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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nature @ prayer

NATURAL WOOD pieces discovered and interpreted by the late artist, Maryknoll Sister Marie Pierre Semler (left), form the basis of this rare exhibit in our Spellman room now till November 15. Entitled "Nature Prays" this collection of almost 30 pieces captures Semlers spirituality that the work of nature is prayer.

This central piece is entitled "Desolation."
Her artist's eye allowed her to discover both sublime meaning and whimsical fancy within these random (at least to the untrained mind) shapes hewn of wood by wind, sea and earth.

In addition, several reproductions of her original sculptures and paintings will be offered for sale in the corner of the Spellman Room. Since her death in 1993, her collection has been managed by her grandnephew and his wife.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hallowe'en @ Maryknoll

NO HUNGARIAN GHOULASH for us on this All Hallows Eve Eve.


CONGRATULATIONS & blessings on Mr. Mike Edson, our former chef, and Ms. Liza Schoenberg who will be married at a 5:00 p.m. ceremony this evening in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Maryknoll Father Larry Lewis and former Maryknoller, now Episcopalian priest, Rev. Frank Alagna, will demonstrate ecumenism as they co-officiate the nuptials at the Episcopalian Church of the Messiah. Larry will do the main ceremony and Frank will pronounce them husband and wife.

Since leaving Maryknoll & Sodexo, Mike has worked as a conductor on Metro North Railroad. Several of our men report having seen and spoken with Mike on the train.

Please join me in wishing Mike and his wife all the best as they begin their new life together!

Who moved my OLOM?

NOT TO GET OUR BLOOMERS ALL IN A TWIST, but that beautiful, hand-carved statue of Our Lady of Maryknoll that has graced the Spellman Room for a little over a month has been moved—temporarily—to make room for a wonderful exhibit of the natural sculptures by Sr. Marie Pierre Semler, M.M.

Ms. Nancy Kleppel, center coordinator, made the request to move the statue on behalf of the exhibit organizers. She made the request to me, who really have no authority to say where the statue goes, except I was the one who lobbied for six months to put it in its present location and I guess top the list of people who would theoretically get upset if it were moved.

While I thought it added a dignified focal point to the exhibit itself, the organizers felt otherwise. The clincher for their argument, offered by Nancy, was: that's why it was put on casters, to allow mobility if the Spellman Room were needed for activities. So a quick appraisal of alternative fung shui showed the space inside the main chapel, on the other side of the folding panels to the Spellman Room and facing the Eucharistic Chapel, to be the least disruptive yet still dignified place of temporary exile.

And while I am grousing, why is it taking four weeks to get the extra spotlight installed to illuminate said statue of OLOM in its now vacated location? Fr. Ernie Lukaschek put in the request in early October. Ms. Nancy Kleppel said she would look into it with Physical Plant. That might be a fair trade for allowing the statue to be moved. Let's hope when the exhibit finishes in two weeks Our Lady of Maryknoll will be re-transported to its properly spot-lit location in the Spellman Room.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Los Altos Vocation Retreat

SIX YOUNG MEN from the west coast will participate in a vocation retreat this weekend (October 30~ Nov. 1) at our residence in Los Altos, California. Rev. Mr. Stephen DeMartino, director of vocation ministries, will give the talks assisted by Fr. Dave LaBuda and Br. Tim Raible.

According to Steve, the religious activities planned for the retreat are in response to what the retreatants themselves requested: Benediction, rosary and Stations of the Cross. But he was quick to add that these traditional devotions will have a decidedly Maryknoll and mission feel. Prayers to Our Lady of Maryknoll, meditations on the Maryknoll martyrs, the Maryknoll Way of the Cross and the mission rosary will blend the best of Catholic devotions with Maryknoll's charism of overseas mission.

Please send palanca for the men on retreat and for the vocation ministers to

Make sure you add your current mission. It is very edifying to have prayers come in from around the Maryknoll world. Pray for an increase in vocations to Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers!


HALLOWEEN came early to the Knoll this morning as employees participated in the annual parade of fiendish ghouls, shrieking zombies and disgruntled Yankee fans (not to be confused with Maryknollers waiting for the dining room door to open.)

The parade made its way around the main building before terrorizing the Price Building (from which most originated) and heading towards the warehouse where prizes will be awarded for creativity, group theme and I suggest a top prize in a new category: Most Likely to Show Up Dressed Like This on Any Given Day.

This annual event is sponsored by Human Resources which usually discourages "Trick or Treat" as a form of worker compensation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Environmental Enforcers

RIVERKEEPER started as the Hudson River Fishermen's Association in 1967 to protect the dwindling fish stock. Robert Kennedy Jr. took an interest and it morphed into Riverkeeper, a law enforcement and patrolling agency, according to Philip Musegasse who spoke to us on Wednesday.

Battling the nuclear power plant at Indian Point (5 miles north of here) has been a 40-year struggle. It uses 2.5 billion gallons of water a day—twice the amount used by NYC. And they use it for free. Heated water is thenreleased back into the river. This destroys millions of fish eggs and small fish: American shad, river herring, striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon, which can grow up to eight feet long. Female stugeon do not reproduce young till they are 20. Though protected, they still are effected by Indian Point.

