In March, Kitty and I welcomed asylum seekers from Latin America on the Texas-Mexico border at McAllen, Texas.
Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change.
– Pope Francis, Lent 2017
Bienvenido! Welcome! We welcomed the families, moms, dads, and kids with smiles, handshakes, and kindness. Moms and dads were immediately relieved to be in a safe, kind, and loving place—the Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. We felt like real Americans with our history of welcoming strangers into our country and real Christians with love in our hearts.
Sr. Ann, a Sister of Mercy from Philadelphia, oriented us to the well-used former nursing home. We followed her wondering what task we could do as volunteers. The first room was packed full of donated clothing from all over the US that needed to be sorted into women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing. Someone had to do this separation of clothing. Next were the rooms for clean clothes, a separate room for infants’ clothes, shoe room, coat room, and men’s clothing rooms. The women’s room was a special place for the women volunteers and women to meet. They fitted and refitted clothing considering style and preference. What a beautiful and loving experience for all. I didn't think I would be of much help here.
Preparation for a Kairos retreat consists of three hours on each of eight Friday nights. Each of the 20 times I’ve done these 24 hours of preparation, I am greatly rewarded with a deep, lasting joy.
In a New York State prison, we give a four-day active retreat of talks, discussions, posters, and explanations. The Kairos Christian, interdenominational retreat welcomes all Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc. Each table of four residents (prisoners) and two Kairos volunteers becomes a community—a table family. We punctuate the retreat days with hymn singing led by a Kairos band, meals, and a break outside the gym in the fresh air and sunshine of the yard.
“Thinking Wrong” is a process to generate creative ideas, thinking outside the box. Where better to find such thinking than among retired Maryknoll Sisters in Monrovia, California, and ten or so undergraduate Kansas University design students—members of a Studio X project? Studio X projects use “Thinking Wrong” to create new possibilities.
The Sisters invited Greater Los Angeles Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter members to participate in “Thinking Wrong.” Three Affiliates—Jane Bivona, Hugh Menton, and Jean Menton—joined with the Sisters, KU students, and Pando Populus members to envision new happenings at the Sisters’ Monrovia community located against the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, on a beautiful November day. Four groups presented their ideas after a day of reflection and dialogue. Do you hear the Affiliates’ sense of spirituality, community, action, and global concern in the story?
As of January 2019, the Maryknoll Chapter Companion Initiative had its first successful Chapter Companions match: Fr. Bob Carleton, MM, has been matched with the Northeast Florida Affiliate Chapter that he started years ago.
“We are very excited to connect with Fr. Bob again,” said Mary Moritz, the Chapter Coordinator. “We believe that our chapter will be blessed by this connection.”
Five other chapter requests are pending with the Sisters and the Lay Missioners, and those matches will hopefully be finalized soon. In addition, three chapters have elected to formalize their ongoing relationship with a Maryknoll missioner as their Chapter Companionship.
We received a holiday update from David Stocker who participated in the Affiliates Mission Nonviolence Conference in Oregon this fall and shared “The Art of Nonviolence” in the Nov/Dec NSFA. He tells us:
I visited Rivera Sun (another speaker at Mission Nonviolence) in Taos after the Encuentro. We shared stories, and she is a great voice for the Insurrection.
On December 11th, one of our organizers in Tucson—Alejandra, a powerful advocate for immigrants’ rights and a woman who led part of the protest at Eloy Detention Center—was ordered to be deported. We are sure her activism has made her a target of ICE. What to do if all vulnerable people are silenced?
David also thanks readers of the NSFA for their donations to the SOA Watch Puppetistas:
With your support, Puppetistas were able to present the drum making workshop in two community centers in Mexico and at three locations in the US. Our music, arts, and drums were present at the Eloy protest and at the trial in Tucson of the border guard who killed a Mexican teen six years ago. Many of the children and their parents from the Mexican schools attended our Sunday gathering where the kids were featured in song and dance.
This is groundbreaking for SOAW and I’m proud that we were a part…. Through it all kids are still kids. In this world there can be no ‘others’ because all of the children belong to all of us. It really does take a village…. Thanks.
Compassion and Hospitality on the Border
Jerrie Drinkwine – Seattle Chapter
News flashes of a caravan of people from Central America moving through Mexico to seek asylum in the US filled television screens and social media throughout 2018. Scenes of children being separated from parents horrified most Americans. With these haunting reports, a team of five people from Holy Family Parish, Kirkland, WA, decided to go to the Texas/Mexico border in McAllen, to volunteer at the Humanitarian Respite Center in support of these asylum seekers and to gain information for a possible Adult Mission Trip in February 2019.
