Stimulated by the Affiliate Book Group’s discussion of Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Abounding in Kindness, I eagerly anticipated hearing her talk at a local university. She asked, “Is God’s Charity Broad Enough for Bears?” Johnson has been criticized by some Catholic groups because of her support for giving women greater authority in the church and her willingness to speak at meetings of Catholics who disagree with the church on some issues, but here she was greeted as a one who should be on a theological Mt. Rushmore because of her achievements and role in American theological thought.
Johnson told the packed auditorium that nineteenth century naturalist John Muir claimed God’s charity is broad enough for bears. If so, she asked us why believers and theologians haven’t stepped in to protect the earth from its destruction by human domination and consumerism. She presented one obstacle and proposed three remedies to this disastrous situation. Johnson posited that the major obstacle to protecting the earth is a theology that puts humans at the peak of a pinnacle, a little lower than God, but in dominion/domination above all creatures and the material world. Drawing from evolutionary science and Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, she presented the challenge that loving the Earth and its species as a neighbor must become an intrinsic part of faith in God. She emphasized that humans are a part, not the pinnacle, and even a recent arrival according to evolutionary science, to the circle of creation.
After quoting extensively from Laudato Si’, Johnson proposed three spiritual practices to foster care for the earth: Contemplation, Asceticism, and Advocacy. Contemplation will bring us into connection with our true nature and our proper relationship with the earth and fellow creatures. An Asceticism that turns us from unbridled consumerism will allow us to recognize our appetites and will minimize our harming the rest of creation. Once we truly feel and accept that we are just a part of this vast community of creation we will feel impelled to Advocate for the well-being for the whole of creation.
As a US Maryknoll Affiliate, MLK Day and the presidential inauguration caused me to step back to re-evaluate and consider how we might step forward. So I have gone back to notes and excerpts from books I’ve read the last couple years to look for helpful guidance. 2017 is an amazing time, in so many respects. I feel very unqualified to be living now and to respond to all that this era demands. In particular, we face a crisis of millennia with climate change – a crisis we/our culture have brought on, and which will take the lives of many if we do not do something about it very soon. We are late in the game, so I must and will say very clearly: it is time for us to get off of fossil fuels—now—all of us. Ethical, even pro-life action carries a deeper urgency and moral call. This is something we must do. It’s as big a deal as the Holocaust.
The 2017 Maryknoll Affiliate Book Groups are enjoying reading the Orbis book, Abounding in Kindness, by Elizabeth Johnson. The two groups, who meet on Tuesday and Sunday, are composed of people calling in from across the United States. They look forward to the weekly telephone conference calls and share highlights of the discussion by email. Some questions and reflections are posted on Facebook or the Affiliate web site.
Caminando Por La Paz focuses on education of children in one of the most marginalized barrios of Guatemala City. However, this Catholic Worker house, staffed by Affiliates from both Guatemala and Texas, uses a variety of ways to educate, including financial support, tutoring, healthy meals, community connections and spiritual activities, enrichment and development trips, and coffee sales.
Now, in 2017, 24 children in various schools, including four students in universities, receive financial support. Some children receive full scholarships while others receive only partial assistance, based on need.
Tutors work with the older children in the morning and the younger in the afternoon. The tutoring program, an important aspect of the educational effort, includes more than 60 kids and is growing. It is close to outgrowing the space available. As part of our tutoring program, we provide a nutritious meal before tutoring begins. Cross Catholic International provides partial support for the meals.
Although educating children remains our focus, we have provided several educational and spiritual trips for students and neighbors to allow them to better know their own culture and to build community. We have taken these biannual trips to Esquipulas and Antigua. We visited the revered black crucifix in the southern city of Esquipulas and took a guided walk in Antigua to visit locations related to the life of the local saint, Hermano Pedro. In addition to planned activities on the trips, some free time is allowed, and the day ends with a holy hour.
We also hold a holy hour each week at the Caminando Por La Paz house. The holy-hour format is simple: an opening prayer, the readings of the day, discussion, and a closing prayer. The number of neighbors participating varies and is slowly increasing.
We strive to be an important and accepted member of the community. A new program that we will continue in 2017 is shoe distribution. In 2016, we distributed shoes from Shoes to the World (http://www.shoestotheworld.org/) to about 200 neighborhood children.
We are very excited that MAC 2017 will be in Guatemala and have helped in the planning. We hope conference attendees can bring donations for our program. We need school and sports supplies, and more. You may download a list of needs (Click here.). We are praying for a super angel to help replace our aging pick-up truck and even to obtain another house to be used for tutoring and other programs. (Contact Ron with your questions or for financial donations.)