RK's goal is a swimmable, fishable and drinkable Hudson river. Also of late energy companies have begun leasing land and drilling for natural gas in the Catskills which runs the risk of cataminating the watershed, should there be a spill or accident.

GE had been dumping PCBs in the Hudson for years and finally they started dredging, with EPA monitoring for any "resuspension" of pollutants downstream. PCBs would take thousands of years to breakdown, meanwhile killing wildlife as well as causing cancer or other diseases in humans.

Newtown Creek near NYC had been polluted with sludge (see photo) by Exxon Mobil which RK is suing to clean up.

Musegasse said RK patrols by boat and helicopter and takes water samples from 100 locations several times a month. Test results are posted on their website.

Pharmaceuticals are showing up in larger amounts in the water and ecosystem. What effect these have on fish and waterfowl remains to be seen.

Riverkeeper collaborates with Clearwater and Scenic Hudson to protect the environment, educate people and help future generations enjoy the mighty Hudson river.

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MR. PHILIP MUSEGASS was delayed in speaking to our members today to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Hudson river.

While waiting for the speaker, Maryknollers shared their thoughts on the future of water. Fr. Dennis Moorman had heard one reason for the war in Iraq was to gain controll over the largest water supply in the Middle East. Ms. Terry Mierswa, whose office of assisted living organized today's talk, readin the WSJ that water would be traded as a commodity in future.

Fr. Dick Quinn reported that Kenya and Tanzania are both undergoing terrible drought and, as usual, the wildlife is the firstto suffer and die. Br. Marty Shea reported that rain water had been plentiful in Guatemala but climate change seems to have takeneffect. Fr. Bill Coy reported that in Bolivia water projects cost big bucks Fr. Fred Haggerty feared that in Chile the poor will be denied access to water. In all likelihood, future wars will be fought over water.

In early December there will also be a gathering of religious communities whose properties flank the Hudson valley from Nyack to Albany. All this is in keeping with Maryknoll's and other religious communities renewed emphasis in ecology.

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Déjà vu all over again

SO MUCH has happened or is planned around the Knoll in the next couple of days that I am pressed to get this posted a.s.a.p.

The ballot for first assistant to the U.S. regional superior went out yesterday and is due by Nov. 17, 2009. If no one wins a majority, a second ballot....yadda yadda. You know the drill. (At this rate we could drag out electing the entire regional council all the way to May 2010 when we can take up the proposal to abolish the region at our assembly. Br. Wayne wisely thought it best to proceed with a vote and not presume members will select him for first assistant. Of course, we are presuming this is OK with Rome.

TODAY (Ignore the flyer that says Tuesday) from 3:30 ~ 4:30 p.m. we will have a RIVERKEEPER PRESENTATION in the Asia Room. Mr. Phillip Musegass, Hudson River Program Director of the Hudson River and its Tributaries, and To Safeguard New York City's and Westchester County's Water Supply (but I think his friends just call him "Phil") will speak to us on current projects to save the Hudson River.

YESTERDAY, Fr. John Casey gave a well-attended talk in our library on his work with inter-religious dialogue. He is now off to Japan and points east for various seminars and symposia on this topic and is due back in January.

TOMORROW archives is sponsoring a fun activity for Hallowe'en in which, if I understand the announcement correctly, we can have ourselves digitally inserted into photos of our favorite movie stars or scenes. Trouble is, I started out identifying with Luke Skywalker, now I am more Obiwan Kenobi but am rushing toward Yoda. Maybe I'll stick with Cher in Moonstruck...

And starting on Friday the rarely seen natural sculpture of the late Sr. Marie Pierre Semler will be exhibited in our Spellman Room.

Photos to follow!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who's Who Behind the Scenes

RESTRUCTURING of our physical plant and grounds personnel and tasks has bought our support structures more in line with today's needs.

Mr. Pete Murray, who had headed the physical plant department for many years now heads the construction and safety committee which oversees our many buildings both on and off campus. It's hard to see which is the more difficult task: reconstruction and renovation projects or beefing up the security in said buildings. (If you hadn't noticed, there are surveillance cameras focused on the far-too many entrances to the main building.) The beautiful remodeling of our 39th Street House two years ago was overseen by Pete.

Mr. Al Vitiello heads our physical plant, whose main headache is keeping this largest Oriental-style building in the Western Hemisphere in tip-top shape. (Flash forward 50 years. Chinese restaurant? Embassy and residence for the People's Republic of China? Retreat Center for Koreans, Vietnamese and Haitians? World headquarters of the small but vital Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers? Both of them?)

Mr. Rich Adams who had been our telephone and computer cable guy is now chief electrician; Mr. Tom Dunstan who had been electrician is now assistant director and Mr. Tom McShane is now electrician. Mr. Brian Daniels remains our faithful and talented carpenter, doing everything from dog run fences to bookcases, shelves and even barns. Mr. Mario Cerdas is head of housekeeping and special events supervisor while Ms. Teresa Rodriquez, in addition to being our sacristan, is room attendant supervisor.

