At a Friends of Sabeel (FOSNA.org) Leadership Conference this July in Portland, Oregon, we were happy to see that Sabeel, the voice of the Palestinian Christians, intersects with Maryknoll. Naim Ateek, an Episcopal priest from Nazareth, founded the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem over 25 years ago. Orbis has published several of his books: Faith and the Intifada: Palestinian Christian Voices was published in 1992; Justice and Only Justice, and A Palestinian Christian Cry For Reconciliation discuss liberation theology as it pertains to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Participants in the first Maryknoll Affiliate Book Group session this summer replied to a survey sent by Executive Coordinator Bob Short, giving feedback about their positive experiences and making some suggestions. Some participants would prefer being in a smaller group or meeting at another time. Smaller groups could allow more time choices.
Gabriella Maertens wrote: “I wondered how a book club by phone could work. I agreed before I received the book and then I wondered how we could discuss such a difficult book—Making All Things New. But I have been really happy with the group discussions that have taken place and impressed with the insights of our group. I look forward to “seeing” everyone each week.”
As a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, Bertha Haas founded the Huruma School for children with disabilities in Mwanza, Tanzania in 2004. Now, in her retirement, she spends about a month each year at the school, reconnecting with the teachers and children, working with the Tanzanian Board that oversees the school, seeing the progress, and dreaming with them about the future.
To welcome Bertha home, the Portland Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter hosted a fund-raiser party complete with an African music group. Supporting the Huruma School is an important outreach for the chapter.
Stored Value Cards, Inc., doing business as Numi Financial, targets county jails. In an August 2016 article, Arun Gupta noted that Numi contracts with counties to provide debit cards to return inmates’ money upon their release. (https://www.thenation.com/article/the-financial-firm-that-cornered-the-market-on-jails/)
In 2013, over 11 million people were released from county jails, making it a preferred market. The problem is that over 80 percent of the Numi debit cards end up paying onerous fees. The article states, “The terms for the card used in Multnomah County (Oregon) lists 11 possible fees—the $5.95 monthly fee, a $2.95 fee for ATM withdrawals, $0.95 for a declined transaction, $1 to check the balance, and $9.95 to have the balance refunded by check.”
An estimated 30 percent of the debit cards holding released prisoners’ own money are never used and are completely consumed by the fees. Inmates who may be deported by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suffer additional problems with the cards due to English-only written directions and customer service and higher international fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Electronic Funds Transfer Act do not cover this type of cards.
Numi Financial and similar companies should also be targeted by campaigns against for-profit prisons and the exploitive jail telephone systems.
An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Re-Commit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence
The May–June 2016 issue of NewsNotes from the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns (MOGC) contains the full statement affirmed by participants at the Nonviolence and Just Peace conference held in Rome, April 11-13, 2016. Working and planning for many months beforehand, Pax Christi International, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, UISG/USG, and many other international Catholic organizations, including MOGC, co-convened the landmark conference on nonviolence and just peace in the Catholic tradition.
Maryknoll Sister Teresa Hougnon represented the Maryknoll Sisters’ African peace-building team. Her reflection on the conference, “Nonviolence and Just Peace: The way of Jesus,”* also appears in NewsNotes.
Nonviolence and Just Peace, a new global initiative launched at the conference, reaffirms the centrality of active nonviolence to the vision and message of Jesus, to the life of the Catholic Church, and to the long-term vocation of healing and reconciling both people and the planet.
The web site https://nonviolencejustpeace.net/ gives further background and notes that the conference’s final statement calls on the Church to:
*The statement is also available online at http://www.paxchristi.net/document/5856.
The statement—“An Appeal to Christians in the United States”—reflects a growing alarm that our country is entering a very dangerous period in which some political leaders and some media are directly challenging our most fundamental Christian convictions. The statement is consequently a theological affirmation. We hope that you will read the statement carefully and join those who have already signed their names.* The full text is available at goo.gl/rqcO1Q.
An Appeal to Christians in the United States
Because of fear we too easily caricature or condemn those who are different from us. Politicians and too many in the media stereotype African Americans, Asian Americans, people from Hispanic background, and followers of Islam. If we follow their lead, we slander our neighbors and blaspheme against the one God of all peoples. We resist such stereotypes and pledge to work for laws and practices that honor the dignity of all people.
We …... pledge that we will seek to limit the proliferation of guns in the U.S.
We ……pledge to be advocates for laws that regulate in a just and orderly manner the flow of refugees and immigrants.
We …... pledge to work for systems of security that guard human dignity and protect the vulnerable as well as the strong.
Let us help shape the character of our much loved land not by an abandonment of our most cherished Christian convictions but by following the counsel of the Prophet Micah--to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
Remembering Berrigan: Priest, Poet, and Prophet
Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, died on April 30th. He had taught theology at Le Moyne College and Fordham University, New York, and was known for opposing the Vietnam War and later criticizing US nuclear policy. The Washington County, OR, Peace Vigil noted his passing and honors him by continuing his work for peace and nonviolence. Peace Vigil participants included Mary and Manny Hotchkiss, Barbara LaCombe, and Gerald Osacho of Holy Trinity Parish.
