On Friday noon, after four and a half days of restoring a house with the Houston Chapter Mission project, two of the facilitators, Bob & Ruth Kleeman, took the Affiliate mission members on a trip to give us a taste of rural Texas. We hopped into three cars and headed out on a two-hour ride across the vast, flat landscape of southeastern Texas to a little town called Nada.
For those with even a cursory knowledge of Spanish, “Nada” initially seemed like a perfectly fitting name. The town-folk we spoke with estimated that there were a little over 300 people in town. However, the last available census in 2000 counted only 165. The discrepancy is probably attributable to genuine local pride. Reportedly, Nada boasts a grocery store and US Post Office. All any of us could see that day along Highway 71, which cuts through the center of town, were an auto garage and Leo’s Place, a bar and restaurant. Checking on Facebook for “Things to do in Nada, TX” brings up a photo of an open crop field with a John Deere combine and a truck in the distance. No other photos or text appear on the page.
An exciting exploration of new ways to be Affiliates is blossoming in Kenya. Fourteen prospective Affiliates from Mombasa, Nairobi, California, Chicago, Florida, and Germany have been coming together for formation, discussion and prayer, in person and virtually, since 2017. Interfaith collaboration is a guiding principle of their chapter. Members include Catholic and non-Catholic Christians and a Muslim. The chapter has a strong interaction with various Maryknollers. The Affiliate Board accepted their application in January. We look to learn much from this new chapter.
As Executive Director for Maryknoll Lay Missioners since December 2017, I also serve on the Maryknoll Affiliate Board as its liaison with the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. In this position, I am discovering ways that all Maryknollers can work together in mission.
My mission background started when I was “ruined for life” with a little help from the Jesuits. After my B.A. at Loyola University, Maryland, and M.A. from Bucknell University, I volunteered with Jesuit Volunteers for two years in education and youth empowerment programs in Belize and Guatemala.
Since then, I have served in parish ministry, Catholic high school education, and archdiocesan leadership development for more than three decades. My most recent position was as Catholic Relief Services’ Relationship Manager for Youth and Education and coordinator of the agency’s youth outreach in the US. I’m humbled that the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry awarded me a national award for leadership in youth ministry in the area of gospel values of peace and justice.
Fun Facts: My favorite pastimes include time with my niece and two nephews, following the Baltimore Orioles, and swimming, camping, and hiking, the latter fueling my passion to work for climate justice.
At their most recent gathering of the first virtual chapter*, members spontaneously surfaced the thought that maybe there are just too many words attached to almost everything these days… dishonest political words, manipulative marketing words, sanctimonious religious words, ego words that compare, compete, connive, contrast, contrive and, perhaps the biggest offenders, all those unsettling words and scenarios that incessantly play out in our heads. Understandably, some of you reading this might be feeling that this article is itself quickly becoming an offender in this verbosity plague.
Words are important. Poetic, truthful words, and others like, thank you, forgive me, I love you, whoops, and, for carnivores, medium rare, surely have a place. Still, we haven’t done very well at sticking to the good words. How can we best get hold of all this?
Over-explanation separates us
from astonishment. – Eugene Ionesco
As the conversation evolved, we talked (admittedly, in words) about those wordless spaces – walking in the forest, standing by the ocean, listening to music, sitting in a chapel, holding a newborn – wherein peace washes over us and we come to know in a different, peaceful and compelling way. You too might be tempted to add to the list. Hopefully, neither Chardonnay nor Merlot would get many honest votes in this regard.
Mostly, our time together focused on how each of us has come to a place of deeper knowing. Jim Coady insightfully added that almost always, “We learn more from experiences than from documents.” Although not physically present in this virtual community, Richard Rohr helped us out when he wrote that, “Knowing is the empty space around the words, allowing God to fill in all the gaps in an ‘unspeakable’ way.” That could serve as a definition for faith.
From a distance, all this might seem a bit fuzzy and/or dense. Even that characterization will be euphemistic for some. Still, as 2019 begins to unfold and all of us in Maryknoll strive to live with integrity, love, and groundedness in these very uncertain, noisy times, we can gain strength and courage by visiting these wordless spaces. I think that those in the Contemplative Virtual Chapter would concur.
*Currently, three chapters meet virtually: one of Affiliates who've moved, the Contemplative Virtual Chapter, and an international chapter.
I had been involved with the Maryknoll Affiliates since the first conference of Maryknoll Affiliates held here at Maryknoll and was a part-time member of the Westchester Chapter before I returned to Korea. In Korea, some other Sisters and I decided to invite the Maryknoll Fathers in Korea to join us in starting a Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter there. However, it was not accepted by some of the members, although a couple of Maryknoll Fathers, including Russ Feldmeier, joined us occasionally.
