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Wednesday, 01 August 2018 00:31

Letting Go

Written by Bob Short
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Bob Short – Executive Coordinator

I’m not at all sure what prompted it, but on a phone call yesterday afternoon, a close friend asked me if, simply by association, “Maryknoll” had become for me a vicarial way of convincing myself that I was living out a committed life of service in a global world. Now, this friend is a smart person (who else uses vicarial these days?) who knows and loves Maryknoll. Still, his question initially disturbed me. What prompted him to ask? What did he mean by it?

We talked for some time. Unfortunately, the glass of wine poured earlier was out of reach from the chair next to the phone. While the question could have rather complex psychological and theological implications, I simply understood it to mean that I shouldn’t allow my connection to Maryknoll, most especially in those days of past glories, to become a vicarious substitute for all the commitments in and around me (some global and some domestic and rather unexciting) that I needed to attend to.

Perhaps a better way to approach the question is to disconnect the name and organizational structure of Maryknoll—all expressions—from the underlying spirit (Spirit) of Maryknoll that is irrevocably at the essence of its DNA. I think Isaiah 58:6-14 is among the Biblical passages that identify that spirit. 

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you,

    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

(Isaiah 58:6-8)

In this time of interim when the core paradigm is changing; when greed, power, tribalism, influence peddling and moral relativism (vs. truth) are all too evident in our country; and, when there is a credible argument that our country is moving towards autocracy… In this time, the Spirit of Maryknoll —essentially antithetical on every account to the negative ‘values’ listed above—is more needed than ever. Holding onto a specific organizational structure and culture, within Maryknoll, not so much so.

Over the last six months, an ad hoc committee of the Affiliate Board has been grappling with the question, “Where would we like to be in five years?” There is profuse humility among committee members: they know that they could not begin to adequately answer the question. They will try to provide suggested areas of content and formatting for a contemplative October retreat/meeting with Affiliate Regional Coordinators and Board members. That this meeting/retreat will take place within a contemplative perspective gives us a good deal of hope. Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, spoke to this:

To put it boldly, contemplation is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world that our financial systems and our advertising culture and our chaotic and unexamined emotions encourage us to inhabit.

Soul truths are very different from ego truths. Reflective listening and honestly holding onto (dwelling with) whatever the concern or the question before us, affords a much better chance that we’ll come to a deeper, more meaningful response to our question of future Affiliate identity and purpose.

Sister Theresa Baldini’s words to me a few weeks ago are apt: “The question is not so much where we are going (want to be), but what do we need to let go of.” All of us in Maryknoll probably need to put it that way.


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