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.
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.
Though geographically dispersed, twelve dedicated folks have carved a few hours out of their busy schedules to read and talk about nonviolence this October. Half are Affiliates, and half are their friends who want to expand their thinking and nonviolent tools. Besides reading the very practical book, Personal Nonviolence, by Gerard Vanderhaar, and using on-line readings and video from JustFaith’s “Cultivating Nonviolence” module, they participate in weekly conference calls to share their insights and questions.
Campaign Nonviolence, Pace e Bene’s international campaign that works for a new culture of nonviolence free from war, poverty, racism, and environmental destruction, reported more than 3,000 actions during the September 2019 Week of Actions, including several events in Oregon (https://paceebene.org/blog/2019/9/22/2019-action-week-in-review).
In October, Robert Ellsberg of Orbis Books, featured several books on Gandhi and offered free shipping. Maryknoll Affiliates also receive a generous discount from Orbis. Some Affiliate chapters, for example in New Orleans, read inspiring books and focus their meetings on discussing them.
Once again, The Maryknoll Sisters are offering a varied slate of programs. Which one will most enrich your life?
These are the programs for May through July 2020, all of which run Sunday through Friday:
May 10-15 Finding God in—of all Things: Our Age-ing!
Robert Weber, PhD
May 17-22 Journey to the Heart: Falling in Love with Earth
Sr. Sharon Zayac, OP
May 31-June 5 Where to from here? Radical Changes in Thought and Practice
Michael Morwood, MA
June 7-12 Loving Water Across Religions
Elizabeth McAnally, PhD
June 14-19 40th Anniversary of Martyrdom of Church Women in El Salvador
Eileen Markey and Others
June 21-26 Creating Religious Life for the 21st Century
Bro. Seán Sammon, FMS, PhD
July 12-17 Call To Personal and Global Transformation
Edwina Gateley, MA
July 19-24 Women at the Well: Agents of Change, Shapers of the World
Maureen H. O’Connell, PhD
July 26-31 Finding a Way in the Wilderness: Drawing Courage through the Art of Film
Fr. Larry Lewis, PhD
Learn more about these programs and register online at: maryknoll-mission-institute
OR request an application form by:
Phone: 914-941-7575 @ 5671
Mail: Maryknoll Mission Institute
PO Box 311
Maryknoll, NY 10545-0311
One of the twice yearly Board meetings includes the Regional Coordinators, to contribute their wisdom to the Board discussions and also to confer on how best to coordinate in their regions. The November meeting agenda includes:
• Discern how to best guide the Affiliate movement, utilizing:
~ Group discussion of questions sent out previously
~ Reflection on how Pope Francis’s book Go Forth applies to individuals and the Affiliate movement
~ Artistic rendition of conclusions for group interpretation.
• Open space discussion: Where do we go from here? Turning ideas into concrete actions.
• Special topics: Call with Renate Schneider on Haiti, Covenant working group, Quo Vadis, MAC2020, Website redo.
• Regional Coordinators meet separately.
Coming Soon – Appealing Fish Story
Manny Hotchkiss, of the Affiliate Board Finance Committee, will be sharing a whopper of a fish story that relates to the sustainability of the Affiliate Movement as we follow the Fisher of All.
Be watching your mailbox for the annual
Maryknoll Affiliates Appeal Letter
to be mailed November 15th.
Praise to God with all the creatures,
Especially Brother Sun,
Who is the day that gives us light.
And the sun is beautiful and radiant with great
Bearing God’s likeness.
Praise for our Sister moon and the stars
In the heavens bright, precious, and fair.
Praise for our Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
That cherish all creation.
Praise for our Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praise for our Brother Fire,
Who lights the nights and is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praise for our Sister,
Who sustains and governs us,
Producing varied fruits with colored flowers and
Praise for those who grant pardon out of love.
Blessed are those who endure in peace.
Action is one of the pillars of the Affiliate Movement, along with spirituality, community, and global vision. We can count on Affiliates to respond to opportunities and to find ways to take action, to be of service. In this issue, Bob Doyle shares his odyssey in Arizona, mourning the deaths of migrants in the desert and serving the survivors. The North Bay Affiliates were captivated by returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner Vicki Simon’s reflections after she volunteered at a migrant refuge in El Paso.
Vicki also lists some opportunities for service to immigrants. Dick Horstman describes a short-term mission opportunity for aiding migrants in Eagle Pass, Texas.
While we Affiliates are usually eager to do service, this issue also tells of 71 Catholics who recently chose another path, civil disobedience at the US Capitol, to protest the inhumanity of detaining children at the Border. Maryknoll encourages us to contemplate before and during our actions.
Whether we choose service, peaceful contemplation, or civil disobedience, we know that “Apathy is not an option.”
Articles in this issue:
Migration in the Nogales-Tucson Area – "While asylum seekers are being assisted at shelters in Tucson, some 800 others in Nogales, Sonora, are waiting to present their credible fear claim in hopes of being allowed to seek asylum in the United States." - Bob Doyle
MAC 2020 – The theme is: Witnessing Love in the Interim Time.
