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Monday, November 30, 2009

My oldest MK connection?

FR. RUSS FELDMEIER (Korea) blew into town and it was good to see him, although conflicting schedules preclude our sitting down and hobnobbing about developments in "Uri Nara" until Thursday.

I've known Russ longer than any other Maryknoller because he and I were Peace Corps Volunteers together in the early 1970s teaching English at Kyung-buk University in Taegu. Actually, with his name and red hair, for the longest time I thought he was Jewish. This made me all the more confused when I'd run into him at Sunday Mass in the K-2 Air Force chapel.

He joined the Peace Corps before me but I joined Maryknoll before him, making for a convoluted relationship in Korean which emphasizes who is the younger or older "brother." In any event, he and I are just two returned Peace Corps Volunteers who went into Maryknoll or other religious groups. Korean Volunteers Ted Dziack and Jim Nickoloff became Jesuits. Fathers Dennis Moorman and the late Dennis Dunne came to us after service in Burkina Faso and Bolivia.

There has always been a symbiotic relationship between Peace Corps and Maryknoll. Certainly the spirit of President Kennedy inspired my generation to serve. Once overseas, the Maryknoll hands-on model of mission attracted many Catholics PCVs to enter religious life.

How can we get the Maryknoll message out to Catholics serving in the Peace Corps? There is a vineyard awaiting harvest.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seminary shift

ACCORDING TO A RELIABLE SOURCE, Archbishop Dolan, Bishop Dimarzio of
Brooklyn and Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre are near agreement on combining their three seminaries.

Dunwoodie would close, but still under discussion is whether to move Douglaston or Hungtington.

Dunwoodie has suffered from declining enrollment and my source says Rome has been none too pleased by their "more Roman than thou" (my words) atmosphere. [OK, to be fair, apparently the quality of theology offered at DW left something to be desired. Like quality theology.] Plus as bishop in Milwaukee Dolan showed he is not averse to closing seminaries.

All of which re-raises the question: whatever became of the evaluation of our program at CTU? Are we getting our "money's worth"? What happened to all those assessments done of CTU by our seminarians over the years?

Former rector Fr. Larry Lewis informally suggested if we wanted our candidates closer to home, Hungtington would be a better choice than either Dunwoodie or Douglaston.

The question remains: is CTU the best venue to prepare our men for both ministry and mission? Might not our mission charism become clearer if our guys studied alongside diocesan seminarians?

Douglaston, Dunwoodie and Huntington all have their share of foreign candidates actively recruited overseas by their bishops. But that is grist for another mill.

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Huffington Post: 10,000 Albinos In Hiding After Killings


NAIROBI, Kenya --- The mistaken belief that albino body parts have magical powers has driven thousands of Africa's albinos into hiding, fearful of losing their...

Please click on the above for the full story. Can any of our men in Tanzania or Kenya add to this disturbing development?

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Saturday, November 28, 2009


ADVENT (Year C) brings to mind an old chestnut long bandied about at many a table in our dining room whenever rumors of a return to the Latin Mass rear its turpis caput. "If Latin was good enough for Our Lord, it's good enough for me!"

Change is frightening to many people. We cling to the familiar. Yet often it is the strange, the foreign and the unfamiliar that shock us into appreciating what we have and what God offers. Maryknollers take for granted the need for the gospels to be translated into local languages. In addition, customs and symbols used by Jesus and St. Paul in the first century might be meaningless to cultures half a world and two millennia away. The challenge facing the missioner is to find ways to communicate the forgiveness, love and mercy of God into the daily lives of people using words and actions that they can understand.

The explicitly graphic apocalyptic movie "2012" currently raking in big bucks notwithstanding, what does all this talk about the end of the world in Luke's gospel mean to people today? To be sure, fundamentalists love this drama and use it to swindle gullible followers out of their homes and savings. Too bad those followers don't take time to stop and think if the world is really ending, why do their religious leaders need money and deeds to real estate?

Yet every year at this time the readings at Mass (not to mention our weekly reciting of the creed) remind us Jesus will indeed come again and the world will one day end. When this will happen on a global scale is one thing, but truth be told, people's worlds end on a regular basis all the time. The end of the world is not theoretical theological speculation for millions of people who suffered earthquakes in Indonesia and Samoa or tsunamis in Thailand and India. Even modern equivalents like the current global financial upheaval remind us our existence is very tenuous and our tranquility an illusion.

Thus, Advent admonishes us to stay awake, be aware and be ready. At this very moment somewhere in the world tens of thousands of people died for all kinds of reasons. How prepared were they when their world came crashing down around them? Live in such a way as to make the most of the time we have been given, no matter how short or long. We are closer to the end than when you first started reading this!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Attitude of gratitude

AS A EUCHARISTIC (Thanksgiving) people, we give thanks for the blessings and bounty we have received, but also for the trials, setbacks and failures that remind us of our limitations, humanity and dependence upon God and one another.

