On a Friends Across Borders (FAB) trip in Tanzania, we listened to Maryknoll Lay Missioner Liz Mach and those being helped at Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza. After hearing their stories and the wonderful work of Liz and others at the hospital, my friend Kathy turned to me and said, “We are with saints.”
The new Maryknoll Affiliates Companions program can provide Affiliate chapters and companions an opportunity to be with saints over time and space far exceeding a short FAB visit and a single hospital tour. And, by the way, the saints can also include our sisters and brothers worldwide with whom Maryknollers walk.
There is such potential in the Companions program to add to the richness of the Affiliate experience. This can take the form of spiritual wisdom, support, and guidance from a Father, Brother, Sister or Lay Missioner. It can also expand our global awareness of the struggle and the witness in Maryknoll mission sites worldwide. Then there is the potential for larger action on the part of Affiliate chapters, whether locally or globally, as we continue to do our best to advance God’s kingdom in the world.
As an Affiliate Regional Coordinator, I travel to Maryknoll in Ossining, NY, at least once a year to attend a joint Regional Coordinator/Board Meeting. Every time I go there, I am struck by the wisdom and grace that I find in the Maryknollers who are there. Just one example of this is my second cousin, Fr. Frank “Pancho” Higdon, a Maryknoll Priest now residing there. It is always a joy for me to spend time with him. We both get energized by the sharing of our ideas and experiences.
At the Affiliate Board Meeting that I attended in October, we split into small groups for discussion and planning purposes. Each small group was invited to develop an idea to test—a prototype–that might bless the Affiliate movement. In our small group, I shared that I would like to develop a program that might allow all Affiliate chapters to benefit from the great wisdom that Maryknollers have. Some chapters, like mine in Florida, didn’t have any such connection. I believed that both the Maryknollers and the chapters would benefit greatly from more frequent sharing.
My hope is that connections will be made around the world between Maryknoll Affiliates and the missioners with whom we share the Maryknoll charism.—Paula Schaffner
My group—Ralph Maughan, Jean Menton, Gerry Mullaney, Paula Schaffner, and I—drafted a plan for a Chapter Companions Program, for which we agreed to be the core team. This program allows chapters to ask for a Maryknoller to be their companion. A chapter and its companion could communicate by email, phone, mail, WhatsApp, or Skype. If possible, the companion could visit the chapter.
Depending on their time and energy, a chapter companion could provide a chapter with an opening or closing prayer, or give them information on a topic to discuss at a meeting. Perhaps the companion could sometimes join the meeting, possibly by Skype. The chapter coordinator might want to ask the companion for advice relative to a chapter issue. The companion could pray for the chapter, and the chapter could pray for the companion. The hope would be that this mutual relationship would bloom and grow, and be meaningful and enriching to all concerned.
As of mid-December, the Sisters, the Priests and Brothers, and the Lay Missioners have all agreed to participate. We are excited about the positive response we have received! Now we are working to get the word out to all chapters, wherever they are, that they can have a Maryknoller as a companion. Some chapters already have a Maryknoller who is actively involved with them. We hope that these chapters will “sign on” also, and just let us know about their existing chapter companion.
On Sunday, November 11, ten Affiliates, along with our own Father Gerry Kelly, MM, gathered in Brazoria County, Texas, to answer the call of the poor. Brazoria County is south of Houston, and, like Houston, was heavily impacted by the flooding associated with Hurricane Harvey. Paula & Dave Schaffner came from California, Mary & John Moritz from Florida, Bob Short from Connecticut, Ron Guidry from New York, and Fr. Gerry, Bob & Ruth Kleeman, and Judy & Dick Horstman from Houston.
This has been a busy year for us, with involvement in several issues, but also a time for celebration.
Having served nine years in Tanzania as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, I return annually to visit my favorite project, Huruma, a Special Education Unit. This year I visited in August. As we start a new school year here, Huruma students are well into their second semester. So many awe-inspiring developments in the past year!
Beginning January 2019, five elementary schools in our district have been selected to begin inclusion of students with disabilities. At least fifteen Huruma deaf and/or physically impaired students in grades 4-7 will begin attending classes at Pasiansi Elementary School, enthusiastically welcomed by the Head Teacher.
Training in life skills is now possible because of a donor-built wall keeping out the goats, cows and careless passersby. The garden begun in April survived the dry season, providing greens for the students’ daily meal, as well as food for their families, with enough left for sale. Avocado trees and flowers flourish. The seven tire swings bring joy to the students. It was great to see teachers take students outside for instruction.
In addition to the gardening program, parents are promoting a peanut butter industry. Carpentry is picking up again. Perhaps tailoring will be able to resume also.
My heart overflows with gratitude for the dedicated staff at Huruma and our generous donors who make it possible.
