After the November 2019 Affiliate Board meeting, Board Chair Rich Lessard reflected on Maryknoll Affiliate leadership.*
“The work of leaders involves hearing and identifying the long notes which play out in daily life, and which point to what is happening at a deeper level, resulting in a discerned response.” This quote (from Sr. Patricia Murray, IBVM) identifies three very important tasks: to listen, to discern, and to respond. For me, the most important ... is listening: …. through engagement and dialogue.
Please go to State of the Heart - Joint Meeting November 2019 to read more from Rich on connection and communication, i.e. engagement and dialogue, and our exploration of Affiliate identity and unity.
* Rich’s reflection also appeared in the emailed “Maryknoll Affiliate Website Updates for 11/25/2019”
Don’t forget our Maryknoll Affiliate Conference – MAC 2020
Thursday – Sunday, June 25-28
Graymoor Spiritual Center
Garrison, New York
Start the New Year right by registering to attend!
Visit www.mkmac.org for more information.
Coming in June 2020 is the Maryknoll Affiliate Conference—a once-in-three-years experience not to be missed. MAC 2020 will be held at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center in the Hudson Valley, New York, from Thursday through Sunday, June 25-28. To learn more about what is planned, see the conference website, MKMAC.org.
To encourage broad attendance, the Maryknoll Affiliate Board is again offering grants for full or partial coverage of the conference fee and travel costs. Ideally, every chapter of the over 50 chapters worldwide will have a representative at the Conference. Are finances keeping you from attending?
To apply for funding, go to MKMAC.org and click on either English or Spanish at the top. On the drop-down menu, choose Register. On that page, click on the Travel Grant option. Following instructions, fill out and submit the form. Ask your Chapter Contact or Regional Coordinator to send a letter of recommendation to the address shown on the form.
Along with the Travel Grant, we encourage you to explore and consider other supplemental funding sources. For example, some chapters may help with either funds or frequent flyer miles. At recent MACs, as many as 15 attendees benefited from grant assistance, and we hope that as many or more will be assisted through the 2020 program.
One of the twice yearly Board meetings includes the Regional Coordinators, to contribute their wisdom to the Board discussions and also to confer on how best to coordinate in their regions. The November meeting agenda includes:
• Discern how to best guide the Affiliate movement, utilizing:
~ Group discussion of questions sent out previously
~ Reflection on how Pope Francis’s book Go Forth applies to individuals and the Affiliate movement
~ Artistic rendition of conclusions for group interpretation.
• Open space discussion: Where do we go from here? Turning ideas into concrete actions.
• Special topics: Call with Renate Schneider on Haiti, Covenant working group, Quo Vadis, MAC2020, Website redo.
• Regional Coordinators meet separately.
Coming Soon – Appealing Fish Story
Manny Hotchkiss, of the Affiliate Board Finance Committee, will be sharing a whopper of a fish story that relates to the sustainability of the Affiliate Movement as we follow the Fisher of All.
Be watching your mailbox for the annual
Maryknoll Affiliates Appeal Letter
to be mailed November 15th.
I joined the Affiliate Board in November of 2018. My chapter, Northeast Florida, was nurtured by Fr. Bob Carleton, MM; beginning our initial formation in 2009, we became a chapter in 2011. As the test case for the Affiliate Formation Program, we underwent an arduous nearly two years of reading, watching, discussing, and discerning. I was initially attracted to the Affiliates despite never having met a Maryknoller prior to our formation, though I generally knew of Maryknoll by their reputation for early mission efforts.
I have been involved in ministries for most of my adult life. I had attended a Cursillo retreat in 1975 and was active for about 25 years. After that, my wife, Mary and I have worked in marriage preparation ministry to this day. Early in my involvement, I was concerned that our ministry did not mirror that of most Affiliates, but I was greatly supported by Fr. Jim Madden, who shared my concern for marriage and assured me that what we were doing was completely consistent with being an Affiliate.
Upon becoming an Affiliate, I agreed to co-coordinate the Southeast region with Mary. We attended the 2011 MAC, which solidified my commitment to the Affiliates. As RCs, we have made varied and often not so successful attempts to spread the Affiliate message in our region. Also, as a survivor of the Affiliate Formation Program, I was asked to help revise the program to make it more appropriate for initial chapter use and for individual formation. Truthfully, despite some limitations, I thought the program was great!
I am willing to contribute what gifts I have to the Affiliate movement. I believe that we Affiliates have an opportunity to be a vital element of mission in the future. How this evolves is in process. I have never thought about myself as a board member type of person. When people start talking about amending the minutes of the last board meeting, my eyes glaze over, I see in black and white, and all the words become blah, blah, blah. Nevertheless, I look forward to participating in the servant leadership of the Maryknoll Affiliate Board.
