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Thursday, 26 March 2020 19:22

Letter From Rich Lessard

Written by Rich Lessard
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Hello Affiliates,
 
I pray this message finds you well in whatever circumstance you find yourself in right now.  If you are suffering now, whether it be directly from the coronavirus itself, the solitude from being isolated from others, or loss of employment, my prayers especially go out to you.  I'm sure we can all say assuredly that our lives are a lot different now than it was just two weeks ago.  Social distancing, sheltering-in-place....is this the new normal?  I don't know about the long term, but it's a big part of our lives right now.  
 
The reality is that we are in the midst of a global crisis.  While writing this message, I came across Richard Rohr's concluding words in his Daily Meditation this morning.  He says "We cannot face large-scale crises as individuals; we cannot carry the pain of this reality on our own, nor can we only look out for ourselves. The pain is communal and so too must be the response."  When I reflect on this, I realized that this was part of the underlining theme of my message--a communal Affiliate response.  What is it?  What could it be?  As we emerge from this crisis, it is my deepest hope that we are unified with all Maryknollers and strengthened in our collective resolve and commitment to live out the mission of Maryknoll that is deeply rooted in the charism of its founders.
 
Crises brings opportunities.  There are signs of hope.  Locally, I've seen and experienced two positive and hopeful signs so far: a resurgence of family members and friends reconnecting (virtually) with one another; and for us suburbanites, we are physically leaving our homes and taking walks and meeting our neighbors (at a safe distance), some for the very first time.  After a walk through the neighborhood this past weekend, my wife and I both remarked on how we each felt a real and growing sense of community.  A hope for the future! 
 
These are certainly unprecedented and challenging times the world over.  But it does seem that in many corners, humanity is meeting the challenges with renewed creativity.  In one way, online groups and communities are being created all over as a way to connect, identifying ways of helping one another, assisting the most vulnerable, and sharing wisdom, hope and kindness.  Amidst the daily barrage of coronavirus updates from every source imaginable, I am finding many opportunities to join in these online groups.  These are wonderful efforts to building a global community.  A hope for the future!
 
I have written several times before about my wish for Affiliates to connect more, because I've believed it is an important way to sustain and even grow this movement we call Maryknoll Affiliates.  In a way, I'm certain the health of our movement can be measured by the strength of our connections.  So, if there was ever a time in our lives for Affiliates to connect more, I believe it is now.  Let this be it.  As we all wade into uncharted territory, let us do it together.  Let us use this unprecedented opportunity to unite and be the community we are meant to be. Can this be our communal Affiliate response?
 
If your Chapter is like our Albany Chapter, you've probably already canceled a meeting and will likely have to cancel more still.  God only knows when we'll be able to physically gather together again.  So, during this time of separation, wouldn't it be nice to have other options to see and be with each other?   I say let's try what so many others around the world are doing.  If we can't be together physically, let's be together virtually.  Let's use whatever means of technology available to connect.  Let's move beyond e-mail and give FaceTime, Facebook, WhatsApp, Zoom or any other online web conferencing applications a try.  We don't have to be tech savvy geniuses to do this.  I hope we can move beyond any fears or aversions we have to use these tools.  If you simply cannot, then pick up the phone.  Again, now is the time!
 
Over the last several days, I've introduced friends and family to Zoom, one of the online video conferencing apps.  It's the one I'm most familiar with.  I have a basic account that is free where I can connect with up to 100 participants for 40 minutes.  But, with up to 3 participants, we can be connected unlimited.  Other account options for a fee are offered as well.  So far, I've hosted virtual happy hours and family gatherings and have a virtual Chapter meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.  
 
So, this is a call to all Affiliates...take the initiative to look into ways you can connect with others.  Ask one another.  It's likely other members of your Chapter are familiar with these or other ways they may have access to.  Find out and try it out!
 
We can connect on so many levels; between individual Chapter members, within a group of Chapter members, between Affiliates from other Chapters, or with a Board member or the Regional Coordinator representing your region.  If you want to connect with a member on leadership and don't know how, please work thru your Chapter Coordinator and/or Regional Coordinator to make it happen.  
 
Beyond the ways each of us can connect to one another virtually in real time, we are hoping to find a way that Affiliates all over the world can share with one another information and resources to help each other during this crisis and even beyond.  In this way, we can share important information about our home communities and share messages of hope including prayers, poems, music, videos, etc.  In the meantime, use whatever technology you have available now to share these things with Affiliates in your Chapter and beyond.  Let's not forget that we are a global community with Affiliates in Latin America, Asia, Africa Europe and the U.S.  Let's continue to find creative ways to bring us all together.  Let this be the time!
 
I am sharing this message with Bob Short, Board members and Regional Coordinators and asking them in-turn to share this message with you using whatever means available to them.
 
Let me close by sharing the following statement from GreenFaith Interfaith Partners in Action for the Earth.  For me, it reflects so much how we as Affiliates can come together now in response to this crisis. 
As people of faith and spirit, we are thinking about and praying for all the people across the world whose health and economic situation is affected by COVID-19.

In a moment like this, our faith and spiritual practice give us the moral courage to turn towards great challenges--not away from them--and to profoundly change our societies. People of faith have done so before, and we do so now.

This is the time for bold transformation.

This is the time to connect with each other, to build relationships with our neighbors, and to use our collective power and resources to support our entire communities.

Already, we are seeing places of worship step up to support their members and communities. We are seeing individuals reach out to their neighbors, and offer support.

As people of faith and spirit, we commit to:
• Continuing to check in with and support our neighbors;
• Providing as much spiritual, emotional, and material support as we can;
• Sharing with each other and only taking what we need.
 
We call on decision makers to:
• Implement policies that ensure love, justice, and compassion for the most vulnerable among us;
• Ensure healthcare, paid sick leave, and food and shelter for all;
• Protect everyone's human rights and dignity
.
 
As people of faith and spirit, we believe that the measurement of a healthy society is how we treat those who are the most vulnerable.

We have a moral responsibility to build that healthy society together--a society rooted in love, justice, and compassion.
 
Let's join together across the world.
 
This is our time!  
 
If you have any questions or would like to connect with me, I can be reached via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or via text, iMessage, FaceTime or WhatsApp at 518-368-9570.
 
God bless you all...........Rich

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