In 2002 Fr. John McAuley (China) gave a homily on Holy Thursday during the vocation retreat in Los Altos. (How many homilies can you remember after seven years?) He pointed out that the Last Supper was not only a time for the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood, but also a time of disintegration. Things were falling apart—rapidly. Their hopes, their plans, their dreams, their future, indeed, their very lives faced imminent annihilation. And things were going to get a lot worse.

Yet in the midst of that darkest of nights when all seemed lost in a cloud of uncertainty, Jesus took bread and gave God thanks and praise. Then he blessed it, broke it etc. etc.

What we do in memory of Jesus is more than just "take and eat." Like him and the apostles, we also give thanks in the midst of suffering and insecurity.

And so this Thanksgiving, I give thanks that Maryknoll has become older and smaller.

I give thanks that the recession has made us think twice about how we steward the gifts we receive.

I give thanks for my medical emergency last February that helped me appreciate the excellent health care we receive and to work for health care reform for others.

I give thanks for the generosity of all our supporters and benefactors, especially during the earthquakes in Indonesia and Samoa and the floods in the Philippines that reminded us we are all one family.

I give thanks for the young members who remind me of the zeal and idealism that attracted me to mission and Maryknoll.

I give thanks for the older members who show the power of God active though diminishment.

Above all I give thanks to God for sending his Son whose cross and resurrection illuminates our life and gives us the strength and courage to face whatever awaits us with joy and serenity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Awaiting Roman largesse

FATHER GENERAL left for Rome yesterday where he will, among other things, petition the Sacred Congregation for Maintaining Clerical Supremacy At All Times and In All Circumstances to accept the election of Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick as the first consulter to the U.S. regional superior. Just like the first time, Fr. Ed Dougherty expressed optimism that this time things will be different because there is precedent and if there's anything that gives the prelates in Rome warm tingles up their leg it's precedent. Unfortunately there is also a precedent, recently invoked, for giving us and the democratic process the Roman shaft.

Of concern, apparently, is what would happen should newly elected U.S. regional Fr. Mike Duggan be unable for whatever reason to finish his term. It clearly states in our rarely read Constitutions that the first assistant becomes regional, but I'm sure we can work things out so that under no circumstances can Miss Congeniality become Miss America.

Until such time as Rome settles this matter, ballots for the second assistant will not go out. At this rate, the election of the entire regional council could drag on well into the new year, just in time for our regional assembly in May to take up the question of whether we really want or need to be a region at all.

But the Dockster is up to other business in Rome as well and, God willing, Maryknoll's star may yet rise over the Eternal City.

Monday, November 23, 2009

40 Hours of Prayer & Remembrance

AS WE COMMEMORATE World AIDS Day on December 1, Maryknoll missioners around the world are working to combat the spread of the deadly disease while accompanying those affected by it.

We invite you to join us wherever you are in a worldwide 40-hour prayer vigil for an hour, anytime from 7 p.m., Monday, November 30 until noon, Wednesday, December 2.

To participate, please e-mail your name, location and hour of prayer (using EST) to Please write "AIDS Vigil" in the subject line of your e-mail.

This is our first AIDS prayer vigil since the Maryknoll AIDS Task Force, ably directed for ten years by former lay missioner Ms. Susan Weissert, was decommissioned earlier this year. The promotion of this global prayer has been taken up by the Washington, D.C.-based Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns. Their mailing address is:
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

P.O. Box 29132

Washington, DC 20017

Some news at lunch today

FR. BILL COY, fresh back from the SOA march at Fort Benning, GA, reports a smaller crowd than in previous years. Only four people "crossed the line" and got arrested. In addition, Fr. Roy Bourgeiose was away for the first time since the annual march began in 1990 to be at the bedside of his dying father. Please pray for them.

Fr. Ed Szendrey reports a mystery leak in the main sacristy on the first floor, which had apparently dripped down through Health Services on the second floor making quite a mess, which in turn came from someplace on the third floor C-Wing, perhaps Fr. Tom Mc Donnell's room. Tom has been away since his remedial surgery and then the sudden death of his brother Martin who died while driving up to see Tom. Please pray for them.

Fr. Mike Duggan, newly elected U.S. regional superior, will be the main celebrant and homilist at our Thanksgiving liturgy this afternoon. Ed will be cantor in Mike's place. Please pray for them.

What with the new (?) changes in the English Mass due in 2010, renowned liturgical composer Michael Joncas (of "On Eagle's Wings" fame) may have to make adjustments to the Gloria of the Mass he has composed for Maryknoll's 100th anniversary. Ms. Lucille Naughton, once and future choir director and our main contact with Joncas, is having a few Maryknollers over to her house this week to listen to the new Mass.