Last Fall, as the new Affiliate Board Chair, I emphasized two characteristics of a successful movement—connection and communication. These are equally related to the Affiliate Board’s key responsibilities, namely:
It would be difficult to achieve these without connection and communication. Considering the nature and loose structure of the Affiliates, to be successful will require that both Affiliate leaders and members commit to dialogue. I can’t emphasize this enough!
As my personal commitment to this dialogue, I want to keep reaching out and connecting with Affiliates. All Affiliates and/or Chapters are invited to participate. If you are reading this, you are invited. Participation can be one-on-one conversations or connecting during a Chapter meeting. We can connect by phone or on the internet, via Zoom video conferencing or Skype. If okay, I’d like to expand this connection by inviting another Board member and/or Regional Coordinator to the call, as well.
To participate in this dialogue, please email me at
These conversations are just one way to enjoy mutual dialogue and engagement between leadership and the wider Affiliate movement. I hope you can join with me in this effort. Let’s have morning coffee or a nightcap together!
Rich Lessard, Affiliate Board Chair
At its May meeting, the Maryknoll Affiliate Board heard updates on the four prototype projects which had been proposed and initiated at the November 2018 Board meeting. This is what has been accomplished in just six months:
Quo Vadis – Per Bill Murphy, a local marketing team has been formed in the NY/New England area, and they are presenting the workshop to cross-cultural immersion groups to beta test it. If successful, the resulting final version of QUO VADIS will be presented at the November Board/RC meeting before broader marketing of the workshop.
Affiliates Connecting – Rich Lessard, Board Chair and Albany Affiliate, has connected with several Affiliates and Chapters through phone
Affiliate Hospitality – Roxanne Hughes-Wheatland said a survey asks Affiliates about their willingness and ability to provide hospitality to traveling Maryknollers, including Affiliates. See “Welcoming Maryknollers”
It was my turn to prepare a “State of the Heart” report at the conclusion of the May 3-5, 2019 meeting of the Maryknoll Affiliate Board. The meeting’s central theme was contemplative action, and my response to what I heard and experienced took the form of the poem below.
Fracking the Heart
How do I turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh?
I used to think the waters of baptism were sufficient:
Gentle, flowing waters can soothe but rarely awaken;
Still waters warm and calm but hardly get me moving.
Maybe knowledge was the answer?
Theology or the facts and figures of science and computers
Would guide me to a meaningful life and best solutions.
Sit with the darkness; it becomes light
Listen in the silence
Share stories of life:
accompanying gospels of struggles, pains, joys -
compassion for ourselves as well as others
breaks open my heart.
Don’t just move, stand there
move in the direction that beckons me.
In mid-April, a female robin began constructing a nest on the flower trellis just outside our back door. Completed in a few days, the nest looked perfect. To the best of my knowledge, the robin had no access to YouTube or Building a Bird Nest for Dummies to help her with the construction. I spent the next four weeks observing Robi (naming creativity not being my strong suit) several times each day. Though Robi never gave any indication she wanted to become a Maryknoll Affiliate, what I observed over those weeks was an inspiration to me.
Day and night, she spent ninety percent of her time maintaining the nest, often through long periods of cold and rain. Then the eggs came and her motherly resolve grew stronger. Robi was acutely vigilant, as birds need to be, but in time she came to trust and allowed me to get very close to the nest. On each visit I carried on a conversation, essentially the same one every time. Many would say that’s all we humans ever do anyway. I also assured her that I’d do my best to protect her from the neighborhood cat that frequently visited our yard. Robi appeared attentive and receptive but never uttered a peep in return. Even so, I convinced myself that we had become friends.
Then, on the morning of the eleventh day of incubation, a day or two before the eggs were ready to hatch, I opened the back door to ask Robi how her night had been, but she was gone. In her place, inches from the nest, was a squirrel rotating a blue egg, the last one of the clutch, in its front claws – just as squirrels do with an acorn before biting into it.
I couldn’t begin to process all this. How must Robi feel!? Was she distraught, defeated, filled with revenge? Do birds feel, think, have a hidden belief-system or life philosophy to help them deal with such terrible losses? Did she stamp her tiny claws and ask, ‘Why me?!’ Did she just accept it as one of nature’s inevitable cruelties? I wondered too if on some instinctual level birds have a built-in moral code about murder and ornithological injustices; or, perhaps a batch of existential questions around sin, redemption, and an afterlife. Admittedly, these are almost assuredly the entirely wrong questions emerging from a small, inchoate human mind. I had to check myself. Were all these queries and projections simply yet another example of anthropomorphic excess that we humans apply to so much else in the cosmos, including God?