Vicki Simon at the Border – "One had to be ready for a “fluid reality,” as Vicki described it, and try to hold onto paying personal attention and listening to each migrant while attending to their immediate needs..." – Marie Wren
Sharing with our Chapter Companion – "Our Affiliate group was also happy to learn of Maryknoll’s program which sponsors men and women to come to the United States to study for the religious life." – Shelby Miller & Mary Williams
Is a Lay Missioner Coming to Your City? – "We saw that Affiliates could be helpful to the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in their promotional efforts..." – Paula Schaffner
Catholics Protest Immigrant Child Detention – It was “a privilege to participate in civil disobedience, to be arrested, to stand with detained families…” – Dan Moriarty
A Visit with Albany Affiliates – "I know our Northeast Florida Chapter will try hard to extend Maryknoll hospitality to any of you who come our way!" – Mary Moritz
Border Actions to Consider – "If you cannot travel or volunteer at this time, get involved "in organizations working with recently arrived refugees and migrants." – Vicki Simon
Hospitality – In addition to the practical benefits of this hospitality, it provides an opportunity to get to know other members of the Maryknoll family.
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 September/October issue.
The Benedictine Sisters of Boerne have a mission house in Eagle Pass, Texas, across the Rio Grande from Piedras Negras, Mexico. Sister Ursula Herrera is the only Sister at the house. Last December, the Sisters converted the house to a migrant respite shelter.
The migrants are delivered to the house around 7:00 in the evening. Sister feeds them dinner, gives them a change of clothes, and they sleep one night at the house. Sister feeds them breakfast the next morning, and they are then picked up at 9:00 AM to travel to San Antonio. Sister needs help cooking, washing bedding, making beds, cleaning and sorting clothes, buying groceries, etc. She averages approximately 28 migrants a night.
Sister does not have room for a group of volunteers. She has a very nice apartment with a full bath in a detached garage for two volunteers. It is an ideal setup for a couple.
Some chapters already had a special relationship with a Maryknoll Priest, Brother, Sister, or Lay Missioner when the Chapter Companions Initiative began. Others have requested a companion and are now enjoying getting to know their Maryknoll missioner.
This Question of the Month (QTM) was suggested by Tom McGuire, Chicago Chapter.
To answer this question, go to QTM #5.
If you haven’t seen the Affiliates’ answers to the previous Questions of the Month, you’ll also find a link to them on that page.
We look forward to hearing your views on this and future Questions of The Month.
We have begun a “Pope Francis Reading Club” in the New Orleans area to encourage Affiliates and as many people as possible to be in touch with the creative, visionary, and challenging thinking of our wonderful Pope Francis. We will only occasionally read a book by the Pope. Most of the time we will read copies of recent talks, homilies or excerpts from interviews he has given.
A highly enthusiastic group of 20 people helped develop the plan for the reading club. We will meet once a month at the Archdiocesan Retreat Center (the Cenacle), in Metairie, LA, on Monday evenings from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM. There is no fee but we may make an occasional small free-will offering for the use of the Cenacle, the copy machine, etc.
For the month of August we are asking members to read The Joy of the Gospel, written in 2013, in which Pope Francis gives his fundamental vision for the church and society and includes most if not all of the issues he will deal with in more depth during his following years as Pope. We will discuss The Joy of the Gospel Monday, August 26. Our September meeting will be Monday, September 30.
The text is also available online: "Evangelii Gaudium".
We hope you will join us for what we believe will be a most fulfilling and enriching experience. If you don’t live in the New Orleans area and want to read along with the us you could email your comments or questions on the readings to Matt who might be able use them at their meeting.
A pilgrimage in the desert. The desert should not be a death sentence, but the government knows the southwestern border is dangerous for migrants—and wants it that way. Some 8,000 people attempting to enter the United States have died in this region since the 1990s.
We invite you to the always engaging and often transformative international Maryknoll Affiliate Conference. It will be held June 25-28, 2020, at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center in Garrison, NY – 17 miles north of the Maryknoll Center in Ossining. The theme is: Witnessing Love in the Interim Time. $350 covers tuition and room & board (a $20 reduction from the previous MAC!). Travel grants will be available as in past years.
The MAC 2020 Planning Committee has made great advances in designing the theme, content, and flow of this 3½ day event. The Keynote speaker is Nancy Sylvester, IHM, very sought after in the conference world, and most of the workshop facilitators have already been confirmed. We are also planning a first-time, unique segment to include young adults (18- to 39-year-olds).
A MAC website is being constructed; we anticipate that it should be ready in mid-September. It will provide an online registration form, travel grant application, schedule, and information you’ll need to know about the conference. Please mark the date and plan to be with Affiliates and other members of the Maryknoll family from throughout our global home.
On May 23, the North Bay Chapter hosted Vicki Simon, returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner to Kenya, to speak about her recent experience at the US – Mexico border.
Vicki spent two weeks volunteering in El Paso, Texas, at an Annunciation shelter in a La Quinta Inn. She told how she prepared for that experience by taking a Jesuit-sponsored five-day border immersion trip called The Encuentro Project. In addition, she took a Just Matters study module on migration, which brought home to her that migration is very extensive around the world even though we experience it mainly on the US - Mexico border.
We were captivated by her description of how the shelters are completely run and staffed by volunteers, how those two weeks were physically and emotionally demanding. She explained that between 50 and 120 asylum seekers would be referred to the shelter each day by ICE after having been processed as they came across the border. Generally, they were one parent and one or more children. When they arrived hungry, dirty, and often sick, they would be offered clean clothes, showers, meals , beds, and medical help. They would stay just long enough to have the volunteers contact their sponsor, who would buy a plane, bus or train ticket for them, and then the volunteers would accompany them to the airport or bus/train station. They were given provisions for the journey and a placard that said they didn’t speak English and asked for help finding their connections.
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