Thanksgiving predux

WE GATHER TOGETHER to goose the cook's pumpkin—or something like that—as we hold our pre-Thanksgiving dinner this evening. Considering we have roast turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie at least twice a month throughout the year, one might be inspired to ask, as in the Passover Seder, "Why is this night different from other nights?"

Well, for one, tonight's meal will be preceded by a special Mass at 4:15 in the main chapel and an Hour of Happiness in the dining room. Carafes of red and white wine (IMO only good for salad) will be available and chances are for dessert we will also have morsels of that most traditional of Thanksgiving foods: cannoli.

This premature pig-out allows for a meal of thanks before Thursday when many guys, your faithful blogger included, head over the river and through the woods. Alas, my sister is now the grandmother in the family.

For those who remain here at the Knoll on Thanksgiving Day, yet another Thanksgiving meal will be available at noon, unless you are among the chosen few invited to the annual feast at the 39th Street House.

That being said, wherever we are, we have much for which to give thanks. And since Thanksgiving is the translation of the word "Eucharist", we should foster an attitude of gratitude 365 days a year. (Just don't serve us roast turkey every day!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009


THIRTY-EIGHT young folks from Chinatown's Transfiguration parish are on retreat today and tomorrow here at Mother Knoll. They will be chaperoned by two adults and their pastor, Fr. Ray Nobiletti, M.M.

Mr. Anthony Ma organized the retreat. An ever-elusive vocation prospect, Anthony was a winner of this year's Explore My Mission contest for his video on community service. The prize was a 10-day visit to our mission in Brazil, where, if he was bitten by the mission bug, he has yet to show symptoms. But I digress...

Today's retreat comes on the heals of both the larger Korean retreat last weekend and also of the grumblings of some Maryknollers about not getting through the food line quicker. In its favor, the Trans group is smaller although they do have a smaller student/chaperone ratio than the Korean group. (1 to 20 vs. 1 to 5!) Of course, absent any drama, they won't have the opportunity to go around to the tables of Maryknollers in the dining room and introduce themselves to the missioners, even if it's to say, "Sorry we woke you up in the middle of the night (or afternoon, as the case may be.)"

Still, it is mine and others MKers contention that, inconvenience aside, these groups bring energy, vitality and life to our home. They fulfill our vocation. If we can no longer go to the missions, we can still bring the missions to us.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Guests: threat or menace?

AN ON-GOING CONVERSATION began during last week's monthly house meeting concerning how and if we are to continue welcoming guests here at the Center. Some men expressed feeling like strangers in their own home, with large numbers of outsiders who use our facilities.

The problem arises not so much from retreats or religious workshops (although even these tend to dawdle in the food line and chat, thus delaying undernourished Maryknollers from getting their life-saving sustenance in a timely manner), but rather from large secular groups who simply need a facility in which to meet and eat. Last week's 250+ gathering of UPS and postal workers was a case in point.

In addition, some guys feel uneasy when visitors come to our happy hour unaccompanied by a host Maryknoller. One solution may be to relocate in the Sheridan room as was done in days of old. An interim solution is to make sure Maryknollers accompany their guests, lest they get happy for an hour all by themselves.

Last week Sodexo moved the ice cream freezer inside the food area to accommodate board of health regulations. Now a steady stream of water cleans the scoop. On the downside, younger guests are wont to cause a log jam at the freezer thus blocking undernourished Maryknollers etc. etc.

A suggested solution (already in effect, for the most part) is to have outside retreatants come a half hour later to meals, thus giving semi-retired Maryknollers time to feed their faces and rush off to their next urgent appointment.

One man suggested the Walsh building be refurbished to accommodate outside groups. Hmmm.. Since that will take upwards of 3 million and will only provide 20 rooms, I have a better idea: put all the disgruntled sociopaths there and let the Center be used for the living.

Choir practice precluded my attending last week's meeting. The conversation will continue on January 20, 2010 when I hope to coat my barbs with honey.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Don't call 911 tonight!

FIREFIGHTERS and EMT workers from the Greater Ossining area will enjoy a spaghetti dinner in our dining room and a tour of our main building tonight here at Mother Knoll. The brainchild of Fr. Dick Callahan (Treasury), this informal gathering allows the men and women who come to our aid and save our lives on a regular basis (like at least twice a month) the opportunity to visit us under less urgent circumstances.

In addition to meeting Maryknollers when we are not in a prone position, turning blue, incoherent or comatose, the firefighters and emergency workers will get a walk-around to acquaint themselves with all the crooks and nannies of Emerald City (and yes, I am aware of the Spoonerism).

Having myself been on the receiving end of their expert care when I was rushed to Phelps last February with my then still undiagnosed rectus sheath hemotoma, I am grateful for their good work and happy that this time I will not be writhing in pain and screaming unseemly epithets at the top of my sacerdotal lungs.

Mayhaps at least one ambulance and firetruck will be parked outside during their visit, so no need to dial 911 or 4444. In case of emergency, just go to the window and shout.

