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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

God & Haiti

A CONVERSATION about God and Haiti took place yesterday afternoon in the Africa room with about 18 men participating. Convened and facilitated by Fr. Bill Frazier, participants said it was a thoughtful and open discussion, with opinions ranging from dualistic Manichaeism separating good and evil, soul and body (See Italian religiosity) to Hinduism's Goddess of Destruction, Shiva (ask Stephen). In the end all stood under the shadow of the cross which was the perfect segue for Frazier to pass out copies of a recent paper he's worked on. The participants will re-gather next week to continue the discussion.

In related matters, Fr. Romane St. Vil has assembled a group of doctors willing to volunteer their services. The logistic obstacle is one of travel, as American Airline originally offered free seats to doctors flying into Haiti, but commercial airlines do not now fly into Port-au-Prince. Flying into the Dominican Republic costs $400, so Romane is still trying to negotiate a cheaper rate.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Of this and that

ANOTHER SIGN OF THE END TIMES: Whilst informally discussing just when salvation occurs according to Roman Catholic soteriology, Rabbi Veneroso of Amsterdam opined "At the moment one decides to give his or life over to Christ" but Rabbi Zunno of Williamsburg countered, "Only at the moment of death."

He was of the opinion that anytime before death opened the person up to sinning and therefore salvation could only be offered once that option passed. I appealed to the Gospel passage where Jesus calls Zachaias out of his tree and proposes going to his house for a little nosh. Zachaias responds by repaying any he may have defrauded over and above what the Law required, to which Jesus responded "Today (emphasis added) salvation has come to this house."

Mike was not convinced by anything Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth said, so we appealed to Rabbi Sivalon of Scranton who blew in from Pennsylvania (no doubt during the wind storm we suffered yesterday). Sivalon sought to distinguish between salvation through Jewish eyes and those of a Catholic persuasion when Rabbi Frazier of Sheol-on-Styx happened by. Zunno pleaded his case to him to which Frazier admonished: "Don't get hung up on death, Mike."

In other news: this came in some time ago from a loyal reader when we were discussing the all-elusive "Renewal of Maryknoll" topic. He wishes to remain anonymous to protect his cajones. His input:

"(I'm) blown away by the lack of participation up there at community: Eucharist, Monday rosary etc."

He remarked, "This place (Mother Knoll) is like any other condominium in Westchester. A bunch of old guys showing up for meals and TV. No seeming obligation to community life, prayer, Eucharist. Used to blow me away watching the crowd avoid the cemetery after a funeral Mass and head to the feed bin. Alas!!! If there ever will be a revival.....that stuff has to change first!

I pointed out that even when weather prohibits our going to the cemetery and we proceed directly to lunch after a funeral Mass, some guys are already down there finishing their meal.

He concluded: "Solidarity with the young fellows (is important) to whom (communal prayer) obviously has value and meaning. Many of our guys are waiting for and working for the birth of the "New Church". Well and good, I suppose. BUT....we are going to die before the new church is born....if we don't change our trajectory."

So the question is: when will salvation come to Maryknoll? Let's hope it's before our collective demise!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pope to priests: Go forth and blog - Yahoo! News

Please direct the General Council and the good people in our I.T.
Department to this link!

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Despedida for Linda Unger

Linda (left) receives well wishes from Lay Missioner Alicia Butkewicz
and Br. John Blazo.

Help for Haiti etc.

AT A SPECIAL MASS for Haiti Wednesday, $679.63 was collected. About 170 people (Maryknollers & employees) attended. Special thanks to Ms. Betsey Guest (Media Relations) who did the first reading from the Book of Job, Ms. Barbara Osborne (Council Secretariat) who read the petitions, and Mr. Bob Ambrose (MEP) who read a special post communion meditation.