(Dizzy yet?) Need a job done? Keeping all sections in communication with one another is Ms. Carolyn Caparco, who takes our calls and requests and puts out work orders to all of the above.

Keeping a facility the size of Maryknoll up and running is no small accomplishment. These men and women work tirelessly behind the scenes to insure that we have everything we need to make our headquarters functioning and fun. In addition to making our home comfortable, they allow us to welcome outside groups to come experience and enjoy the Maryknoll spirit.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Road Trip

FR. ED SZENDREY AND I hopped in a loaner car and headed up to Syracuse today to attend the wake tonight and funeral tomorrow morning of Joe Saucci, the eldest brother of Fr. Ron Saucci of Hong Kong.

Joe, a carpenter, did extensive work in the Walsh Building back in the day when Ron was head of the Social Communications Department. He built two new offices with large, plate-glass widows for me and then editor Frank Maurovich as well as the chapel on the third floor dedicated to Fr. Tom Takahashi.

Special thanks to Fr. Joe La Mar who would have joined us in this corporal act of mercy had I not already asked him to puppy-sit for Hopi today.

In any event, Ron's other brother Andrew from Long Island and his wife, Norma, were most grateful to see Ed and me and waxed eloquent about their visits to Maryknoll and Hong Kong. Many nieces and nephews as well said, "You must be friends of Uncle Ron."

Given that his own health concerns precluded Ron from attending, Ed and I were happy to continue the Maryknoll tradition of making every effort to attend funerals of relatives of missioners.

Congrats 2 Fr. Mike Duggan!

HABEMUS SUPERIORUM REGIONIS (or something like that). Fr. Mike Duggan has been elected U.S. Regional Superior. Having run out of candidates for the top position, our attention now turns to Miss, wait...wrong contest.

According to the official announcement from Super G and US Regional pro-temp Fr. Ed Dougherty, 58 out of 69 ballots were returned. Mike got 38 and Fr. Bob Jalbert 20. Curiously, the announcement states Mike's election is effective Oct. 1, 2009. Nothing like beginning three weeks behind schedule or, worse, having to account for things that happened whilst the region was in limbo. (But since B-16 abolished Limbo, we'll just have to make do with Hoboken. But I digress.)

No word yet on how or if we will select the First Assistant, since technically we could go right to the Second Ass. if the Council excercises its prerogative and appoints Br. Wayne as F.A.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Round-Up, Part 2

AS WE WAIT WITH BATED BREATH on our side of the road for the the results of the final (God willing) ballot for U.S. regional superior, the Sisters' Bazaar (Thanks to Carrie Seo, my only loyal reader who caught and pointed out my malapropism in the previous post) is off to a roaring start despite inclement weather.

Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick has returned from the Hong Kong gathering of Young'Uns, sponsored by his Office of Lifelong Formation. He made a cameo appearance during the house meeting Wednesday but has since retreated to an undisclosed location, much like Dick Cheney was wont to do but hopefully not for similar reasons. Father Romane St. Vil and Fr. Ed Szendrey have also returned. Fr. Dennis Moorman is due back this weekend.

Ed seemed a little tired (or could be just jet lag) of continued queries as to what transpired in Hong Kong, but he did say something that may alleviate members' frustrations at the apparent secrecy: "It was not a meeting; it was more like a spiritual renewal."

I mean, does anyone really what to read transcripts of our old Holy Land or Lourdes programs? Do we really want to read about the younger members' spiritual renewal? Still, perhaps just a simple list of topics discussed might lessen the ever-increasing generational divide that threatens to tear our Society apart into warring camps bent on mutual annihilation. OK. That was hyperbole. But it was fun to write and it's a hell of lot more interesting than my usual dreck.

Friday, October 23, 2009

MK Sisters' International Bazaar

SATURDAY, OCT. 24th marks the highlight of the autumn season with the Maryknoll Sisters' International Bazaar. This annual event attracts a huge crowd of people from around the tri-state area seeking to get a jump on their Christmas shopping with exotic and beautiful artifacts and handicrafts from around the Maryknoll world. The Sisters prepare for this all year round but activities reach a fever pitch as the date approaches.

The Bazaar is set up in the Rogers' Building with different rooms dedicated to the various areas where the Sisters work. Expect to see wonderful handmade goods and clothing from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific Islands, not to mention the United States which is also mission territory for them. In addition there are home-baked pies, cakes and cookies as well as snacks and refreshments for sale to fortify weary shoppers for Round Two of "retail therapy."

A raffle and silent auction are also part of the Bazaar. Get there early because many choice objects go quickly. The Sisters had discontinued the Bazaar several years ago when the amount of preparation and work seemed too much to deal with. But the outpouring of support and interest from the public convinced them to bring back the Bazaar after several years' hiatus.

Signs of the times

Visitors are respectfully asked to stay away if they feel sick. These signs were posted around Maryknoll this morning. So far, no cases reported here at the Knoll. Thanks be to God!

Today is deadline to vote for U.S. Regional!

TODAY IS THE LAST CHANCE for members of the U.S. region to cast your vote for U.S. regional in this torturous and seemingly endless election process. If it is conducted like ballots past, the scrutators will count them tomorrow and the results "embargoed" until Monday. Why the delay? Far be it from me to speculate (yeah, right) but let's just remind ourselves that the vote is consultative and not deliberative. 'Nuff said.

