Not So Far Afield is a bimonthly publication of the Maryknoll Affiliates. The name is a play on the title of the original Maryknoll Magazine: The Field Afar.
You may subscribe to Not So Far Afield by email or to be notified when it is posted on our website.
You may also download PDF versions of Not So Far Afield here.
The Maryknoll Affiliate Mission Statement includes the phrase,
“Maryknoll Affiliates challenge one another to witness to mission as a way of life by going beyond borders (italics added for emphasis)...,”
but this issue gives examples of Maryknollers and Affiliates not going beyond borders, but rather going to the southern US border and serving the great needs there.
Several articles show it is not even necessary to physically go to the border to make a difference. David Schaffner points out that shoelaces are such a simple item but are providing a tangible way to connect with those in need and also to educate the local community about the situation at the border! Affiliates in this issue also say their mission is in the community: teaching English to immigrants, offering hospitality to traveling Maryknollers, or joining a Campaign Nonviolence action. Santa Orlando points out the many ways the Albany Chapter maintains connections and is a catalyst and conduit of communication. She says Affiliates are called to Relationship.
Articles in this issue:
Staying Connected - "It was wonderful to have representatives from the Sisters and Fathers with us."—Santa Orlando
Meeting Maryknoll in St. Louis - "When we admired a symbol Debbie was wearing, she asked, “What is the symbol of the Maryknoll Affiliates?”—Mary Ryan-Hotchkiss
Boston Affiliate Working with Rotary - "The goal of the project was to change the practice of cooking with open fires on the floor, eliminating exposure to smoke and reducing health issues."—Jim Comes
More Excitement? - "A little preparation can lead to a lively meeting."—Matt Rousso
Maryknoll Lay Missioner/Lawyer - "Walls and detention centers are not the answer. Central America needs to be a place where people can stay if they want, with job opportunities, fair wages, and security."—Heidi Cerneka
Maryknoll Nuns at the Border - “God does not ask us to ask if people we help have all their immigration papers in order, or are they legally asking for asylum, before we feed, clothe and give them something to eat or give them shelter."—Sr. Maggie Sierra, MM
At the El Paso Migrant Refuge - "One of the best things about doing volunteer work is meeting other volunteers from different locations."—Don Gonzalez
The Shoelace Project - "Thus, the Humanitarian Respite Center operated by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, and similar facilities along the border, need a constant supply of shoelaces."—David Schaffner
Learn more about your Maryknoll Affiliate Board and Executive Coordinator in these articles:
And be sure to enjoy the Features in this issue:
If you are more comfortable reading the Not So Far Afield in its print form, you may download a pdf of the July/August issue.
Have you considered attending a Mission Institute program?
If New York is too far for you, consider the California offerings!
There’s still time to sign up!
July 7-12 Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Spirituality
Rev. John Philip Newell, PhD, and Cami Twilling
July 14-19 Teilhard and Struggle: Drawn to the Road of Fire
Sr. Kathleen Duffy, SSJ, PhD
July 21-26 Sacred Heart of the Cosmos: Mission Spirit in Modern Time
Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS, MFA
Sept. 8-13 Mission Spirituality: Releasing the Fire Within – Monrovia, CA
Sr. Claudette LaVerdiere, MM, STL
Sept. 17-20 Mission Spirituality: Releasing the Fire Within – Los Altos, CA
Sr. Claudette LaVerdiere, MM, STL
Find the complete schedule and application forms at:
Register online or request an application form by:
Phone: 914-941-7575 @ 5671
Mail: Maryknoll Mission Institute
PO Box 311
Maryknoll, NY 10545-0311
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”
Our chapter has organized a “Shoelace Project” for the months of June and July in St. Patrick’s Parish, Arroyo Grande. The idea for this campaign came from an NSFA article, “Compassion and Hospitality on the Border,” (March/April 2019). In this article, Jerrie Drinkwine mentioned that the detention center removes shoelaces and belts from asylum seekers as they are processed by ICE. When they are delivered to a respite center, they receive replacement shoelaces. Thus, the Humanitarian Respite Center operated by Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas, and similar facilities along the border, need a constant supply of shoelaces.
Sept. 14 to 22 is 2019’s Week of Actions, and Campaign Nonviolence plans to have 3,000 actions around the world! Several Affiliate groups have participated in this annual effort, “working for a new culture of nonviolence free from war, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction.”
Learning, growing, transforming, and deepening ourselves and our society are signs of life.
Through my involvement with the Affiliates, I have embraced and continue deepening my identification with nonviolence. The JustFaith module, Cultivating Nonviolence, offers to us Maryknoll Affiliates a way to keep growing, cultivating.
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.
Maryknollers, including Affiliates, have been attending to the needs of migrants at the US-Mexico border. (Affiliates have written about helping at McAllen, TX, and on page 8, Don Gonzalez tells about El Paso.) Sr. Lil Mattingly, MM, responded graciously to our email when we arrived in El Paso in April. She arranged for us to meet the Maryknoll sisters working at the US Border near El Paso and hear their stories. Sr. Lil and Sr. Maggie Sierra are both working with immigrants in El Paso. Sr. Susan Nchubiri, MM, who is based at Maryknoll, NY, is working with them for a month responding to the massive increase in refugees from Central and South America.
