Affiliates are a sign of Hope in a world that badly needs it. So much about the response to this question depends on how well, how deeply we see the reality in front of us. For me, most of the hope is not contained in structures or numbers, but in Affiliates themselves. Here are four examples:
- The incredibly organized, insightful, and caring work the Guatemala Planning Committee is doing to make MAC2017 a moving and meaningful experience for everyone.
- The magnificent dedication of the Peruvian Affiliates (six chapters total in Lima and Arequipa) to reach out to their compatriots dealing with the disastrous floods and landslides. Accompanying that is the wonderful show of solidary from Affiliates throughout the world who have sent prayers and well over $5,000 in financial aid.
- The everyday faith commitment of Maryknoll Affiliates who continue to “show up” in the way they live and speak up to confront the voices of nationalistic empire that appear to be getting louder each day.
- The Affiliate newsletters—NSFA & NTLH—that provide a very valuable medium to echo those Affiliate commitments. I honestly haven’t seen two newsletters that capture the spirit and life experience of its members so poignantly.
Affiliates are connecting well to Maryknoll. For approximately two years now, Affiliates have been part of the Joint Meeting of Leadership (JML) wherein the leadership of the four expressions within Maryknoll come together every other month in a collaborative effort to share our respective initiatives/issues and, wherever possible suggest initiatives that we can undertake together. This is another step towards deeper collaboration. Still, as with the hopeful signs above, perhaps the most consequential connections happen whenever Affiliates and other Maryknollers come together (retreats, protests, mission education, mission actions) wherever they find themselves. Life unfolds and is most nourished within those relational contexts. In talking about mission, a fellow classmate once said to me: “Life is not about feeding people. Life is about eating with people.”
The Maryknoll Affiliates do have challenges. In the outside world the challenges are legion. To name a few—nationalism, secularism, materialism, power politics over Gospel vision (Blessed are the...), technology, globalization, climate change at an inflection point—outpacing human adaptability, aligning Jesus’ message with empire thinking (supply-side Jesus), and external vs. internal messaging. Within Maryknoll and the Church, the challenges are also significant. Some are: aging, shrinking numbers, youth’s seeming disenchantment with religion, long-term commitments, authority, and working out of a dying model (paradigm). All this said, perhaps the biggest challenge for all of us will always be to trust that Love will ‘win out’ in the end—even if we can’t be sure when that will be. James Finley, who works with Richard Rohr, once said this:
If we are absolutely grounded in the absolute love of God that protects us from nothing even as it sustains us in all things, then we can face all things with courage and tenderness and touch the hurting places in others and in ourselves with love.