Maryknoll Affiliate groups and Parish entities have been asking what it means to do mission in the modern day. Much has been said in recent years at Affiliate gatherings about the Third Wave, agreeing that we are in a new age of mission. There was a time when mission was the special domain of those in religious life. Bishop James E. Walsh of the North American Mission Society, better known as Maryknoll, once said, “To be a missioner is to go where you are needed but not wanted and to stay until you are wanted but not needed.” Pope Francis has called upon the church to begin a new chapter in evangelization; writing in Evangeli Gaudium, he reiterates the basic reality that we are all called to mission by virtue of our baptism. Thus, we must continue to go where we are needed—at home or abroad; perhaps wanted, perhaps not.
There are as many ways of doing mission as there are baptized individuals.
How do we do this? I believe the answer is personal and that many people are doing mission and not realizing it! My prime example of this is those who volunteer in our local parishes, working in the food pantries, teaching CCD, etc. If that’s not mission, nothing is.
Participants brought their personal symbols of balance to illustrate the Northeast Regional Meeting’s theme. Holding the Maryknoll Affiliate meeting on Earth Day, April 21, provided an extra dimension, as did welcoming several members of the newest Affiliate Chapter from Springfield, MA. Over 50 people attended, including the Affiliate Board, with 15 chapters represented.
After an opening song and prayer for the Earth, Sr. Norie Mojada, MM, presented a brief review of Theory U from the Presencing Institute (www.presencing.org/#/aboutus/theory-u). About 25,000 people, including some Affiliates, had studied Theory U in an on-line course in 2015, and the Maryknoll Sisters are using the concept to aid in evolving their community. Theory U is a process which helps users open their mind, heart, and will to accept new input and let the future emerge.
Quoting Liz Sweeney, SSJ, who wrote on a model for communal discernment through contemplative dialogue (Summer 2014 LCWR Occasional Papers – see https://lcwr.org/item/summer-2014-discernment), Sr. Norie stressed the importance of contemplation and contemplative dialog to help us stay open to input from others and to listen with our hearts.
In small groups we examined and shared our individual spirituality as Affiliates. Many mentioned their connection with the earth and all its creatures, social activism, and an appreciation for an evolutionary consciousness. We discussed what each of us saw as Maryknoll spirituality: including global vision, care for creation, respect for other faith traditions, and especially hospitality.
In discussing their chapter’s balance of the four pillars, Affiliates said their chapter provides a community, nurturing them in ways their parish community does not. The Affiliate pillar of Global Vision was also very important. Every group emphasized Spirituality, but there was a lot of discussion about Action. Affiliates are very active, but chapters don’t usually have a project they all work on. Several groups thought that if their chapter had one project that they all worked on, it would help unify and animate their chapter.
After saying Mass, Fr. Russ Feldmeier, MM, helped us close the day, praying for several who would soon have operations and sending our blessings to all those we carry in our hearts.
In early January 2013, I toured the Northwest Detention Center, one of the largest in the US (capacity 1,575 detainees), with a group of people interested in visiting detainees who have no family or friends in the area. The NW Detention Center, a for-profit facility, is located in the industrial area of Tacoma, WA, without any public transportation or services. It is operated by GEO Group (NYSE symbol GEO) under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under the Department of Homeland Security.
A not-for-profit organization, Advocates for Immigrant in Detention Northwest (www.aidnw.org), located in Tacoma, trains volunteer visitors and assigns a detainee whom they visit frequently until the detainee is released or deported. Other not-for-profit organizations also have programs for visiting detainees at NW Detention Center.
Several of the North Bay Affiliates had been on mission in southeast Asia. Now their mission not so far afield is helping a Haitian refugee family in California. Last November, the NSFA told about Bob and Nancy McFarland being willing to open their home to a refugee family.
Nancy and Bob had begun to work with a rapid response team to help undocumented immigrants. One family who fled Haiti for their safety had traveled through many countries before reaching California. They learned that this family of four—a father, his wife who was 9 months pregnant, and their 2- and 4-year-old children—was sleeping on half of the living room floor of someone else’s apartment. Even though the McFarlands had health concerns and would soon be traveling to the 2017 MAC in Guatemala, they had a spare bedroom and could not refuse to help.
The McFarlands’ cautious “Yes” was echoed throughout the community. They were gratified when 17 of their associates immediately volunteered to help materially and with transportation. The father, Jean, spoke to another faith community that collected $1,800 to help the family pay expenses. Another Affiliate gave a car he could no longer use to the family. Now Jean has passed his written driver’s test but not yet the actual driving test allowing him to use the car he’s been given.
The family is applying for asylum because of the violence they experienced which forced them to flee Haiti. Although lawyers volunteered some of their time, the asylum application will still cost about $5,000. Affiliates transported and accompanied the family to the immigration hearing, carrying the 25 pounds of paper applications for the 4 refugees.