Last November I volunteered at the refugee center located within the grounds of the Diocese of El Paso. It is a good-sized room with its own kitchen and eating facility. The bishop of El Paso and seminarians reside nearby, and most volunteers stay in the seminarians’ sleeping quarters, where they are comfortable and have a regular bed unless there is a lack of space; then volunteers might sleep on a cot.
Volunteers learn how to perform a number of functions, then do what is requested as needed.
Deepen our compassion, O God.
You are the judge, not us.
Our sister left behind home, family, culture, language
When she fled to protect her life,
her children, their future,
As greed and power ravaged her nation.
Our brother asked for refuge,
A refuge promised by the UN and the US,
But we welcomed him with detention,
Separation from loved ones.
Teach us to walk a mile in their sandals
And be moved to indignation and action.
Stretch our compassion, O God,
To embrace those
Who see this reality differently.
Move us beyond entrenched beliefs,
Inspire us to creative responses
And justice that restores relationships
And hope for all.
May those who knock at our door
Seeking refuge and hope,
Who are met with condemnation and walls
by this nation,
May they challenge us
To live our baptismal promise to the Gospel,
And may they judge us with compassion
when we fail.
Note: This prayer first appeared in the Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Voices of Compassion, Spring 2019. Reprinted with permission.
On our annual road trip, I met briefly with Heidi Cerneka, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, in El Paso.
Heidi said she was inspired to join the Lay Missioners while she was still in college and heard about the church women being martyred in El Salvador. Rather than being frightened, their dedication excited her. As a Lay Missioner, Heidi worked many years in Brazil with women in prisons, but at 50 years of age she decided to go to law school. Now she works for a nonprofit, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, as an immigration lawyer. Most of her work involves asylum cases. In this part of Texas only about 3% of asylum applicants are successful. She said that in other jurisdictions, e.g., parts of New York or Portland, Oregon, about 50% of asylum applicants are eventually granted asylum.
The Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy center needs volunteers and interns. Besides the obvious need for workers with legal expertise, Heidi specifically mentioned that social workers or counselors could interview clients. The organization’s website—Las-Americas.org—includes two pages requesting interns and volunteers and listing needs.
I asked Heidi her message for Affiliates. She emphasized, “Walls and detention centers are not the answer. Central America needs to be a place where people can stay if they want, with job opportunities, fair wages, and security. The US needs to be a place where people can come with fair immigration policies. … All the people that leave the government’s detention centers are now documented; they’re not undocumented or illegal!”
A little preparation can lead to a lively meeting.
In preparation for a chapter meeting just before Earth Day, Matt Rousso, New Orleans Chapter contact person, sent two questions to the members of the Gulf South New Orleans Area Chapter:
Since they’d been discussing and studying Laudato Si and Care for Creation, these questions resonated with the members. Sixteen people attended the meeting and everyone had something to say.
I recently had the opportunity to work with a local Rotary Club to install wood-burning stoves in two villages on the shores of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.
My local Rotary Club in Westborough, Massachusetts, and Rotary clubs in Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, received a grant from Rotary International to install the stoves.
I worked with another Rotarian from Massachusetts and a local technician from HELP International. HELP identified 100 families and provided the basic parts needed to install a stove. Each family agreed to not sell the stove and to purchase eleven cinder blocks which would act as the base for the stove. (Google “Onil stoves Guatemala” to see the stoves.)
The goal of the project was to change the practice of cooking with open fires on the floor, eliminating exposure to smoke and reducing health issues. Mayan families traditionally cook with open fires on the floor in rooms with little or no ventilation. Several health problems are associated with smoke exposure: acute respiratory disease, chronic bronchitis, asthma, tuberculosis, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and others.
With continued support from the grant, local health clinics will be monitored for health issues related to smoke exposure, and some families will be visited to measure air quality in the room where the stove was installed.
In four days, our group of ten Rotarians installed 100 stoves in homes and one larger wood-burning stove in a school. The Mayan families receiving the stoves are very poor—they live in two or three rooms and have none of the basic conveniences we take for granted. The taxi driver who drove us around to different houses told me he makes five dollars a day. In addition to reducing the Mayan family’s exposure to smoke, the stoves burn wood more efficiently, saving trees and money. The families were overjoyed to have the stoves, which will enable them to spend less for wood and hopefully more on food.
Patty Hinton, Vicki Simon, and the Hotchkisses talked about their connections to Maryknoll over lunch in May. The Hotchkisses were passing through Missouri on their way home to Portland, Oregon, from an Affiliate Board meeting at Maryknoll, NY. Patty Hinton is the Regional Coordinator for the large Midwest region that includes Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, and other nearby states where there currently are no Affiliate chapters. She arranged for Vicki Simon to join us.
Vicki Simon is a returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner who served in Kenya. Since returning, Vicki is on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Board and has served in various Jesuit-related roles in the St. Louis area. She commented that the JustFaith program had been active for over 12 years at St. Francis Xavier “College” parish, St. Louis. Racism and white privilege are discussed in many area churches. She recently volunteered at a migrant refuge affiliated with the El Paso Annunciation House of Hospitality. Having studied Latin American culture and taught Spanish for nine years, she said, “I felt called to do something!” She plans to work at the border again in August.