We look forward to seeing you at the conference and invite you to visit Caminando Por La Paz whenever you come to Guatemala.
Excerpts from the article by Rose Marie Berger, appearing in December 2016 Sojourners.
“JUST WAR IS KILLING US! There is no just war.”
That proclamation by a Catholic sister from Iraq, and others like it, resounded at a Vatican gathering this spring  and fell on surprisingly receptive ears.
Sister Nazik Matty, an Iraqi Dominican, joined others from around the world in Rome in April to wrestle with how the Catholic Church could “recommit to the centrality of gospel nonviolence.” She has watched members of her religious community die for lack of medical care during war.
“Which of the wars we have been in is a just war?” asked Sister Matty, who was driven from her home in Mosul by ISIS, also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh. “In my country, there was no just war. War is the mother of ignorance, isolation, and poverty. Please tell the world there is no such thing as a just war. I say this as a daughter of war.”
The Rome gathering was unprecedented, bringing together members of the church hierarchy with social scientists, theologians, practitioners of nonviolence, diplomats, and unarmed civilian peacekeepers to discuss Catholic nonviolence and whether in the contemporary world armed force can ever be justified. [Marie Dennis, Pax Christi, and the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns helped plan and participate in the conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace.]
Of course, with such diverse participants, there was not a common mind on whether just war theory, a doctrine of military ethics used by Catholic theologians, has outlived its usefulness as church teaching.
Reprinted with permission from Sojourners, (800) 714-7474, www.sojo.net. This link : https://sojo.net/magazine/december-2016/game-changer, gives access to this preview of the article and a sidebar with links to these articles:
“My son was brutally murdered for bringing electricity to a few poor people in northern Nicaragua. He was murdered because he had a dream and because he had the courage to make that dream come true. ... Ben told me the first year that he was here, and this is a quote, ‘It’s a wonderful feeling to work in a country where the government’s first concern is for its people, for all of its people.’ ”
Elizabeth Linder spoke thus at her son’s funeral in Nicaragua after he was shot at close range by the Contras in 1987. Ben Linder’s death at the hands of the Reagan-supported Contras made headlines in his hometown, Portland, and around the nation. The death of Linder, coming as Congressional hearings investigated the Iran-Contra Affair, fueled the debate in the US over the covert war in Nicaragua. The next year, Congress refused to renew aid to the Contras. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Linder)
Ten attendees at our annual summer picnic began with a casual conversation over appetizers that turned into deep reflections on what it means to live out a call at this stage of life. In The Great Work of Your Life: a Guide for the Journey of Your True Calling, Stephen Cope examines the life visions and struggles faced by such visionaries as Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman, Mohandas Gandhi, and several ordinary folks and encourages us to reject the modern idea that ‘we can be anyone we want to be’ and instead to discover and fully pursue their inner self’s calling.
We assume life is a mission of service;
Transforming dreams into reality.
OUR HISTORY – In 2007, Sister Connie Pospisil, MM, visited us and introduced us to the Affiliate Movement, as a further expression of the Maryknoll Family. The following year Father Thomas Göekler, MM (decd.), visited us and questioned us, saying: “You live the Maryknoll spirituality, you have to form a Chapter of Maryknoll Affiliates”.
Affiliates are people of prayer committed to continually forming in their missionary spirituality from the creative tension between “being” and “doing.”
WHO ARE WE? Who are the Maryknoll Affiliates in the Guatemala Chapter?
MARYKNOLL SISTERS – Making Gods love visible in Guatemala.
These courageous women have come from other regions, from other countries, and from other missionary projects to start new missions. They expended great efforts to identify needs, find funds, identify places for projects, and train people for their work teams.
These excerpts are translated from the Guatemalan Maryknoll Affiliate website: http://afiliadosmaryknoll.wixsite.com/guate.
An extraordinary edition of No Tan Lejos del Horizonte, posted in November, was dedicated to honoring Rosa Beatriz Castañeda de Larios for her 50 years in education.
Sunday, November 13, 2016, Rosa Beatriz Castañeda de Larios, Coordinator of the Guatemala Chapter of Maryknoll Affiliates (as well as editor of the NTLH and chair of the MAC 2017 organizing team), received a well-deserved tribute for her life of service in education, in Guatemala and in the world. She was feted in an event replete with music: marimba music, choreographed dances, and songs by a choir of former students, all composed and produced by her friend Miguel Angel Duarte and his artistic team. Graduates of the Sister Elizabeth McDermott Applied Arts School and Monte María School, where Rosa Beatriz had served, presented her orchids. Her colleague, Maryknoll Affiliate Anabella Penados, of the Monte María School, gave her a bonsai, explaining that it was a metaphor for the duration of her career and the artistry with which she kept it alive.