This spring, Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, www.splcenter.org, surveyed approximately 2,000 teachers, asking them how the presidential campaign was affecting their students and their teaching. The results indicated that the campaign is having a profoundly negative impact on schoolchildren across the country, producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. The full report and survey responses are at www.tolerance.org/.
As Affiliates, many of us have found ways to answer the call of Maryknoll—“to welcome the stranger and to walk with the people.” Members of the Sisters, Fathers and Brothers, and Lay Missioners often answer this call in the “field afar,” whereas most of us find the stranger, the deprived, the needy and lonely right here among us. Sometimes our answer to the call is short-term, like teaching English to new immigrants who then move on to self-sufficiency. Sometimes it’s visiting the incarcerated or working in a food pantry or offering rides to those without transportation.
Whatever form our answer to this call takes, it is a special way of accompaniment. Kitty Madden, whom many of us know and support, calls accompaniment a “bridging work.” For the past 30 years, she has been a bridge between Nicaraguan women who need care in their pregnancies and friends in the North who help her in this work by financially supporting Casa Materna or, as some Affiliates have done, by going to Nicaragua on short-term mission. Imagine the power of the accompaniment that has been given to over 17,000 mothers since the beginnings of this outreach.
On May 7, the Northeast Florida Maryknoll Affiliates, in collaboration with the Society’s mission education efforts, were happy to host a day of reflection on the encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. Maryknoll Mission Educator Matt Rousso led the day of reflection. He and his wife, Janet, long-time Maryknoll Affiliates, traveled from New Orleans for this special program.
At dinner the night before, where Matt and Janet informally met with our Chapter members, we discussed practical ways to be better stewards of the earth and its resources, including steps as simple as using real plates vs. paper ones (we used real!). Matt and Janet shared how they had invested in solar power for their home as a result of their concern for the environment.
Sixteen of us, both Affiliates and guests from the local community, gathered for the Saturday program. We invited our guests to consider joining us for a future Affiliate meeting and have heard from three of them that they plan to do so.
Fr. Ed Shellito, MM, introduced Matt and his important topic, and Matt began by talking about how Laudato Si differs from other encyclicals. He noted that the Pope used everyday (vs. “Churchified”) language. Also, the encyclical is addressed to every person living on this planet, whereas the first encyclical of Pope Francis had been addressed to all the members of the Church. Matt pointed out that Pope Francis was only the latest Pope to speak about the need to take care of our planet—we can hope that the message is finally being heard more widely.
One important point is the harmful effect that climate change has on the poor. For example, the poor are much more likely to lack clean water than are people of means. Matt said his mission trips to Guatemala have shown him firsthand that many people there lack clean water. Closer to home, the water challenges in the city of Flint, Michigan, came up in our discussion.
We watched the video, “The Gospel of Creation” and a short video on Pope Francis’s February Prayer Intention. The Pope reminded us that the earth is our common heritage and that we should become free of “the slavery of consumerism.” The Pope made a special prayer request: “That we may take good care of creation, cultivating and protecting it for future generations.”
As an older person and a grandmother, a compelling question for me was, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?” In our discussion, one person said he felt the need to re-dedicate himself to ecological educational efforts, and another shared her desire to become free of an excessive need to shop.
We were left with much to ponder about the conversion to which God is calling us. We are very grateful to Matt, who was God’s instrument and enriched us by his willingness to share his understanding of Laudato Si with us.
On a pleasant May weekend, Affiliates from the Albany Chapter visited the Maryknoll Sisters in Ossining. The occasion was a presentation and discussion led by Archbishop Michael L. Fitzgerald, a Missionary of Africa and one of the leading experts on Islam, Muslim-Christian relations and Interreligious dialogue among the senior hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Previously the head of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Archbishop Fitzgerald has been the papal nuncio to Egypt and a delegate to the Arab League.
Our chapter began 14 years ago with six members. Two of us, Ernie Gillogley and Patty Symkowick, had traveled to Kenya with Maryknoll Friends Across Borders, where we learned about the Affiliate movement. When we returned we joined Kaz and Joan McFarland and Alma Paige who had been spending about three months every year in Thailand teaching English to Buddhist monks with Brother John Beeching, MM. Since some in our chapter were involved in the California State University, Sacramento, Newman Center, we recruited mainly from that community and opened our meetings to all who were interested in community, prayer, reflection, action, and global vision. Since that time we have grown to over 14 members. We have combined most of our activities with a very strong JustFaith Graduate community, and currently 19 people, most of them Maryknoll Affiliates, are participating in the JustFaith module on the Ecological Crisis.
What’s it going to take for different cultures/faith traditions to co-exist peacefully?
What’s it going to take for people to get past their biases and fears of the “other,” to accept and live peacefully with each other? Participants may have found one answer in a JustFaith Ministries eight-week study, The Sultan and the Saint: Muslims and Christians Working Together for the Common Good, based on a book by that name. The springboard was a meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and the Sultan around 1219, during the Fifth Crusade.
The Guatemala Maryknoll Affiliates Chapter cordially invites you to the Verbo Encarnado Retreat Center (www.verboencarnado.com.gt). in Guatemala from November 9-12, 2017, for MAC 2017.
For the first time ever, our global vision takes us outside the US for the international Maryknoll Affiliate Conference (MAC).