But since it is the express purpose of this blog to report on the buzz around the salad bar or in the dining room, here are some nuggets:

• If Fr. Mike Duggan wins, how long before we can expect the Second Coming of the Ambo?

• If Fr. Bob Jalbert wins, what will become of the ambitious plans of our Centenary Committee?

• Will the Council immediately name Br. Wayne as First Assistant?

• Will the membership look outside our region for Second and Third Assistants?

As soon as the results are announced, I will post them here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oktoberfest @ Maryknoll

Life IS a caberet at the Knoll

NYTimes: Offer Raises Idea of Marriage for Catholic Priests

Just as I predicted in yesterday's blog, this from Today's The New York Times:

Offer Raises Idea of Marriage for Catholic Priests

The invitation to join the Catholic Church extends to married Anglican
clergy, leading some to wonder whether the move could liberalize the
church on a crucial issue: celibacy.

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More on the Pachamama Farm

The last we heard, Fathers Fern Goselin and John Hudert had both been laid up in the hospital with various medical issues. Well, thanks be to God, they are all better and back in business on the Pachamama farm, a one-acre community garden located on the north side of Maryknoll's property. The purpose of the farm (the name means "Earth Mother" in Quechua) is to provide fresh produce to seven local food pantries. Anything extra is offered to our employees at St. Teresa's Residence. About ten volunteers, mostly senior citizens and retirees, plant, weed, water and harvest. Alas, times being what they are, no children or even college students are permitted to volunteer, unless accompanied by their parents.

John and Fern set the mood for today's Food for Thought presentation by singing "One Day at a Time" (If the desired mood was hillbilly religious rock, they succeeded.)

Goselin was bought up on a dairy farm in Vermont, so he has farming in his blood. When he first returned from the missions, 60 acres of Maryknoll's 93 acres land were unusable, so with the help of a neighboring farmer with a tractor, he cleared 20 acres of land.

He discovered all kinds of abandoned plows and farm equipment in our dump and this offended both his missioner's and farmer's background, so he sought ways to put it to use. The original tractor, still in use and one of four, was driven by Fr. Charlie Hugelmeyer when he was a seminarian back in the Middle Ages.

Maryknoll Affiliate Mary Murphy came up with the original idea of planting a garden and convinced Fr. Dick Callahan to make the initial investment of $6,000 for electric fencing (to keep out the deer, raccoons and other fauna) and equipment.

In the earlier years (the farm started ten years ago) the farm produced 3,000 pounds. The following year 6,000. Then 9 and 12,000 respectively. Last year they harvested 25,000 pounds of vegetables, in addition to apples.

A blight followed all the rain this year, so the tomato crop was a disappointment. Even so, to date 17,000 pounds of produce have been harvested with more to come. The only fertilizer the farm uses is horse manure donated from local stables. Talk about re-cycling.

In addition to tomatoes, the Pachamama Farm grows three kinds of squash, eggplant, beets, cabbages, peppers, beans, cucumbers, turnips, leeks and garlic. A local beekeeper maintains four hives nearby and gives part of the honey to Hudert.

A new barn was erected last month to store the tractors and other machinery and equipment. The residents of St. Teresa's donated more than $10,000 of the $15,000 cost of the barn. Harvesting starts as early as May and goes through November.

Catholic New York and Catholic News Service, among other local publications, have carried stories about the Pachamama Farm. It's just one example of good stewardship.

When worlds collide, Part 3 (Updated!)

WASTING FOOD gets in our collective, metaphorical craw, so to speak, so it was only a matter of time before our ingrained mission proclivities clashed with the Sodexo practice of throwing away leftovers.

Fr. Paul O'Brien approached this member of the all-important Food Committee and asked if it were true that kitchen staff would be fired if they took home leftover food. I asked head chef Mike McLoughlin and he assured me they would not be fired but would, per Sodexo policy, be written up. While it sounds harsh, a rational mind sees this as the only way to avoid legal, not to mention serious health issues.

Sodexo must follow strict guidelines for the quality, cooking and preparation of foods. This is why they do not allow outside foods to be brought in and cooked in our kitchen nor will they supply uncooked foods (hamburgers, for example) to be cooked outside our kitchen at employee or Maryknoll cook-outs.

The question of leftovers is stickier. Technically speaking they should not even be putting leftovers in our kitchenettes, according to Ms. Margaret Sheehan, Sodexo general manager. We asked, and they complied, with our request to offer leftover entrees one more time in our food line. After that, state law requires whatever remains be thrown out.

"Could not this have been given to the poor?" resonates from the gospel. (OK, so it was spoken by Judas but the sentiment is valid.) The answer is, "No. Not unless you want the poor to get sick from food poisoning."

What is envisioned, I think, is some adaption of the Second Harvest program in NYC and other cities where upscale restaurants donate leftover food at the end of the day to local food pantries. According to Sheehan, City (or Second) Harvest allows food pantries to pick up leftovers at the end of the business day by employing special trucks equipped with "Flash Freeze" technology that keeps the food frozen until needed.