The one sad spot is that staff did not receive a raise in July to offset inflation. To remedy that, it’s imperative that we have a successful Taste of Tanzania on February 16, 2019. Can’t attend? Participate by sending your donation to Huruma Chapter KILEO, PO Box 244, Cornelius, OR 97113.
The Maryknoll Affiliate Pillars of Spirituality, Community, Global Vision, and Action are all great topics for an Affiliate meeting, especially when inviting new people who may not know much about Maryknoll.
At our Affiliate luncheon on the last day of the Northwest Mission Nonviolence mini regional conference, we invited visitors to join us and we focused on the Maryknoll Affiliates’ pillar of Global Vision. To emphasize Global Vision, we planned our meal to have a Middle Eastern flavor.
Catherine “Kitty” Madden has lived and worked in Nicaragua since 1986, first as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, then as a Maryknoll Affiliate. Read her unabridged article at https://maryknollogc.org/article/nicaragua-speaking-truth-power.
In August, we gathered to mourn the death of our neighbor, “Juan,” killed by a sniper who fired on a peaceful protest, and to share our sympathies with his mother, wife, and children.
Just last April, Nicaragua was still hailed as “the most peaceful country in Central America.” Many people entered the country each day, to provide humanitarian aid, to enjoy its beauty and the people’s warm hospitality or to invest in its thriving economy. On the surface, things seemed quite perfect! However, just as with its volcanoes, something very charged was growing beneath the surface. No one could have imagined the catastrophic changes about to emerge.
In 32 years, I lived under the revolutionary Sandinista government in the 1980s. The FSLN (Sandinista national liberation front) had toppled the dictator Anastasio Somoza and his family dynasty in an insurrection that claimed 50,000 lives. In the 1980s, I anguished at the US backing (if not instigation) of the Contra War that ended in 1990, after taking another 30,000 lives and maiming thousands of others.
In February, Chris Pinney, his son Zac, and four others visited programs, interviewed people, and videotaped footage in Sololá Diocese, Guatemala, the sister diocese of Spokane, WA, Diocese.They found vibrant activity in Sololá but also great need. The video was shown at the Sixth Annual Mission Celebration in Spokane, also attended by Ralph Maughan, Seattle Affiliate and Regional Coordinator, and Bob McFarland of North Bay, CA, Chapter.
Have you heard about the upcoming national protest against US immigration policy and against the half century of US government sponsored mayhem that has compounded the immigration crisis at the US southern border? The Border Encuentro and Vigil, organized by the School of Americas WATCH (SOAW) will take place November 15-18 on both sides of the US/ Mexico border wall in Nogales, Arizona.
A project of Pax Christi International, The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, or CNI, is a global effort affirming the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church. It grew out of the landmark Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference held in Rome in April 2016, which was co-sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Pax Christi International, and other organizations, including Maryknoll. Leaders include Ken Butigan of Pace e Bene and DePaul University, and Marie Dennis of Pax Christi International.
With about 60 people in attendance, keynote presenter Rivera Sun, well known for her popular fictions, Billionaire Buddha and The Dandelion Insurrection, was right on. The Dandelion Insurrection follows a colorful cast of activist characters in a society that is crumbling from the weight of capitalism and empire. Drawing from her other career as a nonviolence trainer for Pace e Bene, she told real his-stories and her-stories of people who changed the world without violence. Her statistics that nonviolence succeeds more often than violence for regime change, civil rights actions, and fair working conditions were heartening.
Rivera gave us tools to mount our own campaign. She walked us through Goals, Strategy, Targets, Participants, Duration and timing, and Resources and risks; then we considered how to apply these tools in our area of interest during breakout sessions.
In the breakout sessions, the afternoon presenters included Benneth Husted on the subject of nonviolent resistance in Palestine, Ethan Livermore of the Poor People’s Campaign, Maxine Fookson of the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (Imirj), and Peter Bergel offered strategic guidance for non-violent campaigns and great music! Each presenter modeled ways to move deeper into that list of nonviolent strategies.
Kevin Carroll, Nonviolence and Peace Fellow with the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (MOGC), brought us up to date on the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (CNI), a global effort affirming the vision and practice of active nonviolence. It calls on the Church to promote nonviolent practices and strategies and no longer use or teach the “just war theory.” See Kevin’s article, "Just War or Just Peace?"
David Stocker. I count myself privileged to have also been a presenter, telling about Border Encuentro, which takes place November 15-18 in Nogales, AZ. See my article, "The Art of Nonviolence."
March and pray. Before our Saturday afternoon Mass, we took to the streets to demonstrate our newfound active nonviolence skills, using our voices, signs, and drums.
Friday dinner. Affiliates and presenters broke bread together at the Hotchkiss home, celebrating International Peace Day. After a delicious meatless meal, we discussed, “How can Maryknoll Affiliates help build a nonviolent community?” Tom Hastings, from Portland State University, said peace is on the path to being a separate educational discipline.
