We are living in the midst of a great epochal shift and we need a new religious awareness to help us realize that You (God) are the power of this great shift; absolute Love can never remain incomplete or partial. (Ilia Delio, Dear God Letter)
In a recent press conference NY Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the coronavirus will transform us. Political, economic and social structures will look different when we finally emerge from it all. Listening to the Governor throughout this week, I have to believe that he was also referencing a personal, and collective spiritual transformation. The level of suffering and the uncertainty about when it will all end have a way of shaking us (some of us) out of our sleepwalking, awakening us to a new, more expansive way of seeing.
So many words, spoken way too early, have already been recorded about what Covid-19 will ultimately mean for our world. This is just a modest attempt to focus on one possible outcome within Maryknoll.
Even before this time of coronavirus, Pope Francis wrote that we are experiencing a change of eras, not just an era of change. By all accounts, the aftermath of Covid-19 will blow it up even further. Many of the underlying equations and assumptions are changing. Old arguments need to be reframed. We are seeing things differently, more deeply and not allowing old biases or seemingly ontological givens to determine our perspective. Maybe we’re finally learning that we are not in control after all. Richard Rohr said that realization “situates us correctly in the universe.”
All this has made me think of the “Maryknoll Family”. I realize that the degree of investment in those two words within Maryknoll over the years has ranged from very favorable to fervent rejection. As an aspiration, this notion of the Maryknoll family has surfaced many times but it hasn’t moved beyond the aspirational. I think these times encourage another look.
Specifically, two happenings have brought me to take another look at the Maryknoll family. (1) The first came from observing the spectacle of the present U.S. Administration during the pandemic - relinquishing responsibility to the individual states, each to go it alone rather than the Administration stepping up to pursue a unified national strategy. An approach that is an ineffective and wasteful use of resources, exasperating most of the Governors. This first mentioned happening does not directly correlate with anything within Maryknoll save for the use of resources and a centralized unity. (2) The second reason is stronger and more personal. On hearing over the last few days that (at this writing) two Sisters have died and several others tested positive for coronavirus; that five or more Society members have also tested positive; that MKLM leadership is taking extraordinary measures to protect their lay missioners; and, knowing that many Affiliates across this country and overseas could soon get infected… all this surfaced emotions of deep sadness but also solidarity and love. I cannot see separation and silos, but only one collective Maryknoll family suffering and working together to bring hope to each other and our world.
I understand that seeing Maryknoll as one vital family, raises questions about vocational identity, Church canons and legions of other challenges. Still, for me, not enough legions to not pursue something that could, besides being more strategically economical, very conceivably bring a new vitality, a new start, and a new model to engage and attract others; a new, transformed way of looking at who we are. For sure, we’ll have nothing of this if we are too busy trying to protect ourselves in our isolated existences. Do we agree with Delio (at least intuitively) that, “We are living in the midst of a great epochal shift and we need a new religious awareness to help us realize that You (God) are the power of this great shift…”.
This brief post is neither meant nor able to confront the obstacles or lay out the strategies for moving forward towards a more essential, integral Maryknoll Family. When we are on the other side of this virus, I think a representative gathering from all expressions, perhaps in the context of a working retreat, could begin that conversation…i.e., if it’s seen to have any merit. This post is only meant to surface a perspective and a possible new vision during this time of epochal shift. In the end, we do not transform ourselves or our institutions. We are transformed by deeper forces that allow us to see and respond in a new way.
* Apologies to Gabriel García Márques - Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera) for appropriating his title.
We have determined that it is time to cancel MAC 2020 now
The decision was not an easy one after so much preparation; and, realizing that many of you have already purchased plane tickets or otherwise took steps in preparation for the MAC. We considered every available angle and, at the end, the decision to cancel for now was the only viable option.
The overriding consideration was that there is too much uncertainty to allow any of us (participants, presenters and team members) to continue planning with any confidence. The fact that registrations had essentially stopped is an indicator. Additionally, many experts are saying this virus will go on well into the summer; Graymoor has shut down with no clear idea when to again open; the keynote, Nancy Sylvester agrees; due to the virus, many international Affiliates are unable to get an interview for their visas; airline ticket availability is uncertain, etc. etc. As one MAC team member (Celine Woznica) wrote, “...even if the pandemic would be on the decrease by June, they (her Chapter) would be hesitant to fly. Most of them are in their 70s and 80s and would be concerned about some residual chance of infection.”
Two important considerations:
Thank you and please starting thinking of MAC 2021.
Kitty Madden of the Affiliate U.S. based Virtual & presently living in Nicaragua, shared this poem for all of us.
Prayer for a Pandemic written by Cameron Bellm
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between
Preserving their health or making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for
Our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing our margin money
In the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips our country,
Let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically
Wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace
Before looking into the MAC, our primary consideration is that all of us (and all sentient beings) are well and feeling supported during this time of the Corona Virus. Although their respective chapter meeting might be cancelled, many Affiliates have already begun to check in on their fellow members. Given that a couple of us fit into the “senior” high risk group, this seems like an especially worthwhile practice.
Almost 60 people have signed up for the MAC at this juncture. To date, all is a go. We think and hope that by June any serious threat from the virus will have subsided. However, because we can’t be sure; and, because many need to make plane reservations, any decision to cancel/postpone MAC2020 will be made by early May at the latest, based on the best information available to us from Graymoor, local, state and national policies and directives?” We'll inform you about this as soon as we have confirmed. Again, at this moment, all is a go. Additional details on MAC2020 ...e.g., Intergenerational Voices (young person segment), ground transport/directions, parking, food & diet options, will soon follow.