Plus, restaurants cannot re-serve leftovers and such things as bread and rolls are not an issue with us. The solution, Sheehan says, is to plan and cook accordingly, minimizing the amount of overproduction and, subsequently, waste.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of Brooklyn priests & Anglicans

WELCOME to sixteen priests (ordained within the last five years) here for a two-day retreat as part of their on-going priestly formation program. The buzz at our table centered around yesterday's Vatican bombshell streamlining the way for Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic church.

While this has been in the works for some time, apparently the suddenness of the pronouncement took our Episcopalian brethren by surprise. An added wrinkle was including Episcopalian seminarians in the mix, although their priests would require ordination into the Roman rite. One Brooklyn priest here heard as many as 300,000 Episcopalians are prepared to jump ship. How many of ours have gone over to them was not discussed, although a few years ago NCR published a figure that suggested for every one of them that comes to us, ten Catholics go over to them.

The unspoken elephant in the room (See? I can keep my mouth shut) is why these people are leaving the Anglican communion: dissatisfaction with their church's position on women priests, openly gay priests, and blessing same-sex unions.

There would no doubt also be an influx of married clergy from the Episcopalians which, IMO, would put incredible internal pressure on the Vatican to rethink and relax mandatory disciple for our guys. If not, we face the anomaly of our guys in formation struggling with celibacy and being advised to leave, join the Anglicans, marry, get ordained, then come back. But I guess stranger things have happened in Holy Mother Church.

Pre-emptive Centenary Report

FR. BOB JALBERT was kind enough to pass out to us in advance a three-page outline of the report he is scheduled to give this afternoon at the Monthly House Meeting concerning the Centenary Committee which has yet to meet. And if that isn't enough to run-on your sentences, misplace your modifiers and dangle your participles, I have before me even as I blog a copy of said report and shall attempt, in my own biased way, to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Which one I am giving to you is for you to decide.)

Thus far, the Committee has agreed to hold the Annual Foundation Day Weekend (June 24~26, 2011) at the Center; the second Maryknoll Youth Day in the spring of 2011, and a Benefactors' Appreciation Day in the fall of 2011. Call me a skeptic, but weren't these already planned a long time ago, like, before the Committee was formed?

Also under consideration is an event in 2011 celebrating the Hispanic church, a symposium on mission, and a major Sunday Liturgy at St. Patrick's followed by a catered luncheon (guests, I presume TBA).

Promoting our Jubilee Year is nothing less than a proposed letter from none other than His Holiness Benedict XVI due out early in 2010 as well as a proclamation from the USCCB. I shall file both these in my "Don't Hold Your Breath" drawer. "Early 2010" after all, starts in less than two months.

"Quality not quantity" of events is the goal and there have been several meetings with the Congregation and Lay Missioners for joint celebrations that span both our Centenary Years (2011~2013). Those years also include the 35th anniversary of the MLMs, the 20th anniversary of the Affiliates.

Many committees, subcommittees and groups are planned, in keeping with Maryknoll's true charism: More Meetings.

The Core Planning Committee consists of: Fr. Jalbert as Chair; Fr. Jack Sullivan (Retirement Community); Mr. Greg Darr (MEP Midwest); Ms. Diane Bernadini (MEP/Marketing); Ms. Bernadette Price (MEP Orbis); Fr. Steve Judd (Latin America); Fr. Jim Kroeger (Asia); Fr. Ken Thesing (Africa); Br. John Beeching (MK Brothers) and Fr. Joyalito Tajonera (Overseas at-large member)

There is much more in the outline but you could not bear it now. Trust me. I know I can't.

God in His Goodness has also seen fit to schedule choir practice from every Wednesday from 4:15 ~ 5:00, conflicting nicely with the house meeting. As liaison with the all-important Food Committee, I have already cleared it with Fr. Lukaschek to speak first, leaving my brethren to sit through other reports whilst I sing tenor parts to various Christmas carols.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hiatus over; H1N1 update

MY BAD. I took Monday off to recuperate from performing a wedding at the Korean church, then hearing confessions, giving a talk and saying Mass at a junior high retreat at St. Josaphat's Byzantine Catholic retreat house in Glen Cove, N.Y. over the weekend. I have to hand it to the teachers. It was certainly a baptism by fire for us all. A special shout-out to Father Jim Gilligan, our canon lawyer in residence, for taking my two Masses at the church in Queens so I could stay at the retreat center and lose sleep. Thanks a lot, Jim. Really.

This week does promise to give me several topics to address, most notably the Monthly House Meeting (Third Wednesday of every month) which will take up, among other things, suggested H1N1 precautions. My report from the all-important Food Committee will go over like a lead balloon because guys don't want to be told they can't go into the food line when the doors are closed, no matter what the lawyers and insurers say. Nor do they want to be discouraged from squirreling food away for later consumption.

