A big part of my work is helping people process and relate to encounters with social and economic inequality, and to do so with the intentionality necessary to develop nuanced, respectful responses that engender authentic solidarity. This requires my own continued examination of common reactions by privileged people to encounters with people in more marginalized positions, and to develop intentional language to preempt, challenge, and reframe those reactions.
In that vein, I’ve been thinking a lot about the all too common takeaway, “They’re poor, but they’re joyful.” I’m not unique in feeling that this language is problematic (to paraphrase Paul Farmer in regard to impoverished Haitians: they may have nice smiles and good senses of humor, but they still know they’re living in desperate conditions). But I am finding it necessary to more thoughtfully reflect on what accounts for this reaction, what truths are present within it, and, more importantly, why we need to challenge others (and ourselves) to think and speak differently.
If you attended MAC 2017 in Guatemala, you will enjoy reading about the Greater Los Angeles Maryknoll Affiliates Chapter’s recent visitors. We learned that Daniel Caño, the Mayan spiritual guide who presented about Mayan spirituality and led a ceremony at the MAC, would be in the Los Angeles area in February, and after much communication, Tim Moffett, Sr. Kathleen Shannon, Kathee Bautista, and I, and a few others, spent an afternoon with Daniel Caño, his wife Teresa, and his sister-in-law Ana.
We gathered at Olvera Street, the location of the early Mexican founders of Los Angeles. After walking among the various booths, we returned Daniel’s hospitality to those of us at MAC with an enjoyable, tasty lunch at an Olvera Street restaurant. Over lunch we had rich conversation with Daniel, Teresa, and Ana about Mayan spiritual practice.
After lunch, some of us took Daniel and Teresa to Our Lady Queen of the Angels Cathedral, a few blocks away. We enjoyed the tapestries of John Nava and saw an exhibit of Catholic high school students’ artwork in a variety of mediums. We were all impressed that those young people had produced such interesting art. Daniel had his camera with him and took photos throughout the day.
Kimberly and Andres helped with translations. Kimberly Nuvem Bautista, who is bilingual, has lived in Guatemala, and Andres Garcia is an intern at the nearby Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers LA office. Daniel and Teresa thanked us frequently. The Caños’ connection with Los Angeles continued as Kimberly, who has friends who are spiritual leaders from indigenous traditions in Mexico, prepared dinner for Daniel and Teresa and her friends.
Revive your spirit of Buen Vivir by getting together:
Earth Day is Sunday, April 22.
We’re raising a united Catholic voice to make the most of this moment. The Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM) is creating a complete resource kit for Earth Day to help your community celebrate, advocate, and educate for creation. The kit ncludes:
Register now (http://catholicclimatemovement.global/earth-day-2018/) to receive GCCM Earth Day updates, first-look materials, and more.
Last November Pope Francis pointed out four perverse attitudes to avoid. First denial and indifference, but also resignation—that temptation to decide some of what is needed is impractical or not possible—and trust in inadequate solutions!
Laudato Si 165 says we must shift off of fossil fuels without delay, in our electricity/utilities and transportation. Now it’s time for moral action inspired by Pope Francis, Maryknollers, and the Global Catholic Climate Movement. Come Holy Spirit!
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver
My wife, Jane, and I joined 21 Maryknoll jubilarians, who were marking 65th, 60th, 50th, or 40th anniversaries of ordination last June. The two-day celebration involved small gatherings of families and friends, as well as a huge and colorful liturgy in the chapel. Representatives of the four Maryknoll expressions—the Society, Congregation, Lay Missioners, and Affiliates—attended, and the chapel’s walls and windows reverberated with the sounds of brass horns, basses, and drums in full accompaniment.
After filling up on the spirit in the liturgy, we feasted on that special Maryknoll hospitality, a picnic with no end to the variety and quantity of food. People may not live by bread alone, but food is a good place to start.
Ask and you shall receive.
1. Read through this whole Easy Meeting. If your chapter is exploring a particular issue or concept, you could substitute your own issue.
2. Plan to have a practice run at the beginning of your meeting, asking questions on a general interest concept or issue.
3. Decide who will read the prayers and who will lead the discussions.
4. Have available some large pieces of paper and markers to record the group’s questions, and paper and pens for individual use.