Back to the liturgical future

FR. JOHN KASEROW introduced the new revised Roman Missal (do NOT call it a Sacramentary!) that will go into effect starting in 2010. Like, in six weeks). Speaking at the monthly house meeting, Kaserow handed out packets of pamphlets explaining all the revisions intended to get the English-speaking church more in line with the majesty and poetry of the Latin, from which it claims a more faithul translation.

Goodbye, "And also with you." Hello (again) to the traditional "And with your spirit" (whatever the hell that means. Nevermind, it's faithful to the Latin and that's all that matters.)

To be fair, some (re)translations are beautiful and more prayerful IMHO, as in "Behold, the Lamb of God..." As well as "...Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb." The people then respond with the more Scriptural (but out of place) "Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof..."

The confiteor reinstitutes, "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault" and the creed goes back to "Credo in unum Deum" by translating "I (no longer "we") believe in one God..."

The cup has been replaced by chalice. Christ sheds his blood for "the many" and no longer for "all" (that'll show 'em!).

There are many other changes that have been made but neither you nor I could bear it now. Suffice it to say that while hunger, poverty, war and disease vanquish our planet, the good prelates in charge of liturgical propriety have been busy at work.

For those of us who remember the initial changes following Vatican II, we'll have a profound sense of déjà vu all over again. "Plus ça change, plus sont les même chose."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wayne wins!

BR. WAYNE FITZPATRICK won election as First Assistant with 42 votes. Fr. Bob Jalbert came in second with ten votes.

Wayne's election must be validated by Rome, but since Br. Frank Ten Hoopen was accepted as First Assistant in Africa, we are not expecting any obstacle.

Another ballot will go out to elect the Second Assistant, with results due in mid December.

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Fr. Michael speaks

SOUTH AFRICAN peace activist, Anglican Father Michael Lapsley, spoke today at Food for Thought in the Asia Room.

An opponent of Apartheid, Lapsley lost both hands and an eye when a letter bomb exploded. He has dedicated his life to helping victims of violence become victors through the "Healing of Memories."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Laughing with God

FR. JIM MARTIN, S.J., packed the main chapel this afternoon with 400+ eager people who came from miles around to have a good laugh.

Martin, cultural editor of America magazine and author of several books, including Our Exile (Orbis) and My Life With the Saints spoke about the joy, humor and laughter that marks authentic Christian theology. A superb story-teller and speaker with impeccable comedic timing, Martin had them rolling in the aisle—at least they would have rolled in the aisles had the SRO crowd any room to roll.

He numerated ten points of humor for a Christian spirituality:
1) humor evangelizes. Nothing breaks down barriers of hostility faster than a shared laugh.

2) humor is a tool of humility. It disarms our would-be adversaries and critics.

3) humor can shock listeners with reality. A situation can be presented to show its incongruity or illogic,

4) humor speaks truth to power. This is why dictators are so intolerant of satire.

5) humor shows Christian courage. St. Lawrence asking to be turned on the spit because he was "done on that side."

6) humor deepens our relationship with God. Sarah laughed. (Who wouldn't?)

7) humor welcomes. Ask any cocktail party host.

8) humor heals. It releases endorphins that physically stimulate healing.

9) humor opens our minds. It forces us to make unexpected connections.

10) It's fun! Remind me to tell you about the time I fell into the Korean outhouse...

I will update this post as soon as I decompress from the retreat with 65 high school students. Now THAT was funny!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Teachable moment

AS MIGHT BE EXPECTED with a group of 60+ teenagers on retreat, all our warnings and threats notwithstanding, some students at 1:30 a.m. made noise enough to disturb the sleep of Maryknollers (me being one of them, but more of that later) that warranted a call to the main desk and a call to the teachers to go reprimand the late night revelers.

This morning I explained to the sleep-deprived masses the complexity of their transgression: our student group is unusually large. Inability to maintain discipline irritates already cranky residents who now have a reason to complain and next thing you know, WHAM, no more retreats here at Maryknoll. No other retreat house can accommodate our large numbers, so we would have to severely restrict who went on retreat in the future.

That class in Guilt 101 all seminarians take came in handy and did the trick. The question remained: what would be an appropriate penance? This, I must confess, can only be the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: during lunch, have the contrite offenders go from table to table of Maryknollers and apologize for making so much noise last night. Now, chances are the Maryknoller(s) who complained might have already eaten and left before this circuit confessional ran its course, but I assured the kids, the Maryknoll grapevine being what it is, all in the building would soon be abuzz.

And so it was. First a group of freshman boys and then girls went around the dining room, bowed, and apologized to the Maryknollers. Even I was impressed. And for once our conversations did not revolve around medical procedures or sports. And it lightened the mood to the extent that the men and students continued in conversation; at least one Maryknoller even inviting them back soon.

Br. Marty Shea, however, captured the true Maryknoll spirit IMHO. He then went around to the Korean tables and apologized for the noisy Maryknollers at the other side of the dining room!