But back to the H1N1: all the dioceses of Pennsylvania and now the diocese of Brooklyn strongly recommend no sharing of the cup and a bow in place of the handshake during the exchange of peace. I suspect these will be implemented easily at the Knoll although some may suggest substituting the liturgically suspect practice of dipping the Host in the Precious Blood. (Apparently nowhere in the Aramaic does it say, "Take and dunk...") I for my part have long shied away from sharing the cup (unless I am celebrant and therefore first) because of the unavoidable backwash. Thirty guys drinking from one cup and you are Number 31. You do the math.

Fathers Fern Goselin and John Hudert are on tap with Food For Thought this Thursday and will speak about, what else? The Pachamama Farm.

Thursday evening several of us will go to the Peekskill Theater to see Lily Tomlin's live performance.

Check back in a few hours and I'll tell you what else is new around the salad bar.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekend round-Up

ONCE AGAIN the slow pace of activities at Mother Knoll each weekend affords me an opportunity to report a lot of odds and ends that are informational in themselves but way too boring to merit an independent post of their own, even for one with a creative albeit twisted imagination as YHB. (Your Humble[?] Blogger)

• The current crop of nine exciting lay mission candidates is having a one-day retreat at the Center even as we speak. Since I last posted about the MLMs they made the decision to withdraw from East Timor due to budgetary considerations, so those candidates who thought that was their assignment are looking to go elsewhere.

• Br. John Blazo will give a tour and talk (and talk and talk) to local Affiliates before subjecting them to a film in our very own custom-designed and award-winning movie theater located inside the Visitors Center. If you have ever sat on the chairs inside said theater you may have recognized them as being rejected at Guantanamo for violating the Geneva agreement on cruel and unusual torture.

• Gas prices at the Maryknoll pump are stuck at $2.80 a gallon, fully 10~15 cents higher than at local stations. El problema es que we can't get lower prices until we use up the shipment we have and we can't use up the shipment right away because I and almost everyone else fill'er up elsewhere. So we must needs wait till the house cars and loaners and medical vans use up the gas till prices come down.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Westchester's Haute Boutique

Nieman Marcus? Lord & Taylor? Bush league. One of Maryknoll's best kept secrets is our gift shoppe on the first floor M Wing. There you can buy quality gifts not available in Macy's or Target or any other large retailer. Why? Because many of the articles for sale come straight from the missions, courtesy of Maryknollers and our connections.

In addition to an entire line of clothing, hats, Tee shirts, sweatshirts, polo shirts, ski hats, caps, hoodies, tote bags, umbrellas and rain panchos all bearing the ubiquitous MARYKNOLL logo (with the white Chi Rho inside the block capital M) there are some real finds and treasures.

A new shipment of very stylish (IMO) batik "katenge" shirts from a cottage industry back in Tanzania has arrived courtesy of Fr. Ernie Bruenelle. Similarly, Fr. John Barth sends over many beautiful pashmina scarves handwoven by his handicapped people in Cambodia. A co-op in El Salvador sends lovely enameled crosses, rosaries and nativity sets. There is silver jewelry from Bolivia and hand-beaded jewelry by the Maasai in Kenya.

Of course the entire catalogue of Orbis books (including two WONDERFUL books by that most humble of authors J. R. Veneroso) and other Maryknoll products: posters, CDs and greeting cards are also available.

Usually you can find Ms. Aurette DeCuffa at the cashier's post Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. On Saturday's Ms. Kay Cahill or Ms. Lorena Espinoza help with sales as this is when many visitors drop in.

Stop by and do your Christmas shopping in Westchester's most unique store!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No country for young men

THE OFFICE OF VOCATION MINISTRIES is seriously considering the Central American country of Belize as a venue for future mission exposure trips. Such trips are required of all Maryknoll vocation prospects, according to vocations coordinator Rev. Mr. Steve De Martino, speaking on conditions of anonymity which never stopped me before.

Seriously folks, I asked Steve if this were some big secret and he said no and it was OK to blog about it so all you guys and gals get to know.

Belize is a natural choice to give vocation prospects a taste of mission life for several reasons: it is English speaking, it is relatively close (you could technically drive there), and it is relatively safe.A brother of our late Maryknoll Father Steve Woods is a pastor in Belize and has generously offered his parish as a vocations venue.

Formerly known as British Honduras, Belize gained independence in 1981 although over the years its territory has been claimed by Guatemala with whom it shares a rich Mayan culture. Most Belizeans descend from African heritage.

El Pasa/Juarez had been the venue of choice in recent years and prospects are still required to spend at least a week there prior to acceptance, but Belize may soon replace them. These experiences address the primary question of all applicants to Maryknoll: do you want to be a missioner overseas? If they decide early on that foreign mission is not their thing, everyone can save a lot of time, energy and ágita.

Some vocation prospect guys "in the pipeline" like Glen D'Angelo and Chace Olinger are so gung ho about mission that they have taken it upon themselves to travel to real missions in Bolivia and Japan respectively. They are overseas even as we speak.

And this just in from Br. Tim Raible, our vocations minister in California, our vocation guys are investigating Jamaica as a possible site for a Holy Week vocations retreat, hosted by Fr. Leo Shea.

Now before anyone gets his undies all in a twist, the "No Country for Young Men" subject line was just an attempt to be frightfully clever. It doesn't refer to Belize but rather to the USA as not offering sufficient enough a cross-cultural experience for young men discerning to join our ranks. So there.