The Maryknoll Sisters decided to have a retreat with the prospective interested members, and at the end of the retreat, we explained about the Affiliate program—its covenant, etc., and each one of them decided to join. There were about eight to ten members at that time. We had monthly reflection and study of the covenant and other articles about the Affiliate movement. They had faithfully come to monthly meetings, even though they were not officially accepted as Maryknoll Affiliates. After ten years, they finally got approval, when the Maryknoll Affiliate Board were given the responsibility to approve new chapters.
About my background: I was born in the Philippines. After I finished Nursing training and worked for a year in the Philippines, I ventured out to work in the US and Canada. It was in Montreal that I decided to become a missionary. I entered Maryknoll in 1976 and was assigned to Korea in 1978, where I worked in a Psychiatric Clinic. In 1984, I did pastoral ministry with the urban poor, living in an integrated community of clergy, religious and lay people. We made home visits, listened to people’s issues and needs, organized scripture study groups, and gave spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. From 1988-90, I continued to work with the urban poor and with Korean factory workers in other areas. Then I returned to Maryknoll, NY, for Congregational Service, and when I went back to Korea, I continued my work with women and also with migrant workers and women married to Koreans. After several years I returned to NY to do another Congregational Service and later on was elected to our leadership.
Because of my interest in our Affiliate movement, I am happy to be one of the liaisons to the Maryknoll Affiliates. It has been a delight to get to know many Affiliates and see the wonderful works you are involved in for the sake of the Gospel.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum! Not the Broadway musical; this Forum is a room in the Maryknoll Sisters’ Center House in Maryknoll, NY—where our Board gathered in October, and I was elected Chairperson of the Affiliate Board! I would never have imagined myself as chairperson when I began as a Maryknoll Affiliate 11 years ago.
On my way home that day, I reflected on my life as an Affiliate, and about how best to positively impact the Affiliates. So, by way of introduction, I am sharing some thoughts as I begin this new endeavor with you.
What Do You Think?
* Does your Chapter want new members?
* If so, who is most likely to be interested in Maryknoll Affiliates?
* How would you find these people?
* What would you say to them?
* What activities would attract them?
* What image or photo would attract them?
We want to hear your ideas. Drop a note or email to a Board member, your regional coordinator, or our executive coordinator,
Three years ago, Pope Francis released Laudato Si (Praise Be to You), his encyclical on “Care for Our Common Home,” to “communicate above all a sense of deep urgency and profound concern for the precarious state of our common planetary home.” [P. Francis - 1]
Nine months ago—at MAC 2017 in Guatemala—the Buen Vivir cosmovision helped us realize that we are citizens of different countries, belonging to one world that urgently needs love and care!
“The cosmovision shared by indigenous communities tells us that we are interdependent with one another. Harming any natural resource is harming us”.—Quechua, Peru Native
I’m not at all sure what prompted it, but on a phone call yesterday afternoon, a close friend asked me if, simply by association, “Maryknoll” had become for me a vicarial way of convincing myself that I was living out a committed life of service in a global world. Now, this friend is a smart person (who else uses vicarial these days?) who knows and loves Maryknoll. Still, his question initially disturbed me. What prompted him to ask? What did he mean by it?
We talked for some time. Unfortunately, the glass of wine poured earlier was out of reach from the chair next to the phone. While the question could have rather complex psychological and theological implications, I simply understood it to mean that I shouldn’t allow my connection to Maryknoll, most especially in those days of past glories, to become a vicarious substitute for all the commitments in and around me (some global and some domestic and rather unexciting) that I needed to attend to.
The present-day consensus among biological and social scientists is that race is a social construct, not a biological (genetic) one. It is estimated that as a species, we humans share 99.9% of our DNA with each other. The few differences that do exist reflect variances in environments and external factors, not genetics.
We might assume that the advances in human genetics and the evidence of such trifling differences (0.1%) between all people would put an end to racist arguments. On the contrary, genetics has been used to further racist and ethnocentric views and, for those so inclined, offer justification for discriminations and atrocities. As we know more than ever in these times, for many in power, facts and solid evidence are of little consequence when it comes to behavior and policy. What is it about race (primary eye and skin color and height) that has so very deeply tarnished our history and our relationships with each other?
I attended the most recent Maryknoll Affiliate Board meeting at Maryknoll, NY, as a new board member. It was a wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with the other board members and see firsthand the level of dedication and hard work that is required to support the Affiliate members who carry out the Affiliate mission in their individual communities. Prior to arriving at the meeting, I certainly had many questions. What could I contribute to the board? Did I have enough experience as a Maryknoll Affiliate to be an asset and an effective board member? It is through this lens that I viewed my trip up to Maryknoll, NY, from just outside Baltimore, Maryland, on Thursday, April 19, 2018.