As for me, I was miffed because during the night I kept hearing slamming doors. I got up, dressed, and knocked on a recently closed door. I read the students a mini riot act and was going back to my room when I heard loud conversation coming from another room. I knocked and said, "Come on guys! It's 1:30. Knock it off!" To my chagrin, the door opened and a middle-aged man apologized profusely. It was Fr. Bill Frazier's nephew, Steve, visiting from St. Louis.

We all had a good laugh about this today and, for now at least, the spirit of hospitality endures because the kids owned up to their indiscretions.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Come, giving thanks

SEVENTY-FIVE KOREAN students and teachers will come to Maryknoll this weekend for a weekend retreat on the theme of Giving Thanks. All are parishioners of St. Paul Cheong Ha-Sang parish in Flushing, Queens, and are either enrolled in the religious education program or are Sunday school teachers and their assistants.

Three talks will be given each day by the teachers themselves on areas in their lives where they learned to give thanks despite adverse circumstances. These will lead up to a talk on Sunday by Yours Truly on how we are a Eucharistic church because we give thanks even when we are persecuted, depressed, unhappy or bored. (Just about covers today's teenagers, no?)

Korean students in the past who came here love our mission spirit, meeting some of our men, our way kewl architecture, and above all, our ice cream.

Residents have already begun evacuating for the weekend, lest more than worlds collide. And for this I too give thanks.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The end of the world—again

JUST IN TIME for the annual pre-Advent readings about the end of the world, the new movie 2012, scheduled for release tomorrow, November 13, gives a deliciously graphic portrayal of just what it will be like when human civilization goes up in flames. Presumably when the real "End of Days" occurs, we will all be too busy, panicked or dead to appreciate the global scope of the eschaton, so on that basis alone the movie's worth seeing.

But the wonderful computer generated imagery aside, the human interest angle, juxtaposed against the apocalypse, gives the audience this morsel to munch on: what makes human civilization "human"? Or more to the point: what is there about humanity that is worth saving?

The date of the End Times is based on the intricate Mayan calendar that predicts major cataclysms every 690,000 years, give or take a leap year or two.

In addition, there is a decidedly Maryknoll undercurrent of justice and solidarity with the soon-to-be exterminated human race that smacks up against the harsh realities of the modern world. Who gets to board the seven "arks" that the G-8 members have built? Such a project costs mucho euros, so billionaires underwrite the program in exchange for first-class cabins whilst the masses fight for what limited space remains. In all the screaming and explosions, the main point of the movie (besides making those mucho euros mentioned above) may get lost: "When we stop caring for one another, that's when human civilization ends."

I found the movie entertaining and, in a way, refreshing. For once, we don't get to see the destruction of New York or Tokyo. Instead we are treated to the "Big One" where Los Angeles is totally demolished and, along with all of California, gets pitched into the Pacific. That alone has got to be worth the cost of admission. Las Vegas and Washington D.C., Hawaii, India and even the Vatican get wiped out (No comment.)

Perhaps most unsettling is the scientific (and from my POV, plausible) premise upon which the end of the world comes about: unprecedented solar flares bombarding the earth with high concentrations of neutrinos causing the earth's core to overheat as if in a cosmic microwave. All this bubbling and churning causes major displacement of the continental shelves, with all the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis one might imagine.

So if you want to get into the Advent mood and prepare for the tribulation that prceeds the Second Coming, see 2012 but don't sell the ranch just yet. Chances are we and the Church will still have to carry the cross of discipleship into 2013 and beyond.

Our own St. Damien

BR. BOB BUTSCH, (originally from Schenectady, NY) shared stories about his ministry to Hansens disease patients at today's Food for Thought.

Although curable when diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, in many parts of the world Hansens disease patients are still treated like, well, lepers.

Although formally retired, Bob continues serving in China's Szechuan province, helping the Korean Foreign Mission Society.

Bob paid tribute to the late Father Joe Sweeney who started in China's Guangdong, China. He worked in leprosaria in China and later in South Korea.

In recent years, Bob has dedicated himself to learning and teaching others how to make special orthodic shoes which allow HD patients to walk.

Bob shared slides of many of the patients, as well as of the Korean missioners.

The disformity is caused by the loss of feeling when the disease attacks the nerves. Patients do not realize they are cut, bruised or injured and either infection sets in or muscles atrophy. Although not contagious the stigma remains and often prevents people from seeking treatment which would cure them.

"Our group must have made hundreds if not thousands of pairs of shoes," Bob said, "but the best thing we did was when we took time to sit and listen to the patients, and drink tea with them."

Last month, Pope Benedict canonized St. Damien of Molokai who gave his life working with HD patients in Hawaii.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Under the weather

SORRY for the two-day hiatus, folks, but I started feeling odd last Friday, began sneezing on Saturday, fought off a sore throat Sunday and by Monday I had developed the Mother of All Colds. Today I got deep coughing fits to rival Mimi in La Boheme.