“A healthy baby was born to the family and it was like a real Christmas story. Jesus was a refugee,” Nancy reminisced.
The community has come together to support the family of five. That evening during our pot luck dinner, Bob took a phone call and made a quick exit to drive Jean to his new job.
Helping the refugees has reinvigorated this Affiliate chapter. Their presentation last fall about immigration issues at a local parish has attracted several new members. They have connected with other organizations who are also concerned about immigrants and refugees. These Affiliates remember their immigrant roots and eagerly share their love, time, and energy.
The Korea Affiliates held their monthly meeting on April 7, 2018, at the Maryknoll Sisters’ residence in Seoul. Fifteen members, including two newcomers, spent the afternoon sharing on their personal lives and actions since the last meeting a month ago. Russ Feldmeier attended and presided at Mass.
The questions below were used as a framework for the sharing:
They had a wide-ranging discussion. One person talked about the need to listen to the people we serve. He works with youth at Sogang University, a Jesuit University in Seoul, and facilitates pilgrimages and other programs. Others spoke of the value of the Maryknoll family and the way Maryknoll missioners in Korea influenced them. In general, they talked about the value of the Affiliate chapter where we can all meet and which helps us to grow. Since this was right after Easter, they talked about the Paschal Mystery of new life even through suffering.
The hot issue for the day was the #MeToo movement, which has had a powerful impact in Korea recently. It has been an opportunity for Koreans to deal with the patriarchal aspect of Korean society, and a number of the Affiliates shared on the impact it has been having on their own lives and on the society at large.
There was a great deal of energy at the meeting, and the sharing was rich.
A friend asked Bertha, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Tanzania for many years, how Tanzanians interpret the Good Samaritan story. Seeing her answer as relevant to all in mission, she shares her thoughts with us.
It is an immense challenge for missioners to respond appropriately to cultures that we don’t fully understand or appreciate. This challenge is acute for short-term missioners but affects all. I was particularly sensitive to the priests who had served in Tanzania for decades but who had derived their understanding of the culture from men.
This question evoked many memories for me. The interpretation that to Tanzanians, “my neighbor is whoever helps me,” rather than “whoever needs help,” is understandable. Colonial experience impressed on Tanzanians the self-image of helplessness, neediness, and dependence on foreigners. Though they spontaneously reach out to each other without even thinking about it, there’s a difference between how Tanzanians relate to each other and how they view themselves in relation to the rest of the world.
My Good Samaritan story: Just after an RCIA class focusing on the Good Samaritan parable, my class and I encountered an old woman passed out in a drunken stupor on the street outside the church. Having just pondered the parable, we couldn’t rightly just pass by. Because everyone else knew the woman and her history, passersby just laughed and went on their way. The Tanzanian catechist offered no solution to the situation. So, several of my young adult students stayed with her while I walked the five blocks to my home to get my car. On my return, the students lifted the lady into my car. I drove to the trail that led up to her home and the students carried her up the steep hill to her home.
I don’t recall that we discussed this encounter during our next class, but I still distinctly remember the event. Had I not been the class facilitator, I fear I would have joined the passersby and gone on home without intervening. I still worry that by getting my car, I again taught that Tanzanians are dependent on outside help, that they are excused from helping.
What do you think a missioner should do in this situation?
Wherever two or three are gathered...
The Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim is a unique annual gathering of 30,000 enthusiastic Catholics, including Maryknollers. Weeks in advance, Hugh Menton, Regional Coordinator for California chapters, invited other Affiliates to join the Los Angeles Maryknoll Affiliates at the Maryknoll booth and have lunch together on Saturday of the Congress.
Tim Moffett and Kathee Bautista from the LA Chapter visited at the booth. The last issue the NSFA reported on their lunch meeting in Los Angeles with Daniel Caño, Mayan Spiritual guide at the 2017 MAC in Guatemala. Kathee updated us that her daughter, Kimberly Bautista, a film maker and activist who has done significant work in Central America and the US, met Daniel at that meeting. When Kimberly recently traveled to Chiapas, Mexico, she and a friend continued to Guatemala and met again with Daniel, this time in his village, further exploring their mutual interest in indigenous spirituality. As we learned at the 2017 MAC, we are all connected, and the impact of our actions can be widespread.
Outside the conference hall, we talked with people who were in the rally for the abolition of the death penalty organized by Pax Christi.
Bob addresses the Hurricane Harvey floods, ongoing mission trips, and volunteering at Casa Juan Diego. Some Houston Affiliates are doing other mission work, too.
Dick Horstman, Ruth, and I are working with a local parish along with Catholic Charities and the Archdiocesan Mission Council to assist in rebuilding flooded houses near Angleton, south of Houston. So far, the families most in need—the poorest of the poor—have been identified, and the diocese has given us permission to use a six-bedroom house to accommodate incoming mission groups. This house, previously owned by the Basilian Fathers, who have turned their parishes over to the archdiocese, will now be a place for volunteers coming from around the state and country. Eight months later, many houses are still not livable, mostly because the people don’t have the money to buy materials. Catholic Charities has some funds available, and we are working with them to get the money to home owners.