5. If you wish, you may download a pdf of the print version of this meeting plan at:
Ask and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks, receives, and everyone who searched finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
This Easy Meeting will use questions to help your chapter explore and unpack two issues or concepts. First practice the questioning process.
Hawaiian Maryknoll Affiliate Patti Shannon emphasized: “We need to be bringing more young folks into our Maryknoll Affiliate Movement. They are our future.” Others added that the Affiliates need to reconnect the students of the Maryknoll School in Honolulu to their Maryknoll roots.
Hawaiian Maryknoll Affiliate Roseyn Devlin showed visitors Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss and Manny Hotchkiss the Maryknoll School in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she served as librarian for 22 years before retiring. Maryknoll School graduate Yvonne Morris was happy to talk about the school. Yvonne, who works with the Maryknoll Foundation which supports the Maryknoll School, emphasized that the school is “a loving place. That’s what the Maryknoll Sisters taught us.” The school’s motto is Noblesse Oblige: To whom much is given, much is expected. Yvonne said the Maryknoll Sisters taught them this responsibility by their example: after teaching all day, the sisters went out to help others.
Hitchhiking across the country in his twenties, Sebastian Unger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, carried a tent, sleeping bag, cookpots and stove, and a week’s worth of food. As he waited on the highway, a dirty, wild-haired man walked up the ramp and studied him. “Where you headed?” he asked. “California.” “How much food you got?” Nervous and afraid of being robbed, Unger lied. “Oh, I just got a little cheese.” The man shook his head and said, “You need more than that to get to California.”
He said he lived in a broken-down car and every morning walked three miles to a coal mine to see if they needed fill-in work. This was one of the many days that they didn’t. “So, I won’t be needing this,” he said, opening his lunch box. “I saw you from town and just wanted to make sure you were okay.” With that he gave him a bologna sandwich, apple, and bag of chips, probably from a local church.
What kept Unger thinking about this all his life was not that the man had been generous; many people are. But that this fellow had walked half a mile out of his way to make sure he was okay. He had treated the hitchhiking stranger like a member of his tribe.
A minor victory cheered the more than 30 supporters attending William Gonzalez’s hearing at the Portland Courthouse this January. Some feared that the president’s removal of Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans who came to the US decades ago might already be impacting people in our community.
William, a permanent resident, came to the US 38 years ago as a 12-year-old, with his mother who was granted asylum because of threats against her life in El Salvador. He has been harassed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since he applied for citizenship. In 2017, ICE required him to wear an ankle bracelet though he has not been a flight or security risk and has only had one DUI infraction since about 2001. William has worked 10-12 years as a cook at the famous Benson Hotel and has been involved in the union. He says the bracelet has to be recharged about every 8 hours, making it hard to get a full night’s sleep. Sometimes ICE can’t detect its signal from the basement kitchen where he works. When ICE can’t detect it, they can come to his house to question him.
William and his lawyers said the support of 40 letters and over 30 people at the hearing positively influenced the judge who ruled that the bracelet was to be removed and the harassing visits to William’s home to stop. William still had to pay a bond and further hearings will determine his immigration status.
People at the hearing were from The Immigrant Support Network, Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice (IMIrJ), ACLU, Havra Shalom Jewish congregation, Quakers, the Benson Hotel, and Unitarian and other churches. A representative from IMIrJ said it’s gratifying to see so many people at the hearing, but what is really needed is passage of compassionate Immigration Reform and the Real Dream Act.
Kitty sent her reflection as she and Roger were preparing to leave for Africa to attend the graduation of one of the children they have been helping with school since they were Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Tanzania.
Harmony seems like a stretch in these days of super egos and partisanship, but I saw it develop and flourish over the four days of the MAC 2017 in Guatemala. The deepest feeling I have about the conference is oneness. It wasn’t an invasion of North Americans telling Central Americans; it was complete sharing. The celebration of Mayan spirituality brought us together as a sharing in the cosmos. We arrived as individuals and left as one.
All the ceremonies/liturgies, group work and celebrations brought us together. Language was not a problem—there were words spoken in Spanish translated into English and English into Spanish but no need to translate the smiles and good will of all. Singing, dancing, walking, eating together blossomed into a unity of purpose and engendered a new Maryknoll Affiliate essence. At 25 years, we are still beginning.
We will aspire to “be of one heart”
...to be at peace, in harmony and in balance
with ourselves, with others, with Mother Earth, and with the Cosmos.
the oneness of all Maryknoll:
Lay Missioners, Fathers & Brothers, Sisters, and Affiliates.