I arrived at Maryknoll on a cool and cloudy afternoon, and later that evening, after the other new board member—Rosa Beatriz Castañeda de Larios from Guatemala—and I received a warm welcome, the work of the board was underway. The meeting began with reflections from every board member regarding salient events and people who shaped their lives.
I have been involved with the Affiliate Movement since it began. The first Affiliate Board, begun by the Maryknoll Fathers with Jim Madden as Coordinator in September 1991, was very different from the present one, with only representatives of the Society. In April of 1992, I joined Sr. Ellen McDonald, MM, at the third Board meeting, in Chicago. Following this meeting, Sr. Ellen became Co-Coordinator of the Affiliate Movement, and I represented Full Circle. In June of 1994, I resigned and moved to Florida to take care of my mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. At that time, there were thirteen Board members—seven were Affiliates and six were Maryknoll members, two from each entity. The present Board, with four Maryknoll entity members and eight Affiliates, has space for more Affiliates if you are interested in becoming a member.
When I first served on the Board, I belonged to the Westchester Affiliate Chapter. However, when I returned from Florida, Ronnie Gilligan invited me to join the Long Island Affiliate Chapter. There I have had the opportunity to help plan meetings, to create prayer services, to enter into community at our chapter meetings, and to engage in a short-term trip to Zimbabwe. This has enriched me, deepened my spirituality and enabled me to bear witness to the gift of Maryknoll in my life. This group supported me as I coordinated the first Memorial Mass for deceased Affiliates held at Maryknoll on March 4, 2017, an event that I hope will be repeated at Maryknoll or at a regional meeting.
In April of 2016, with the encouragement of the Long Island Affiliates, I was accepted as a member of the current Affiliate Board. The Affiliate Board is, I feel, the nucleus of the Affiliate Movement; a unique representation of Affiliate chapters who gather from all over the world together with members of the other Maryknoll entities. Membership in local chapters can be insular. Belonging to the Board is an opportunity to engage in the ongoing projects of Affiliates at both the national and the international level. It enables me to connect with other groups, renew my commitment to Maryknoll, and enter more fully into the movement that I helped to start more than twenty-five years ago.
The May/June 2018 Misioneros Magazine of Maryknoll features MAC 2017 and also tells of an Affiliate in Peru. See the articles online:
I first got to know the Affiliates when I was doing formation work in Chicago (1990-94) and was asked to join the founding Affiliate Board to help with the beginnings of the Affiliate Movement. It was a time of great excitement as this new Expression of Maryknoll came into being.
To share a bit about my background, I was born in Boston, raised in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and spent many of my early years in St. Paul, Minnesota. I joined the Peace Corps after college and graduate school, and as a volunteer and staff member in Korea, I got to know Maryknoll Missioners there. I joined Maryknoll in 1975 and after ordination in 1980, I was sent back to Korea on mission.
I am now a member of several Affiliate Chapters. Presently I live in Chicago and attend the Chicago Affiliate meetings. I also attend the meetings of the Contemplative Affiliate Group and the Kenya Affiliate Chapter, both of which meet virtually using Skype. And I have been connected with the Korea Affiliate Chapter for years, so that when I visit Korea, I attend their chapter meetings. In addition, I am the Society General Council member who relates to the Affiliates, and therefore I am again on the Affiliate Board.
I have been connected with Maryknoll in one form or other since my high school days: first, as a seminarian, then as an ordained missioner in Tanzania. After I left and married my wife, Jane, I continued my connection as an alumnus through the Maryknoll Joint Committee and ultimately in 1992 was part of the founding group of the Maryknoll Affiliate Chapter in Boston. The simple truth is I have always liked the people I find in Maryknoll—they tend to be inquisitive, reflective, positive, and serious about Gospel values, but with a sense of humor. I find these qualities in all the men and women in Maryknoll and throughout all the four entities. I am especially grateful for the way I was treated when I left the Society – namely, with respect and graciousness as well as genuine compassion and practical help. This was not the typical response of religious orders at that time to those leaving the priesthood.
When I was invited to join the Maryknoll Affiliates’ Board, I thought, how can I not? I was confident I would be working with extraordinary people with Gospel values at a unique time in history. So many people, younger and older, are struggling with institutional religion and yet becoming increasingly involved in justice and peace at home and abroad. I have found in the Maryknoll Affiliate movement a very practical and meaningful connection of spirituality, community, global vision, and actions for justice and peace. So why not pay it forward and challenge the present day fishermen of Galilee to: “Come and and see.”
At their April 2018 meeting, our Board will be discussing:
On Saturday of their weekend at Ossining, they will attend the NE Regional Conference (see page 2).