Christmas concert rehearsals

AS IF yesterday's first rehearsal for the annual Christmas concert (scheduled for Friday, December 11), wasn't enough to get us into the holiday spirit, today we had our first snowfall at Maryknoll—the opening salvo of a four-day Nor'Easter blowing through till Sunday.

Under the direction of Ms. Judy Abel, the choir will gather together every Wednesday afternoon from 4:15 till 5:30 with special rehearsals for the struggling men's parts every Friday at 1:15. As usual, we sorely need male voices with only three tenors and two basses making it to the first rehearsal.

The men held their own against 20 women's voices. But since it is widely acknowledged that tenors, as a rule, rock, it is only Basses who are in desperate need of reinforcement.

Sixteen songs are planned—a record, I believe—and making the concert fully an hour and a half long. As usual, congregational participation with such standard fair as "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Joy to the World" will be interspersed amid old stand-bys such as "O Holy Night" and the de riguer solo by Fr. Mike Duggan, "Mille Cherubini" along with a lot of new stuff.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

M.E.T. volunteers

OF LATE TWO MARYKNOLLERS a week are rushed by ambulance to local hospitals, usually Phelps in Tarrytown. When such a medical emergency arises, this traumatic experience is assuaged a bit by being accompanied by a fellow Maryknoller, who remains with the person while in the E.R. and also brings whatever personal items may be required.

OK, so the official name is actually E.A.T. (for Emergency Assistance Team), I for one think this is an unfortunate acronym as the group has nothing whatsoever to do with food. Therefore I am pushing M.E.T. (for Medical Emergency Team) as the new name for this service because
1) it sounds like what is done
2) it doesn't raise any expectations of getting a meal

The concept is simple and straight forward: when the front desk or nursing station calls for an ambulance to aid a Maryknoller in medical distress, a call is also made to a special cell phone carried by the M.E.T. volunteer on duty that day or night. He then usually gets in his own car and follows the ambulance and goes to the E.R. to comfort the missioner and also to see what items may be wanted should hospitalization be necessary: toiletries, books, rosary, breviary, iPhone, stock portfolio etc. He would also bring the man's wallet and clothing back to Maryknoll for safekeeping.

Luckily, many Maryknollers have volunteered for M.E.T. Jack Keegan, Joe La Mar, Dick Smith, Kevin Hanlon, John Blazo, Bob Jalbert, Tim Graff, Wayne Fitzpatrick, Joe McGahren, Tom Hickey and Ernie Luksachek are on-call throughout October.

I can personally attest to the emotional and physical support this affords a Maryknoller at a time of high discomfort and anxiety. Last February I had just completed my uneventful shift as a M.E.T. volunteer and had turned over the emergency phone to Br. Tom Hickey. Little did we know that four hours later he would be accompanying me to the hospital. I cannot express my gratitude enough to Tom as he came and went back and forth between the Phelps E.R. and Maryknoll several times and spent several hours at my bedside well into the night.

It's encouraging to know that if needed we Maryknollers will be well M.E.T.

Healing of Memories

THREE VISITORS from the South African-based Institute for the Healing of Memories will be staying at the Center until the end of November. Fr. Michael Lapsley, the director, describes IHOM as a response to the emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds that are inflicted on nations, communities and individuals by wars, repressive regimes, human rights abuses and other traumatic events or circumstances.

Emotional scars are often carried for very long, hindering the individual’s emotional, psychological and spiritual development, according to Lapsley. Attitudes and prejudices that have developed out of anger and hatred between groups can lead to ongoing conflict and spiraling violence.

He knows of which he speaks. An ardant opponent of Apartheid, Lapsley lost both hands and an eye to a letter bomb. After he healed physically he realized more healing needed to be done. IHOM offers workshops for youth and for adults. Each Healing of Memories workshop is a small but powerful step towards healing the wounds of the past.

Michael continues to work to develop a model that will assist faith communities and others in the process of healing the psychological, emotional and spiritual wounds of violence. His ministry in South Africa addresses the ongoing trauma from the apartheid period. He also travels the world to work with communities seeking to emerge from violence and injustice to nonviolence and just relationships.

Maryknoll Sisters' President Janice McLaughlin contacted Fr. Ed Dougherty to see if we might offer hospitality while Lapsley and his two assistants, Mr. Madoda Gowadi and Mr. Steve Karakashian, present workshops to local communities on how to setup their own programs to promote the healing of memories.

Healing of memories uses guided imagery with a faith component to address the roots of trauma as a result of violence and injustice.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Roy, the renegade

FR. ROY BOURGEOISE is attending the annual retreat here, which re-raises the question, "Is he or isn't he?" Excommunicated, that is.

A recent article from a Georgia newspaper is posted on a bulletin board on the ground floor. In it, Roy expresses confusion and some optimism in that he never received a response to his letter to Rome nor a formal declaration of excommunication. So he claims not to know whether he as been excommunicated.