Sunday lunch. Our final gathering focused on Global Vision. Over a Mediterranean themed meal, we shared some of the places in the world with which we feel a special connection. Watch for an Easy Meeting about this in our next issue!
In June, 12 of us set out for the Rio Grande Valley with Fr. Gerry Kelly, MM, and Matt Rousso, a Maryknoll Mission Educator and Promoter. We were not sure what to expect since the US government had recently initiated Zero Tolerance for refugees and asylees, and hundreds of children were being separated from their parents and put in detention facilities.
On our mission visits, we were filled with deep sadness and much anger at what we saw. Our desire to offer the migrants smiles of welcome and words of friendship grew stronger each day. We wanted to be in solidarity with the so-called “illegal aliens” and visit with the poor living in the Valley, hear their stories, and, in some small way, bring them our love.
Our mission program (see Janet Rousso’s article) was an accompaniment, rather than doing for, as we connected with the people whom we visited. Little did we know when we planned the trip in the fall of 2017 that we would be there during the height of the Zero Tolerance Policy for migrants seeking refuge and asylum—and that hundreds of children were being put in detention facilities and separated from their mothers and fathers.
We spent time at the Border Wall and with the ARISE and Proyecto Juan Diego programs, both located in the heart of the colonias, getting to know families they served. While at Proyecto Juan Diego, we also sat in on a citizenship class as residents prepared and learned about being citizens in the United States. At La Posada and the Respite Center in McAllen, which serve mostly refugees, we met people from the Ukraine, the Congo, Mozambique, Guatemala, and Mexico. The Respite Center, a few blocks from the bus station in McAllen, serves both those coming into the US initially and others after they leave detention, who will join family/friends in another part of the country while they await a court date.
But what happened to me during my visit and has continued upon my return? I was transformed by the people I spent time with: Rosa, Julia, & Mario, to name a few. Immigrant, refugee, and migrant are no longer just words; I see faces of real people and their fortitude, belief in God, endurance. It has moved me to tears and changed my prayer time. While immigration was something I cared deeply about before going, I am still carrying the people who live and work in the Lower Rio Grande Valley in my heart. Now that I am home, I have begun to share the story—most people have reacted by saying thank you, because they understand the situation much better than they ever could by watching tv or reading about it. Perhaps my transformation can also open the eyes and hearts of others; that may be exactly why taking part in a mission program is so valuable. We accompanied each other there, but the people of the Lower Rio Grande Valley continue to accompany me in my thoughts, heart, and prayer. As I reflect and pray, Matthew’s words now have more meaning and impact than ever:
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
More than 300 supporters of detained immigrants and refugees participated in the Mass of Solidarity and Hope at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), built on the theme, “For I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Preceding the Mass, about 500 people gathered at St. Leo Parish in downtown Tacoma, bringing signs and banners and scurrying around with last-minute preparations. Marchers from St. Joseph Parish in Seattle and at least a dozen other Tacoma and Seattle parishes and Catholic groups, including Maryknoll Affiliates, joined them, and we began in song!
The palpable spirit of the gathering, rooted deep in our Catholic faith, was the desire to express concern for and solidarity with immigrants. Esmeralda Saltos spoke briefly about her work coordinating Catholic Eucharistic services at NWDC. After Mass, we called on the inspiration and example of Our Lady of Guadalupe in reciting “A Pilgrim’s Prayer,” (below) and then we filed out of church singing, led by the “Share the Journey” banner.
Advocates for social justice from St. Leo and St. Joseph parishes organized the pilgrimage and bilingual Mass on a city street just outside the Detention Center. By their words and actions, the three Jesuit priests concelebratig Mass and the participants showed their solidarity with the detainees and refugees. The crowd, feeling this spirit of solidarity, responded with enthusiastic prayers and songs. The more that 1500 detainees in NWDC drew hope from our singing and from the information that visitors passed along.
After Mass, St. Leo volunteers sold delicious burritos for those visiting the Welcome Center that AIDNW (Advocates for Immigration in Detention – www.aidnw.org) operates to help newly-released detainees navigate their way back to family and friends located around the country.
Some detainees, brought to the NW Detention Center from other parts of the country, have no family or friends to visit them here. The pilgrimage and Mass truly welcomed the strangers in our midst behind the fence of the Detention Center. May they feel supported as they await the court’s decision on their cases.
A Pilgrim’s Prayer
God of all nations
We turn to you in faith
And compassion for
Our brothers and sisters detained by
Our government in our country.
Many have lost their children;
Children of all ages have lost their parents
While they suffer fear, mistreatment
Please embrace them with your presence,
And the comfort of your peace.
Teach us citizens the ways
To stand in solidarity with those
without due process,
without a home.
Stir us to action with them
and on their behalf,
that together we may all find a home
in a society of peace, justice,
and dignity for every person. Amen.