I took the precaution of waddling over to Health Services to confirm this was indeed a cold and not the much dreaded H1N1. (I have no chills, or aches and only slightly elevated temperature.)

So I have been laying low these past couple of days and therefore have no access to the scuttlebutt or MK grapevine.

I go to the dining room at the very end of mealtime when few guys are around and use a napkin to take silverware and handle serving spoons. I either push the elevator button with my elbow or ask some very wary soul to push it for me.

N'Sha'Allah I will be up and about on Wednesday and can bring you all up to speed on the goings on at Mother Knoll.

Till then, stay healthy!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Battle of the blogs

SEEMS the New York Times and NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan have locked horns by posting dueling blogs.

It all started when Mr. Paul Vitello, who covers the (VERY meager, IMHO) religion section of the TImes posted a light-hearted (read: condescending) piece about Dolan's new blog.

His Eminence immediately returned the favor by blasting the NYT for its piling on the RC Church in what many believe is open season on the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. He gave several examples, notably last week's scathing column by Ms. Maureen Dowd criticizing the US bishops for their Grand Inquisition (my words) of women religious.

Far be it from me to insert myself in this blogger brawl (yeah, right), but to be fair, both sides have merit.

The Cathoic Church is very old, very big and very powerful. It has a right and duty to speak out on the cultural and social issues of the day. But if it does so, it should not start whining like a pouty school girl when society or the secular media pushes back.

For its part, the secular media has a right and obligation to critcize what it sees as hypocracy or duplicity on the part of the Church. But it does itself or its arguments or audiences a great disservice when they only criticize but never commend the many good things the Church does.

Indeed, mean-spirited and gratuitous attacks on the Church only water down legitimate criticisms.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pax Nobiscom

WE WELCOME to Maryknoll this weekend a unique group who will be on retreat till Sunday. "Pax Nobiscum" ("Peace be with us") is a support group for former Korean priests from the tri-State area and their wives. Five couples will be here along with their spiritual director.

Their presence reminds us of the awkward limbo many of our former members are in regarding ministry and mandatory celibacy. This awkwardness has been exacerbated by the Vatican's bold overtures to entice disgruntled Anglicans to jump ship en masse, including priests (and seminarians!)—with their wives—and set up a so-called "Anglican rite" within the Roman communion.

The situation is complex is that it is not simply a matter of re-examining and perhaps relaxing the discipline of mandatory celibacy in the Roman Church, but rather of the other ancient tradition of allowing married men into Holy Orders but forbidding ordained men to marry. (Something akin to those metal spikes in the exit lane of certain parking lots. "Warning! Backing up may cause severe tire damage!" Ontologically speaking, "backing up" to marriage after having attained a higher form of existence may indeed blow out some ecclesiastical tires. But I digress...)

In both the Anglican and Orthodox churches, married men may be ordained deacons and priests. In the Orthodox church, only celibate priests may become bishops. Rome has made it clear that should married Anglican bishops return to Rome, they must forgo their episcopal rank. (I presume they do not have the option or inclination to forgo their wives. Then again, wearing a miter can be quite habit forming. But I digress again...)

It is highly unlikely the Vatican would also overturn this tradition (of Holy Orders after marriage but not the other way around) because it is, indeed, very old but also it would then alienate the Orthodox and thus set back attempts at ecumenism and unity with our Eastern schismatics.

In short, our own men who left and "attempted marriage" (in canon law jargon)—and our guests in Pax Nobiscum will still not be welcomed back to active ministry as long as they remain in their attempted married state.

Tensions can only rise among our all-too-few seminarians struggling with a decision to embrace either a lifelong commitment to celibacy or a flesh-and-blood spouse.

On a related note, Father Marty Lowery has invited the Connecticut Korean Catholic community to Maryknoll tomorrow to celebrate an 11:00 Mass. Koreans tend to be somewhat more conservative regarding church issues. I'm not sure the "Pax Nobiscum" group was aware of this coming together of different elements of the Korean church at Maryknoll when they made arrangements to meet here. Some of the formers may even be from that community. Talk about awkward. Doubtful they can be kept apart at lunch tomorrow. "Peace be with us" indeed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good grief!

NOVEMBER marks All Souls Month and only six days into it, we've already had way too many reminders of the fraility of life.

Last week we learned of the deaths of the brothers of two Maryknollers: Michael Mares and Joseph Saucci, brothers of Father Phil Mares (Korea) and Father Ron Saucci (Hong Kong) respectively. On All Souls Day itself, little Kaiden Michael Mack, grandson of Don Baisley died suddenly. Then we lost Father Ed Maloney (School of Theology and Hong Kong) Wednesday, followed by Mr. Jim O'Halloran, member of the Class of 56 and long-time assistant librarian, who lost his battle with thyroid cancer and died today, not long after moving to North Carolina.