This is wishful thinking on Roy's part, according to Super G Ed Dougherty, whom the article describes as a close, personal friend of our rogue Maryknoller. Doc says the initial letter was quite clear and unambiguous: recant or be automatically excommunicated in 30 days. So in the mind of the superior general and therefore of both the Society and Rome, Roy is excommunicated.

The article also reveals some frustration in that, according to Doc, Roy asks us to respect his position yet he does not respect ours, that is, the official position of the Church. Fr. Dougherty was explicitly questioned about Roy's status at the promoters' assembly last week as many pastors and benefactors are concerned.

The excommunication was imposed following Roy's active participation in an attempted ordination of a woman as a Catholic priest last year and his continued advocacy of women's ordination. Roy did not present himself for communion at the daily Mass today.

Annual retreat

Happy Hour in the Third Floor Rec Room kicked off our annual combined regional/retirement retreat. Amidst pigs-in-blankets and Swedish meatballs, the community met De La Salle Br. Jim Zullo who will accompany us on our Emmaus Walk.

I attended a retreat by Br. Jim two years ago and he is one of the best. While he has a basic format, he takes great pains to tailor the presentation to the specific composition and situation of the retreatants. This morning's talk reintroduced us to the familiar Emmaus story in Luke's gospel, but it was done in a slow, reflective manner, projected on the screen with accompanying works of art. Then he presented the schema for the rest of the week.

The disciples story gets transformed by the stranger's invitation to go deeper into their situation. They encounter scripture and this intersects their story to reveal THE story (Jesus passion & resurrection). Hospitality leads to a shared meal leads to the breaking of bread. Their eyes are opened as they experience a spiritual awakening, seeing things through new eyes.

This overwhelming experience impels them to rise, despite the
late hour and darkness, and return to Jerusalem, from whence they had fled in fear and disappointment.

Then Jim helped us reflect on where we as Maryknollers are today and how we represent the three very different aspects of Church and theology depending on when we were trained and entered religious

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lawn party

Installation of the emergency access fire lanes UNDER the lawn in the Quad is almost complete. Ground has been dug up, pounded, sanded, gravelled, grated, reburied, seeded and hayed! A few good weeks of wet and cool fall air should have the lawn recovered with no one the wiser (except the OFD) to the hidden roadway beneath.

Sign of Jonah

As I have the honor of being the celebrant at today's "leftover" Mass before our retreat begins, I thought I might as well share my reflections with all y'all on the gospel passage Luke 11:29-32.

Jesus says, "This is an evil generation..." Why? Not because it was corrupt. Not because it was violent. Not because it was greedy. But because it sought a sign. A sign of what? A sign of God's blessing and approval for what Jesus had to say.

In Jesus' words are an implicit accusation of spiritual blindness. He threatens them with the "sign of Jonah." Other gospels redact this to include the story of the big fish as prefiguring Jesus' three days in the tomb. But in Luke's gospel it's more blunt.

The Ninevites, non-Jews, responded enthusiastically to the preaching of Jonah. The Queen of Sheba, a non-Jew, traveled great distances to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus is greater than Jonah and Solomon and, if his people don't recognize God in Jesus' words, the Gentiles will.

By Jesus' standard we ask ourselves: Is Maryknoll an evil Society? Not because we are corrupt. Not because we are violent. Not because we are greedy. But precisely because our spiritual blindness prevents us from recognizing and acknowledging the presence of holiness and goodness in our own country, in our own church, in our own Society and in our own members. Maryknoller are used to looking for, expecting and discovering God in outsiders; we just have difficulties seeing God in ourselves.

So many visitors and guests (i.e. non Maryknollers) comment how peaceful, holy and good it is to visit our Center—the very things we either ignore or take for granted. The sign of Jonah!

May this week's retreat open our eyes to the holiness of the person sitting next to us in chapel, at meetings and at meals.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

News from Hong Kong!

AT LONG LAST, we received word from the Young'Uns gathered in Hong Kong. Here is a report by Fr. Ed. Szendrey to which I made one correction: to my knowledge 23 men were invited (see earlier post.) We can all be relieved there is no mention of a visit with Dr. Kervokian.

This month the Stanley house hosted a meeting of Maryknoll members who have been ordained or taken final oath from 1993 onward. This meeting is part of an ongoing program of renewal for this group of Maryknollers, facilitated by Maryknoll’s Office of Lifelong Formation.

This group first met in Rome in 2007. The Rome meeting was both an opportunity for the participants to share and reflect on their experience as missionary priests/Brothers and Maryknollers (much like the ‘Homecoming’ gatherings of years past). This was paired with a ‘pilgrimage’ to various sacred sites in Rome, giving the group the opportunity to connect their reflection to the place which is in many ways the heart of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Hong Kong meeting is intended to build upon the foundation that was laid in Rome. The group (twenty of the twenty-three invited to attend) spent time discussing concerns and hopes in light of the 2008 Chapter. Days were set aside so that the group could spend a day reflecting on Mission Spirituality (facilitated by Columban Fr. Trevor Trotter) and a day of prayer (facilitated by Fr. Bill Galvin). The theme of pilgrimage was also an important component of this gathering, as Hong Kong is the place where Maryknoll’s first missionaries arrived and laid the groundwork for the missionary work to follow.