November 9-12, 2017
Guatemala, Central America
Registration is now available. For the forms, go to http://afiliadosmaryknoll.wixsite.com/guate/nossos-professores
After the conference, consider a Mission Visit…
You can visit missions of Maryknoll Sisters, a Priest, Lay Missioners, and Affiliates who serve in different areas of Guatemala or in El Salvador. Visiting a mission, you will be salt and light in exchanging the joy of the Gospel, living the beatitudes, and letting yourself be evangelized more than wanting to evangelize others.
Four post-conference options are offered (each needs a minimum of 5 participants):
The Communications Committee addresses all the avenues of communication used by the Affiliates: the Not So Far Afield (NSFA) and No Tan Lejos del Horizonte (NTLH) newsletters, the Maryknoll Affiliates’ website, the Monday update email, Facebook, the Book Group, and the Affiliate databases. Members of the committee recently reviewed each medium and commented:
Newsletters: The NSFA is distributed by mail six times a year to over 300 households and by email to over 750 addresses. The NTLH, a separate newsletter written by our Spanish-speaking Affiliates—not just a translation of the NSFA—is made available online at www.afiliadosmaryknoll.wixsite.com/guate/ntlh and in pdf form. The NTLH newsletter in Spanish is now also available on our website, at downloads/no-tan-lejos-del-horizonte.html
Web site: Executive Coordinator Bob Short regularly updates the website, posting news items of current interest. He also highlights different chapters to give a feel for our various ways of approaching mission. Affiliates are asked to contact Bob if they would like to have their chapter highlighted. Also, let Bob know if you encounter broken links or other problems at the website so that he can address them.
Monday Email: To get the most recent Affiliate news, Affiliates are invited to sign up for the Monday email at this website, under Contacts.
Facebook and other social media have great potential, but so far the Affiliates’ Facebook page is not well used. We need a capable volunteer with ideas and social media skills to make better use of Facebook.
Affiliate Databases: Ginny McEvoy continues working with Bob Short to harmonize them. If you want to be added to the membership list or update your information, please email Bob.
Excerpted from the article, “Internalizing Justice, Not Just Acting for It,” in The Peace Current, Summer 2016
Am I willing to change my internal landscape and my lifestyle in the pursuit of justice? I wonder sometimes if there are “safe” social justice issues that don’t require very much change. Does a focus on issues like nuclear disarmament, human trafficking, or abortion allow me to feel good about working for social change but not require much personal change?
We all need to be willing to be personally uncomfortable in the pursuit of justice, too. We cannot shy from important justice issues that also challenge those of us who have built a life on white privilege.
*Sister Rose Marie Tresp, RSM, of Belmont, N.C., has advocated for fair treatment of immigrants in the US for many years. In 2013, she joined the Fast for Immigrant Justice, commenting, “Our purpose is to push for immigration reform. We’re hoping to get more people who will support immigration reform and work for it.”
The Maryknoll Affiliate Board and some of us individual Affiliates are reflecting on what it means to be an online community, a virtual community, in Maryknoll.
The Chandler–Isacksens run the Be the Change Project in Reno, Nevada. They live in voluntary poverty, grow lots of food, serve in their community, are war-tax resistors, and attempt to live their lives in alignment with their values. They attend the Reno Friends Meeting and have frequent contact with the Reno Affiliates. (See two previous articles in the NSFA: July/Aug 2015, p. 5, and Sept/Oct 2014, p. 6.)
We reached the Dakota Access Pipe Line construction site at about noon on September 27th. This was an hour after prayers and reminders from native leaders at the frontline camp and after driving 30 dusty miles over empty North Dakota back roads. The front line camp is just a mile up from the large Oceti Sakowin camp, home to a couple thousand people while we were there. “We have many warriors with us today who will protect the elders, the women, the children. Remember, this is a nonviolent action.”
One hundred packed vehicles made it to the action that day: overflowing pickup trucks with masked youth from the Red Warrior camp (those willing to get arrested and in it for the long-haul) sitting alongside gray-haired elders holding signs that say “Protect the Water,” horse trailers with horses, license plates from across the country, our family in a rental car getting dustier by the mile.