This, against a backdrop of two horrific shooting rampages: the mass murder of 13 and wounding of 30 yesterday at Fort Hood in Texas by an army Major; and today a sniper opening fire in Orlando.

But let us also not lose sight of even these deaths playing out against two on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Want to talk about PTSD? What about the entire generations of Afghanis and Iraqis who witness death and violence on a daily basis? Who's treating their post tramatic stress? What future acts of mindless violence are we sowing in those populations with our on-going military actions?

The unexpected death of an infant. The lose of relatives to disease. The death of strangers to mindless violence. The daily tolls of war victims and soldiers alike.

"Do not send to know for whom the bell tolls..."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tag, we're it!

NEXT WEDNESDAY, November 11 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. a "Tag Sale" will take place in the sub-storage area in the main building, according to an announcement from the office of Center Coordinator Nancy Kleppel.

This first day is only for Society Members. Go to the basement storage area, accessed easily from below the patio outside the Founders Room by going down the stairs toward the soccer field. There you will be shown lamps, chairs, bookcases, end tables and night stands, free for the taking.

On Thursday, November 12th from 1 p.m. to 3:30, Maryknoll employees may pick through whatever remains and pay a nominal fee, with proceeds going to the missions (hopefully not to buy lamps, chairs and bookcases.)

But this brings up an idea that has been bandied about for years. Why not have a campus-wide Garage (or in our case, Attic) Sale of the literally trunk-loads of stuff that has cluttered our attic storage for decades? Br. Frank Ten Hoopen sorted through the suitcases, boxes and trunks that are up there and put them into some kind of order, but that was more than 10 years ago. Since then the space has again become cluttered with stuff, much from guys who have since either died or left the Society.

Imagine what a great sale that might be, especially if auctioned to the highest bidder! We could sell unopened trunks and suitcases, contents unseen. Also I know I have knickknacks and souvenirs from Korea up there somewhere and I'm sure other guys have stuff with which they are willing to part. Just think of the money you could make threatening to go sell the contents on EBAY!

Of course, proceeds could once again be sent to the missions, where our men overseas could buy souvenirs to put on their new bookcases and night stands.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Kaiden Michael Mack, R.I.P.

FR. ED SZENDREY AND I just returned from what, for me at least, was one of the most difficult moments of my priesthood—if not my life. Three-month-old Kaiden Michael Mack, grandson of long-time Maryknoll employee Mr. Don Baisley from M.E.P. (Procurement), died suddenly and unexpectedly Monday of SIDS. He was waked this evening at the Nardone Funeral Home in Peekskill.

It was hard enough to view the doll-like baby wrapped in his jammies and lying in a small, white coffin with a Teddy bear. A memorial board held photos of his all-too-brief life. It seemed so incongruous. But then the mother breaking down and the father having to leave, saying "I can't do this anymore," well, that brought everyone in the room to silent tears.

Of course there are no words to say, no prayers adequate for such a situation. In cases like this all we or anyone can do is sit in silent witness and solidarity before this terrible mystery.

Maryknoll employees were gratefully represented by Mr. Bob Ambrose (M.E.P.), Ms. Adriane Glass & Ms. Jody Turner (H.R.), Ms. Denise Pierce, Mr. Marty McLoughlin & Mr. Robert Perez (I.T.), Ms. Maureen Toohey (Library); Mr. Joe Corvino (Mail/Print Services), Mr. Paul Lonce (Warehouse), Ms. Kim Nelson (Medical Secretary), Mr. Larry Rich (New Media), Mr. David Agosta (Support Services) and Mr. Dick McGee (Gift Planning). Even former employee Ms. Fran Saltarelli (Typsetting) came. There were probably other employees there as well whom I did not get to see or greet, but I could tell that Don and his family were very appreciative of so many friends and colleagues from Maryknoll coming to express condolences.

Please keep Don & his family in your prayers in the coming days.

Congratulations to Rob Astorino

ROB ASTORINO (R), nephew of Maryknoll Father Bob Asterino, beat Democratic incumbent and long-time fixture on the local scene Andy Spano to become Westchester County Executive. With 100% of the precincts reporting, Astorino received 80,592 votes (58%) to Spano's 59,34 (42%).

Now that we have this, the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia, the 23rd NY Congressional District and same-sex marriage in Maine (repealed 54 % - 46%) solved, we can move on to the all-important First Ballot for First Assistant to the U.S. Regional Superior, due Nov. 17.

2009 Election results (Updated 12:30 a.m. EST)

AS I PREPARE TO GO TO BED with this last post of election night, with 88 percent of votes counted, three and a half hours after polls closed in New York, Rob Astorino (R), nephew of our Father Bob Astorino (Hong Kong), STILL leads incumbent Andy Spano (D) 80,592 (57.6%) to 59,314 (42.4%) for Westchester County Executive.