At MAC 2017, 120 Maryknollers came together to reflect, analyze, and dream about the present moment and the future for Affiliates, for all of Maryknoll. Read the results (in Spanish or English) at http://afiliadosmaryknoll.wixsite.com/guate/post-mac-2017.
I had the good fortune to travel with three other Affiliates—Susan Porrovecchio, Jim Comes, and Gerry Mullaney—on our post-MAC tour to the Coatepeque region of Guatemala.
First, we spent time with Sister-Doctor Dee Smith, MM, and saw her tremendous accomplishments—finding and treating those diagnosed with HIV in and around Coatepeque. Most of those infected live in extreme poverty and also must deal with the stigma of this disease and rejection by their families. With a caring and dedicated staff, Sr. Dee has developed an outreach program to educate not only those in schools, but also families dealing with an infected family member.
Sr. Dee began the Santa Maria center in 2004, where attention is given to improving not only physical but also emotional care. They provide counseling, spiritual support, nutrition education, and physiotherapy as those inected continue their anti-retroviral treatment. Part of their holistic approach is to encourage the families to establish gardens with vegetables and healing herbs, as nutrition is key to strengthening immune systems. The center needs two new exercise bikes to help counter the various degrees of paralysis the disease can cause.
Then we were on our way to Catarina, San Marcos, to visit Sister-Doctors Jane Buellesbach and Mary Lou Daoust, MM, at their clinic where they see patients on Mondays. The rest of the week, they travel to 15 pueblos in rotation. They have a pharmacy and lab as well as a diabetic clinic which offers testing, treatment, and monitoring. While there, we also met a group of health promoters who were having a training session. They are educated by the sisters to diagnose through observation and treat common illnesses. They can dispense the basic medication the pharmacy provides.
Several of the outlying clinics are associated with fincas (large farms), where the workers, usually with several children, live in substandard housing and work under deplorable conditions, making about $7/day. Despite working long hours, they volunteer their time to staff the clinics one day a week. The sisters also have a vented woodstove project, as well as a water filtration project, where the families pay half and the Maryknoll Sisters pay the other half of the cost of home water filters. These projects help alleviate a variety of lung and parasite problems.
As with all mission trips, I discovered the connections that exist between all of us, and that even though we are many, we are one!
CONTRASIDA* was the mission of Maria Recinos and Irma Ventura de Ábrego years before they began attending the Maryknoll Affiliate gatherings. Dr. Mary Annel, MM, founded the CONTRASIDA Center in the 1990s in one of the poorer districts of San Salvador, El Salvador. Sr. Gloria Ardenio Agnes, MM, is now the only Maryknoll sister at the CONTRASIDA Center, but several other of the Salvadoran Maryknoll Affiliates also volunteer there. Affiliates and CONTRASIDA volunteers Norma Araujo de Orellana and Luis are in the photo. Affiliate Irma, not pictured, said she had worked with Sr. Mary (who only recently returned to the US due to illness) at CONTRASIDA for 13 years.
Sister. Mary initially wanted to elevate the dignity of the AIDS patients, to prepare them to die, but now the center prepares the patients to live fully. Their 170 patients range in age from 2 to 74 years. After receiving retrovirals, one patient has now survived 22 years.
Following MAC 2017, 11 of us journeyed via the Pan American Highway into the western mountains of Guatemala. Our trip took us first to the beautiful volcanic area of Lake Atitlan and the towns around the lake, where one of our guides, Sr. Bernice Kita, MM, spent many years in pastoral ministry. We traveled by water taxi from San Antonio Palopó across the lake to the town of Santiago Atitlan, where we saw the location of Fr. Stanley Rother’s martyrdom, and, perhaps more poignantly, the massacre of many indigenous peoples with whom he lived in solidarity. This was a prayerful and meditative time for all of us. Because of her close association with Fr. Stan, Sr. Bernice made this experience come alive for us.
Then we visited the mission site of our second guide, Maryknoll Affiliate Steve Barrett. in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second largest city. There, street children who work in the marketplace from a young age are provided with onsite learning opportunities that complement rather than conflict with their necessary work time. This ecumenical effort offers fundamental educational opportunities as well as vocational training, within an incredibly holistic approach to becoming a fulfilled human.