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Thursday, December 17, 2009

December House Meeting

THIRTY of the 85 residents attended the monthly house meeting yesterday in the Asia room. Fr. Ernie Luckaschek, pastoral coordinator, and Br. John Blazo facilitated.

The first five minutes were devoted to me giving the report from Tuesday's all-important Food Committee meeting. Special fish dishes will be offered on Christmas Eve; babyback ribs on Christmas and a beef carving station on January 1. The dubious chicken patties covered in miso soup (that tasted like sawdust hockey pucks covered in miso soup) have met an inglorious if not unexpected demise. Maryknollers are reminded to sign in for guests at meals. No one will be charged (indeed, there is no place for a charge number on the sheet) but this does help the kitchen staff keep tabs on how many meals it is serving. Unseasoned entrees and side dishes will be made available to men with an intolerance for parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

The rest of the meeting was dedicated to continuing last month's discussion of the guest policy. The issue seems to be divided into two parts: unaccompanied guests at our happy hour (or, more appropriately, "sundowner", since guys don't always seem particularly happy but the sun never fails to go down) and outside groups using our facilities.

We actually spent more time on the first question, with some guys feeling uncomfortable when guests are present at the happy hour and others insisting hospitality remains a Maryknoll charism. Fr. John Tynan flew a trial balloon about having a booze-free happy hour once a week to see if it might entice those Maryknollers who don't usually attend, he opined, because they are recovering alcoholics. That went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Fr. Dick Callahan, who sets up the happy hours every evening, posed this counter question: "What would you rather face: outside guests or a room of sober Marynollers?"

Last month's influx of postal workers seems to have precipitated the debate on outside groups using our facility. Ernie pointed out that, absent any church-related groups needing our rooms, Ms. Nancy Kleppel accepts these outside groups as a means both to help make Maryknoll known and generate income, albeit on a voluntary basis. Donations for use of rooms are "suggested" because to require a fee would compromise our not-for-profit tax free status, according to Fr. Ed Szendrey, internal auditor. Sodexo, on the other hand, is a business and looks for opportunities to make money.

The question was raised if the hard-working Sodexo employees would participate in the Christmas bonuses announced at yesterday's Christmas party. Ernie pointed out that Sodexo workers are not Maryknoll employees and their pay and any bonuses are contractual. Still, he said he would approach Ms. Nancy Kleppel to see if she could negotiate some channel for the cooks to enjoy a merrier Christmas like the other workers here.

In defending Maryknoll's outreach to outside groups, Blazo mentioned that after the firefighters visit, one man returned with his wife to show her this amazing building.

Now, if only he had brought her to the happy hour, our circle would have been unbroken.


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