With 87% of the vote counted for the suddenly famous 23rd Congressional District WAY Upstate, MSNBC reports that Conservative Doug Hoffman has conceded to Democrat Doug Hoffman.

Dede Scozzafava, the Republican candidate, was forced to withdraw when the Right Wingnuts of the GOP (Palin, Beck, Pawlenty & Co.) blind-sided her and supported the Conservative candidate. She then turned around and threw her support to the Democrat. Because her name remains on the ballot, Scozzafava is pulling 6,725 votes or 5.5%. Owens has become the first Democrat to represent that district since the Civil War. Clearly those ornery Upstaters (just ask Br. Wayne) have rejected meddling outsiders.

Meanwhile up in Maine, the bill to repeal same-sex marriage rights is still too close to call. This, despite an unprecedented effort by the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland to have it overturned. The Governor of Maine, John Baldacci, a Catholic, signed the bill into law earlier this year, explaining it simply as a case of equality under the law.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


EMPLOYEES and Maryknollers alike mourn the sudden death of three-month-old Kaiden Michael Mack, grandson of Mr. Donald Baisley, senior manager of the production and procurement division of our M.E.P. department.

A service is planned for Wednesday, Nov. 4 at Nardone's Funeral Home, 414 Washington St., Peekskill from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Mini election

VOTING has already begun at Maryknoll's polling place in this off-off year election. Of local interest is Rob Astorino (R) running for Westchester County Executive against incumbant Andy Spano (D).

How will the voters at Maryknoll (roughly 600 registered!) vote, given conflicting currents? They over-whelmingly voted for Obama last year (103 to 21) and are heavily Democratic, but Astorino is the nephew of our own Fr. Bob Astorino (Hong Kong). In addition, he and Spano effectively dilute the Italian voting block. (My father always advised me to vote for the candidate with a vowel at the end of his/her name.)

If I could only figure out what part of Italy Spano's ancestors came from, my right hand won't whither when I vote for Republican Astorino.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Stirring the liturgical pot

ALL SOULS DAY in years past allowed for "trination" (saying three Masses) to accommodate the large number of people who wished to offer Masses (and thereby for priests to receive multiple stipends) for the Dearly Departed. Concelebration, restored since Vatican II, seems to have made trination passé.

We have at Maryknoll long debated the propriety of what to wear and where to sit when concelebrating Masses and have hit upon a seemingly workable solution: those who wish to concelebrate may do so and vest (alb and stole) while other priests may sit among the congregation. Unspoken yet misunderstood is the status of those priests who sit unvested among the people.

I have earlier expressed my uneasiness at seeing all these hands rise up from among the people during the words of consecration by priests neither in albs nor clerical attire. Well, turns out, these men are not officially concelebrating after all, at least not according to the rules of Holy Mother Church.

To wit, from the USCCB web page on concelebration:

14. Concelebrants should be seated together in a distinct area (presbyterium). They should not be intermingled with the assembly nor should anyone be seated between the concelebrants and the altar. If the space in the presbyterium is not large enough to accommodate all the concelebrants appropriately, some are seated in another area which physically and visually unites them with the other concelebrants.

15. The position of the concelebrants should not obscure the fact that only one Bishop or one priest presides over the whole celebration. Furthermore, the position of the concelebrants should not usurp the positions or limit the functioning of other liturgical ministers. Unless it is unavoidable, concelebrants should not impede the full view of the assembly, since members of the congregation are called upon to kneel at various times during Mass.

19. Priests may not concelebrate in secular attire, in ordinary clerical garb, or by wearing the stole over the cassock. Nor may priests of religious institutes concelebrate merely by placing a stole over the monastic cowl or habit.

An unsettling question: Can we claim to be offering Masses for the Society if we are not following these basic norms? A more troubling one: when people buy Mass cards from us, do they not deserve a legitimate Mass by properly vested, albeit concelebrating, priests?

One final point. We are, after all, living at the headquarters of the CFMSA. When our seminarians visit, shouldn't they expect liturgically correct celebrations, without us being rubric nit-pickers? Should we not model accepted liturgical norms? Perhaps while awaiting suggestions and programs from our Centenary Committee, we might prepare for our 100th by a starting a liturgical renewal to get us more aligned with the Church in the United States.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cardinal 2 visit

CARDINAL Edward Egan is expected to present graduation certificates to some 250 catechists of the New York Archdiocese at a ceremony this afternoon at 2 p.m. in the main chapel. A reception will follow in the Asia room.

Maryknoll is perfectly situated geographically for such an event as the archdiocese stretches from Staten Island to north of Newburgh.

Ms. Betsey Guest from our media relations office will be on hand and many Orbis publications will be available for sale, as well as other mission-related items from our gift shop. Between these, our Visitors Center and our veteran missioners, we may be able to stoke the flames of overseas mission among these new teachers.

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