Dick Horstman, a newer Affiliate, is in contact with Louise Zwick, co-founder of Casa Juan Diego* (CJD) with her husband, Mark, who passed away in 2016. He is arranging to have a high school group replace a roof on one of the men’s houses. Louise seems to never change, but she misses Mark very much. She says that he usually made the “big decisions,” so she continually asks him for help to carry on and make the right choices. She has been blessed with some longer-term volunteers and that has helped a lot.
Dick and his parish still go on missions to Eagle Pass, Texas, as are groups from four local Catholic high schools. The high schoolers do a lot of home repairs, including roof replacements. Fr. Gerry Kelly, MM, goes on most of these missions and also on mission trips with the various medical missions to Honduras, south Texas, and Costa Rica.
I volunteer each Wednesday to “run the sandwich route” at Casa Juan Diego. Our parish makes about 75 sandwiches three times a week for delivery to CJD, which are distributed to the migrant workers on street corners waiting for work. Along with those men, we usually find a few groups of homeless people who always welcome a sandwich and fresh fruit and a bottle of water.
*For more about CJD, see July/August, 2017 NSFA, "If We Had Any Guts, ..."
New Orleans area Affiliates (Gulf South Chapter) bring to life the Maryknoll charisms of hospitality, spirituality, mission accompaniment, global vision, social justice, as well as compassion, mercy, and acceptance. Ten Affiliates gathered on short notice at Matt and Janet Rousso’s home to visit with the Hotchkisses this April.
Even Affiliates who were not able to join us were emphatic in their support of social justice. Ben Gordon sent an email that he was attending a meeting addressing the incursion of tourist facilities into his working-class neighborhood. Another Affiliate was on her way to participate in the People’s March in Memphis commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.
When I was first invited to go on a Maryknoll Affiliate mission immersion trip, I thought, “What gifts do I have to bring to this experience?” As I began to understand that it was an accompaniment journey to Guatemala, I felt better about my lack of skills and the fact that I did not speak Spanish. We had an amazing experience of ‘being with’ the people we met and spent time with. A part of my heart is still in Guatemala, and even before leaving, I knew that my world view had forever changed. I would never again look at anything global in the same way.
I carried the experience of the immersion mission around with me in my heart and soul. Talking with people who I knew would ‘get it’ helped, but I also knew that I was called to do something else—but I wasn’t sure what that was yet. It would take another two trips to Guatemala before it became apparent.
For our March meeting, Seattle Affiliates attended the Second Annual Immigration Summit, held at Seattle University on March 10, as a way to find a project we could do together. We provided a table where we exhibited Maryknoll information and talked with attendees.
The Immigration Summit
Fr. Steve Sundborg, SJ, President of Seattle University, gave us a warm welcome, followed by keynote speaker Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, PhD, from Seattle University. She referred to Exodus 22:21, when Yahweh told the Jews to treat the foreigner well, remembering that they were once foreigners in Egypt. She then talked about memory and making the past present. How we treat others is how we are judged. What does God see? A quarter of a billion people are on the move and marginalized today. Dr. Catherine said that we sometimes use legality, merit, and fairness to hide our fear and defensiveness in dealing with strangers, even in the church.
For the last couple years, a small team has been working with me to develop “Quo Vadis—the Next Step,” a program that helps returnees from cross-cultural experiences process and carry forward their new connection to others. Now we need your help.
“Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.”
Students at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School experienced the truth of this biblical statement. Survivors of the mass shooting that killed their classmates see the American culture swimming in the use of modern swords—guns, weapons of war, and violent entertainment—and are saying, “Enough!”
What did we do after Columbine happened, or after the little children died at Sandy Hook? Now the high school students from Parkland are saying, “Enough!” This time, more of us are joining our voices to theirs.
In Tucson, we joined an estimated 10,000 people carrying homemade signs and saying, “Enough!” in the March for Our Lives. Tucson and Arizona are not typically considered liberal areas, but the March demanded tightening of gun controls. We were there on March 24, voting with our bodies and energy and homemade signs. We were saying there is enough evidence that the American obsession with guns and violence is killing us and must finally be addressed.
The Presencing Institute has just begun a new series that may interest Affiliates: “Transforming Capitalism.”
Several years ago, a group of Affiliates, along with 25,000 people around the world, participated in the Institute’s on-line course, “U Theory,” discussing the process of developing emerging ideas. Now they are offering the free “Transforming Capitalism Lab”:
For the next 18 months, we’ll host monthly live sessions, share some of the most inspiring stories from around the world, and equip you with methods and tools that will help you turn your own emerging ideas into action.
The first live session aired on April 12th from 10am -11am EDT, but materials from this session are still available.
For details, go to https://www.presencing.org/#/transforming-capitalism-lab/stories.