What happens after a family is processed by the Border Patrol and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and enters the Respite Center mirrors the social teachings of Jesus. Families come off prison buses from ICE with one adult per family having a tracking device secured to one ankle. All shoe laces and belts have been removed by ICE to prevent potential suicide. Once in the Respite Center, they are welcomed warmly by a team of volunteers and four paid staff members. This is where the hospitality and compassion take place.
For the sixth consecutive year, we carried out the March of Nonviolence on October 2. Marchers included the Lima, Peru, Chapter of Maryknoll Affiliates, lay people of the parish, area residents and college students, Father Jose Fedora, MM, Maryknoll Sisters Rosemary McCormack and Analyn Manauis, and the Ambassador from India in Peru.
This march celebrates the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of India’s Independence, and renews our commitment to follow in his footsteps. Historically, Gandhi’s actions demonstrated that pacifism was a valid instrument for achieving political objectives. Gandhi maintained his struggle through peaceful resistance and seeking concord, and gained India’s independence without bloodshed, in a century convulsed by two world wars and a number of tragic events.
During the March of Nonviolence, we are sensitized against using violence toward children, men, women, animals, or Mother Earth, and we are reminded that peace should lead us to love each other, no matter what religious creed each person practices. We pray to God that with the passage of time the March will take us to take us further along the path of nonviolence where we create an atmosphere of respect and harmony between the population to the south of Lima and Mother Earth.
*Translated from “Marcha por la No Violencia en Perú,” in No Tan Lejos del Horizonte #35, Nov-Dec 2018.
Have you ever wondered, as I do, what caused the miracle of Caminando Por La Paz to continue? In the nearly ten years since Father Tom Goekler's death, we at Caminando have received an unbelievable amount of support from our fellow Affiliates. We believe that God has used the Affiliates to continue the miracle of Caminando.
When I first became involved with the Caminando Por La Paz Catholic Worker House, the Catholic Worker House in New Haven, CT, sent us some money for our educational efforts. I was not sure how I could communicate sufficiently with the folks at Caminando, so I arranged a meeting with the Affiliates of the Guatemala Chapter. That Guatemala Chapter continues to be in strong solidarity with us, giving encouragement to us and all our activities. Rosa Beatriz (Guatemala chapter and Affiliate Board member) says, “Our meetings make us feel as one community.” She also says it is such a joy to see our red truck coming with the people from “Zone 18,” as they refer to us from Caminando.
A presentation on human trafficking I attended was both informative and disturbing. Thankfully, the presenters included a list of actions and opportunities if we wanted to be more involved. One opportunity was at Rahab’s Sisters.
Rahab’s Sisters, a safe space for women to gather each Friday night, offers dinner, time off the street or away from ‘boyfriends,’ and needed supplies: socks, underwear, and hygiene items. It operates out of Sts. Peter and Paul Episcopal Church in Portland, Oregon. Volunteers serve the female guests (and those who self-identify as female), most of whom are unhoused and over 45 years old. Some are prostitutes; many are addicts, and many are women of color.
Rahab’s Sisters emphasizes Radical Hospitality. Their vision is a city where all women are safe from physical and sexual exploitation. They offer a warm, safe environment with nutritious food, hot coffee, and conversation. From 7-10 in the evening, it is a place for women helping women, whatever the guest’s condition. Actively using drugs is discouraged, but “Our sisters are welcomed without judgment, no strings attached.” (https://rahabs-sisters.org)
In November, instead of their usual meeting, seven Seattle Affiliates attended the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center’s workshop by that name. It was presented by two Notre Dame Sisters who work with Pax Christi: Patricia Chappell, Executive Director, and Anne Louis Nadeau, Director of Programs. This dynamic duo presented a fast-paced exposé of racism—its history and effects. They defined racism as America’s original sin against people of color, including those of African, African-American, Caribbean, Latino, or Middle Eastern ancestry.
In groups, we discussed why talking about racism is taboo among white people and how we identify ourselves as white. Our group had a mixture of people of color and white. It came down to the belief that white people, mostly in denial of their role in racism, feel shame, fear, or pain when discussing it. White privilege is both conscious and unconscious. Racism combines personal racial prejudice and the misuse of power by systems and institutions.
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.