The Kenya virtual chapter (including Affiliates from Kenya, Germany and the U.S.) met yesterday via Zoom technology. Virtual chapters are still relatively new in the Affiliate world. When former Board chair, Dave Schaffner first suggested virtual chapters, the concept was received with mixed reviews. After all, wouldn’t physical present be necessary to realize genuine community?! And later, when Gerald and Marita Grudzen first suggested a Kenya-based virtual chapter to Russ Feldmeier MM and Bob Short, we had some initial reservations.
Today’s virtual chapter (stretching 8 time zones) confirmed that virtual can be a meaningful and efficacious way to gather as a chapter. Gerry and Marita Grudzen, who facilitated the meeting, have a long history with Maryknoll. When Russ and I first met them, we were impressed with their academic and professional credentials; even more so with their humility, deep faith and love for the people of East Africa. Seven Affiliates (a smaller number than is typical) were on the call. The theme addressed our varying interfaith expressions of spiritual practice at this time of the year.
For my part, I could not help but feel throughout the call that, on so many levels, this was a reflection of why, as John Sivalon MM once put it, “…Maryknoll Affiliates are well positioned to be carried into the future by this new wave of mission.” Very briefly, it was global, interfaith - two Muslim Affiliates spoke informatively and movingly of Ramadan, and the Catholic and Christians shared their beliefs and values around Resurrection, care of the earth (Laudato Si)* and, for all present, the importance of prayer and inclusion of the poor and marginalized in all our focuses. Throughout the call profound respect and caring for one another was visibly and viscerally present - a poignant and important moment in our movement’s history.
* Marita pointed out that these virtual meetings kept us out of planes and thereby lessened our carbon footprint.
ALSO - in thinking of climate change and caring for our earthly home, please keep in mind the people of so many countries in the world that are suffering from severe climate. Carlos Apcho, Affiliate in Lima, who asked us to pray for the people in northern Peru who just experienced a strong earthquake.