As mentioned in last week’s post. All payments made will be reimbursed if we need to cancel.
Communication & Courageous Conversations
All 5 workshops at MAC2020 fit into a unique category. This one, facilitated by the ever engaging and ‘bubbly’ Karen Bortvedt Estrada, clearly fulfills that categorization.
In her synopsis of the workshop, Karen wrote: As our world becomes more and more divided in politics, religion, and around our own family tables, effective listening can be a crucial tool to draw us back together. In the workshop we will look at strategies for effective listening, examine our own ways of listening, and engage in various activities to think critically about how we can better contribute to building unity instead of increasing division.
Karen, recently married, is passionate about ensuring everyone has a seat at the table as we face the many challenges of our day. She is a strong believer in living an intentional life and the power of one person to create ripples that can. To learn more about Karen’s background, go to: https://www.mkmac.org/blog/workshop-communication
Registration – two comments (https://www.mkmac.org/register):
Clearing (Martha Postlewaite
Do not try to save the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create a clearing
in the dense forest of your life
and wait there patiently,
until the song that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world so worth of rescue.
Last weekend the Greater Boston Chapter held its annual Retreat at the Maryknoll Sisters Watch Hill, RI summer home. They have been doing since almost their inception over 25 years ago. The retreat theme was taken from Margaret Wheatley’s book, What Do You Choose to Be - Facing Reality – Claiming Leadership – Restoring Sanity. Theresa Baldini MM from the Maryknoll Sisters Cloister facilitated the weekend. Her presentation and presence along with interaction from the group made for a profoundly restorative time for everyone. Due to scheduling and the sudden death of a family member, just 9 from the Chapter were able to participate.
Theresa (Terrry) helped us to remember that we come to the retreat not so much for insights or for more information but for transformation – to have a dwelling mind, a contemplative mind, not a surface mind, disturbed and distracted by mostly frivolous happenings all around us. It can be a time when unhealed wounds are touched within us through our shared silence and by the sacrament of each other’s presence. It’s also a time of shared meals prepared by each other, quiet walks alongside the southern Rhode Island ocean, a profusion of humor and community prayer. The poem above by Martha Postlewaite, was part of the concluding reflection.
The MAC2020 Young Person Saturday Morning (2/27) segment is in place. Several young people (20 – 30’s) have already committed to be with us. The MAC team is looking to have and even larger contingent and has developed this flyer to be distributed to young people who might be interested.
Realistically, as most of the young people in attendance at the MAC will only be there for that Saturday morning, most or all of them participating will be within traveling distance to Garrison, NY (20 minutes north of the Maryknoll Center). Alternatively, some might have friends in the area with whom they can stay. Please distribute the flyer to any young person whom you think could be interested. We really believe that this Saturday morning session will be an exciting and important one for all of us. Go to: mkmac.org
There will be 5 workshops at MAC2020 plus an Open Space session. Each workshop will be repeated twice, giving participants the opportunity to attend two. In one way or another, all of them align with the Conference theme – Witnessing Love in the Interim Time.
One of those workshops is entitled: Caring for the Earth. It’ll be given by Jim & Ann Coady, presently members of the first Affiliate virtual chapter. For a Synopsis of the workshop, Ann & Jim wrote: How are we invested in the most critical issue of our time? A Contemplative Approach to the Climate Crisis: Falling in love again with the earth and its creatures.
This is a unique approach to looking at the Climate Crisis. In large part, that uniqueness is a reflection of the Coadys themselves…thoughtful, substantive, caring people who bring a unique perspective to almost any topic. And too, odds are Jim won’t be able to stop himself from tossing in a sizable morsel of humor along the way.
To see all the workshops and the entire MAC2020 schedule, go to: www.mkmac.org.
MAC 2020 Update on Registrations – February 2nd
Numbers As of 2/2/20, 45 people have signed up for the Conference. Graymoor has rooms (if two in a room) for about 110 participants. There is no space issue for those who signed up for a Day Pass.
Registration Processes (some extra steps). See www.mkmac.org and click Register in the English drop down menu.
The Theme for MAC2020 is Witnessing Love in The Interim Time.
In October, 2019 Russ Feldmeier MM, who will be with us at the MAC, attended the Religious Formation Conference in Louisville. Russ was excited to report that the title of the keynote presentation, by Rev. Bryan Massingale was: Courage for An Interim Time That Does Not Yet Know Its Name. Hearing that let those of us on the MAC2020 team know (as we had suspected) that we were onto something when we chose the theme & title over a year ago. In a recent address to an Italian youth gathering, Pope Francis expressed the same understanding when he declared that we are not living in an “era of change,” but rather “a change of eras.”
We on the MAC team are very much looking forward to hearing our keynote presenter Nancy Sylvester IHM, who, utilizing different dynamics, will speak to the MAC theme in her presentation on The Transformative Power of Love. In her synopsis Nancy begins… How do we witness to love in a time of chaos when all of structures and systems are breaking down? How do we witness to Love in a time when polarities continue to separate us – as family, friends, citizens and members of the planetary community? To read more, go to: https://www.mkmac.org/details and scroll to Nancy’s synopsis aside her photo.
Bryan Massingale, priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is a professor of theological and social ethics at Fordham University in New York. He is the author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Orbis, 2010).