Yet, I couldn’t let go of the possibility that there must be a lesson in this for me. Robi, like everything in nature except us humans, never left the confines (and freedom) of life’s natural rhythms. She knew in a different, non-cerebral way without needing to ask either existential questions or the tedious ones that often consume our lives. She knew in a different way—perhaps much like the monk who, after forty years of searching for ‘the answers,’ came around the bend on a mountain trail one early spring morning, saw a peach tree in full bloom, and proclaimed to himself, “Now I understand!”
Last week a robin built a new nest; this time on the door ledge of the porch outside the entrance door of our house. Squirrels could never get to this one. I have to believe it’s Robi. We’ve resumed our conversation.
The Affiliate Hospitality Initiative core group—Patty Hinton, Roxanne Hughes-Wheatland, Manny Hotchkiss, and Bob Short—are compiling a list of Affiliate households that are available to offer hospitality to Maryknollers traveling for work or pleasure. Once the list is completed, we will post the number of potential hosts by geographic area (e.g., Boston, Saint Louis, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, etc.) but no names or addresses. Maryknollers, including Affiliates, requesting hospitality in a given area would contact Bob Short, who will assess the request. If an Affiliate host is available, Bob will have the host contact the interested Maryknoller.
Hospitality Data Gathering – If you are interested in participating, please respond to HospitalityForm. Don’t forget to fill out the anti-robot code box. When completed, hit SUBMIT.
You can make your RCs* very happy just by adding their email address to your Chapter distribution list. Then they will automatically receive the notices and notes of your Chapter gatherings. RCs want to know how they can help you and connect your chapter to others with similar interests. If you have a change in membership or contact person, let them know.
* RC = Maryknoll Affiliate Regional Coordinator. Find your Regional Coordinator’s name and email
Do you ever wonder what other Affiliates think about a particular topic? Curious about how alike or different Affiliates are from each other? Are there things that other Affiliates are doing that could have some impact on you personally or on your Chapter life? As members of the Maryknoll Affiliates, belonging to different Chapters and separated by distance, traditions, culture, and language, we may sometimes ask ourselves and/or other Chapter members similar questions.
The Affiliates’ “Question of the Month” (QTM) initiative provides a forum that responds to these questions and is an opportunity for Affiliates to be in dialogue with the greater Affiliate movement. This dialogue is one of the ways that each of us can become better informed about our movement, discover the wisdom within and among us, and ultimately have a part in guiding, supporting and strengthening the bonds of the Affiliate movement. We hope all Affiliates share in this desire and will participate in this QTM initiative.
Each month, along with the responses to the previous month’s question, a QTM form will be e-mailed to all Affiliates who have their e-mail addresses on file. Responses are anonymous, unless you wish to share your name and contact information. And since it is the intent and hope that QTMs will come from individual Affiliates or Chapters, you can also suggest a question that will be considered for a future QTM. The questions are as important as the responses to them and will generally be selected by considering whether it will have the effect of evoking responses that will foster and enhance our Affiliate movement.
This month’s QTM is really one question, but asked three different ways:
“What does it mean to you to be a Maryknoll Affiliate? Why are you an Affiliate? What meaning or purpose, if at all, does being an Affiliate bring to your life?”
We thank you for your participation in helping to make our Maryknoll Affiliate movement stronger.
I am so happy to have found the Maryknoll Affiliates. It was an answer to prayer. After returning from a semester in Lima, Peru, where I went to finish my requirements for a Master of Arts degree in international development, I was looking for an opportunity to combine my interest in international issues with my Catholic faith. While searching online for a language program that would help me continue to improve my Spanish, I stumbled upon The Language Program at the Maryknoll Mission Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. That led me to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and information about the Maryknoll Affiliates. I was thrilled to find out that there was an Affiliates group in Washington, DC, which is close to my home in Columbia, Maryland. After contacting the coordinator for the group, I began attending the monthly meetings and the rest is history.
I met a wonderful group of people that have helped expand my spiritual life, and in time, I became the group’s coordinator. While the role of coordinator for the Washington, DC Maryknoll Affiliates is demanding, I find the opportunity rewarding. I am also blessed to have had the opportunity to attend MAC 2014 in New York and MAC 2017 in Guatemala along with my husband, John. Since 2018, I have been serving on the Maryknoll Affiliates Board, which has given me the opportunity to expand my association with the Maryknoll Affiliates and contribute to maintaining the viability of the Maryknoll Affiliates movement.
Personal Facts: I am married and have one adult daughter living in Canada who is a computer scientist. I also have a private psychology practice in Maryland. My favorite pastimes include reading, traveling, listening to music, attending religious retreats, keeping abreast of concerns being addressed at the United Nations, and walking in nature.
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.