hopefully to be finalized in Paris in 2015.
The faith-based coalition OurVoices organized #LightForLIMA, a global, multi-faith prayer vigil held in locations around the world prior to the Lima Conference. They now invite us to join in prayers from our Ambassadors to inspire us for the road to Paris (http://ourvoices.net/limaprayers).
If I can feel the wood and know who’s whittled,
Read paragraphs and know the author’s name,
Can hear one riff and know Grapelli’s fiddled,
Or sense in silhouettes the dancing flame,
Why can’t I scan for style erratic lines
And temperamental scribbling on earth’s page:
Consistent inconsistencies, design,
Caprice, rich legacies of tenderness and rage?
Perhaps the world I cherish is chaotic,
Perhaps its pedagogy is insane,
But if it is sufficiently quixotic,
The signature, for students, will be plain.
Ah, crazy-witty worldlings, pitch a tent,
Absorbing and translating sacrament.
A review of Julian’s Gospel: Illuminating the Life & Revelations of Julian of Norwich,
by Veronica Mary Rolf, published by Orbis*, 2013.
Veronica Mary Rolf is a most interesting writer. A recent podcast with America magazine reveals she spent much of her life in the professional theatre, as a playwright and actress. She also trained and directed professional actors around the world. Now, Rolf teaches Christian meditation and the history of Christian mysticism. She brings her dramatic sensibility and vivid descriptions of Julian’s context and time to Julian’s Gospel in a unique approach to the favorite spiritual guide of Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and many others.
Love in Action, the theme of the 2015 Western Region Maryknoll Affiliates Conference, is also a fitting theme for this issue of the NSFA. Indeed, Love in Action pretty well describes Maryknoll Affiliates and our Four Pillars of Spirituality, Community, Global Vision, and Action. The love in this issue acting in at least 13 locations in 8 different countries, including Brazil, Tanzania, Oregon, Florida, and Guatemala, and in our reaching out to immigrants.
In the secular news we see that the lack of love leads to violence, torture, fear, exploitation, and discrimination. While most of us experience some level of privilege, we also have occasionally felt fear and discrimination. We know that when violence is an acceptable response, no one is safe.
In No Tan Lejos del Horizonte, our Spanish Affiliate newsletter, an Affiliate from Merida, Mexico, Cecilia Quijano asks us to respond with Love and Action to the disappearance of 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico. She says, (translated from the Spanish):
“Prayer has helped us to collect our thoughts and feelings and leads us to act. Small or large, easy or difficult, actions arising from reflection and discernment of the Christian values that we hold will have an impact on building a culture of peace, so necessary for everyone.”
Articles: (Click on the title to go to the article.)
My Adventures in Mission – “I am amazed at how many skills and experiences I draw upon as a missioner.” – Carolyn Trumble
Ayotzinapa – “We must recognize that this event is not isolated from others.” – Cecelia Quijano
Daring to Dream Anew – “The entire Chapter proceedings were imbued with the spirit of prayer to discern what the Spirit is calling Maryknoll to today in her mission endeavors.” – John Meyer
Angels Come in All Sizes – “Your support of the Affiliates has been outstanding. Over the past four years, the number of contributors has increased sharply, from 120 to 190 households.” – Dave Schaffner
You Are Invited! – “The most important dimension of all great leadership—Who am I? What am I here for?” – Gene Toland, MM
A Tanzanian Seminary for Girls – “God is in us, with us, working through us. Working with the kids, you see God’s presence.” – Agnes Menard
Taste of Tanzania to Help disabled Children – “Huruma means compassion in Swahili, the local language in Tanzania. The disabled children at Huruma truly need compassion and in many ways are the poorest of the poor.” – Bertha Haas
The Way & Maryknoll – “How does this ‘mission trip’ relate to our Chapter?” – Carol-Ann Black
Let There Be Light! - “In the evening, the lamp provides enough light to illuminate their small dwelling while the family completes their routine of prayer, study, and family meal.” – Curt Klueg
Visiting Bolivia & Peru – “We did not ask, but in every gathering they spontaneously spoke of how Maryknoll priests, sisters, brothers and, where present, lay missioners gave them a sense of self-dignity and missionary vision.” – Bob Short
Caminando Continues – “We constantly try to improve the program and to foster positive change in this small corner of the world—Paraiso II, Zone 18, one of the most marginalized, impoverished, violent zones in Guatemala City.” – Ron Covey
Be sure to check out our Events—upcoming Western Regional Affiliate Conference, and Features—book review, prayer, and news notes!
Many Affiliate Chapters are collaborating with:
JustFaith Ministries: http://justfaith.org/
Pace e Bene: http://paceebene.org/programs/campaign-nonviolence/
Pax Christi: http://paxchristiusa.org