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.
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.
A couple years ago, my husband, David, and I were contacted by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Sam Stanton and his wife Cecelia Espinosa, to see if we could help her with a church date in northern Santa Barbara County while he covered a church farther south. We had a wonderful visit with Cecelia while offering not only bed and board, but also transportation to a couple different Masses.
We saw that Affiliates could be helpful to the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in their promotional efforts, and the Hospitality Initiative suggested to Ted Miles, current Executive Director of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, that we may be able to offer Maryknoll Lay Missioners a place to sleep, possibly local transportation, and support at the churches where they are speaking. In late July, Ted shared the list of 2019 dates on which Lay Missioners will speak at churches to raise awareness and funds for all their mission needs. Offering this hospitality not only expresses our charism of welcoming, but it is a local short-term volunteer opportunity—a way to be of service to the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in their missionary efforts.
Please check the list of 2019 Church Dates and see if a Maryknoll Lay Missioner will be speaking near your home. Your hospitality will not only help further their efforts; you’ll probably make a lasting connection with a fellow missioner.
Father Bob Carleton, our Northeast Florida Affiliate Chapter Companion, met with us via Skype on May 9th. We had requested that he speak to us about the Church in China. Fr. Bob has been on the board of the US–China Catholic Association for many years and lived in China for three years teaching English. The Association’s website includes a video with a brief history of the Catholic Church in China and vividly describes the deep and continuing faith of the people. China was one of the first mission fields for Maryknoll priests, dating back to 1911.
Our group gathered around the dining room table in the home of Mary and Bryan Williams; we used Skype to see and hear Fr. Bob. He spoke to us from his room at the Maryknoll retirement home in Los Altos, CA. During his time teaching English in China, Fr. Bob taught a class on, “Who was Jesus Christ?” He did this as students might continue their studies or work in the West and should know about Christianity. However, he was not in China to make converts. We could tell that Fr. Bob remembered his students and his time in China with much fondness as he told us about his ongoing correspondence with some of his students from that time.
Rose Marie Berger, peace activist and member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, wrote in Sojourners magazine, July 25, 2019 (https://sojo.net/articles/cross-human-bodies),
I spent five hours as a guest of the US Capitol Police last week. It was hot, really hot. And those plastic handcuffs leave bruises.
I was one of 71 Catholics arrested by the US Capitol Police in the rotunda of the Russell Senate building in Washington, DC, for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding,” while praying the rosary. My prayer was—and is—to end the warehousing of immigrant children in cages—63,624 of whom have been apprehended by border patrol at the southwestern border between October 2018 and June 2019, and seven of whom have died after being in federal custody since September. More than a dozen Catholic orders and organizations sponsored the event. Seven Catholic bishops sent letters of support.
Dan Moriarty’s article for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, “Building a Movement to End Child Detention,” tells of his and other religious leaders’ involvement, describing it as “a privilege to participate in civil disobedience, to be arrested, to stand with detained families…” Others from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the Westchester Affiliates, and other Maryknollers also participated. Pax Christi USA was one of the organizers and had distributed colorful flyers nationwide, that said,
Rose Marie closed her article with a challenge:
I spent five hours as a guest of the Capitol Police. Detained migrant children are spending five weeks or five months in Border Patrol camps. What increased risk will you take to say “no”?
Maryknoll Affiliates have put their homes on the Maryknollers Hospitality List. The list catalogs Affiliate households that are available to offer hospitality for Maryknollers and Affiliates who are visiting a geographic area. To date, 28 Affiliate households have been listed.
The geographic areas covered are:
When Maryknollers request hospitality in a given area, they will contact Bob Short. Bob will assess the details of the request and then have the Affiliate member who is offering the hospitality contact the interested Maryknoller. In addition to the practical benefits of this hospitality, it provides an opportunity to get to know other members of the Maryknoll family.
During a wonderful supper prepared by Denise, and spurred on by John Moritz, we had a lively discussion about symbols. John had recently given a meditation on symbols at the Affiliate Board Meeting and they were still on his mind.
As the leader of the Northeast Florida Chapter, I enjoyed comparing notes with Chris Minnear, the co-leader of the Albany Chapter. We noted some differences between our groups. They have a large chapter of 30+ people and we are very happy if eight can make it to a meeting.
Despite the size difference, a lot of the challenges are the same. We both hope to have Chapter meetings where people can be revitalized and helped to grow. Albany often reads a book together and reviews it at a meeting. Northeast Florida has never read a book together; but our most avid reader, John Moritz, reports at each meeting about the newest Orbis-published books and we have an active lending library.
John and I thoroughly enjoyed both the hospitality of the Lessards and meeting Albany Affiliates. It is good to know that one of the new initiatives of the Affiliate Board is developing a database that will inform us about where there are Affiliates who are happy to host or otherwise connect not only with Maryknollers but also with other Affiliates. I applaud this initiative and am eager to see it developed.
I know our Northeast Florida Chapter will try hard to extend Maryknoll hospitality to any of you who come our way!
Participate in a border immersion experience: Learn about life at the Border in a 4-5 day immersion experience.
There are many other such programs offered throughout the US.
Volunteers: Volunteers who can stay two weeks or longer are needed. Spanish is helpful, but many jobs do not require Spanish. If you decide to apply, go in good health and well-rested as the days are intense and long. Log on to Annunciation House of Hospitality (https://annunciationhouse.org) for up-to-date information, the application process, and forms.
Financial donations: Financial donations are needed urgently, rather than specific items, so they can buy exactly what they need, responding to the changing needs of our guests. Make donations payable to Annunciation House and mail to 815 Myrtle Avenue, El Paso, TX 79901, or donate via their website.
Local opportunities: If you cannot travel or volunteer at this time, get involved locally in organizations working with recently arrived refugees and migrants.
Write and contact: Send letters to your state representatives. Send letters and post on social media, sharing what you know about Immigration matters and current anti-immigration bills.
Our chapter has organized a “Shoelace Project” for the months of June and July in St. Patrick’s Parish, Arroyo Grande. The idea for this campaign came from an NSFA article, “Compassion and Hospitality on the Border,” (March/April 2019). In this article, Jerrie Drinkwine mentioned that the detention center removes shoelaces and belts from asylum seekers as they are processed by ICE. When they are delivered to a respite center, they receive replacement shoelaces. Thus, the Humanitarian Respite Center operated by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, and similar facilities along the border, need a constant supply of shoelaces.
Maryknollers, including Affiliates, have been attending to the needs of migrants at the US-Mexico border. (Affiliates have written about helping at McAllen, TX, and on page 8, Don Gonzalez tells about El Paso.) Sr. Lil Mattingly, MM, responded graciously to our email when we arrived in El Paso in April. She arranged for us to meet the Maryknoll sisters working at the US Border near El Paso and hear their stories. Sr. Lil and Sr. Maggie Sierra are both working with immigrants in El Paso. Sr. Susan Nchubiri, MM, who is based at Maryknoll, NY, is working with them for a month responding to the massive increase in refugees from Central and South America.