Fr. Ed
Szendrey did a wonderful job leading the congregation in song, with Ms. Judy Abel on the organ. Fr. Joe La Mar emceed and Frs. Bill Coy, Jim Jackson, Dan Dolan and Joe McGahren concelebrated. I presided and preached. You can read my homily at

We learned at the house meeting later that afternoon that
Maryknollers have several options for sending funds to help Haiti. They can ask controllers to make a simple journal transfer from your M/A to the Haiti Relief Fund. Since this is technically Maryknoll's money to be used for mission works, an email or phone request will do. If you want to give from your P/A, a written, signed request is required. Note that only P/A contributions are tax deductible, since that is from your personal funds. Fr. Romane St. Vil will be Maryknoll's point man on the ground when he goes to Haiti in a week or so.

The kinks in
Maryknoll's online relief effort for Haiti have finally been worked out. Go to and follow the prompts to donate with a credit card. Since last week, $16,488.46 have been raised online for Maryknoll's Haiti relief. This does not include donations that are mailed in.

Catholic Relief has joined the Red Cross in allowing people to text a word via cellphone such as "Haiti" or "Relief" to a given number and a $10 donation is automatically made which appears as part of your cellphone bill. Alas,
Maryknoll is so far behind the curve on this one carrier pigeons may be quicker. The irony (tragedy?) is that Maryknoll used to be on the cutting edge of mission fundraising back in the day when we organized the church date system. But that was then.

In other news: Earlier on Wednesday Ms. Linda Unger was feted as a despedida honoring her 16 years working on Revista and MARYKNOLL magazines. She is moving on to another journalistic position at the famous "God Box" north of Riverside Church. During her tenure with Maryknoll she worked wonders in upgrading the style and content of Revista and later as senior editor of both magazines, was instrumental in getting the two staffs to collaborate not only with each other but with the other branches of MEP, notably radio, video and the web. For ten years she organized a staff retreat that emphasized the spiritual nature of their work to get Maryknoll's word out. We thank her and wish her well and God's blessings.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sodexo surprise

The assembled waitstaff under General Dave Agosta reform maneuvers.

Sodexo surprise

Betsey Guest pours for Luis Velez

Sodexo Appreciation Surprise

Our food staff was feted today at a surprise breakfast in the Asia room.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mass for Haiti

A MASS for the people of Haiti will be celebrated in our main chapel tomorrow, January 20, at 11:00. The employees are also invited to participate. Following the Mass, a list of places to contribute to Haiti relief will be distributed. we invite Maryknollers and suporters around the world to unite with in prayers for Haiti.


An exhibition of 30 photographs of Guatelamans by Br. Marty Shea will be held in the Spellman room for the next week. In addition to descriptions of each picture, a recordoing of original poetry by Marty will play in the background.

Entitled "Save the Children, Save Their Stories", the exibition chronicles the many years Marty worked with Guatemalan refugees in Mexico.

FYI, Guatemala suffered an earthquake yesterday on its southern Pacific coast. No report yet as to casualities or damage.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Book of Eli [movie review]

WITH THE REALITY of the present devastation in Haiti on the news 24/7 and the phantasmagorical world of Avatar offering an escape, along comes a new and different kind of movie with a very disturbing, yet at the same time strangely hope-filled vision of our future.

This film does to the ears what Avatar does for the eyes. Avatar enchants the audience with breathtaking visuals; The Book of Eli engages the audience with startling audio. BoE is stark and raw, showing us what little humanity, let alone civilization, remains 30 years after a nuclear war and the “Big Flash.” The world (and the film) may still be in full color but the covering of atomic ash and dust give Earth and all who live on it a sepia tone with gray highlights.

Eli (Denzel Washington) is on a lonely, dangerous, God-given mission to safely transport the last extant Bible to some place and to someone “in the west.” The humans who survive live by the law of the jungle, or would, if there were any trees left. Murder, robbery, rape are totally random and commonplace. Enter Carnegie (Gary Oldman), a two-bit dictator of a town out west with a very rare talent: he knows how to read. He directs his gang of thugs to find this one Book that is more powerful and dangerous than any other, for it was “aimed at the poor ad desperate.” Through the words of this Book, he hopes to control the hearts and minds of the illiterate masses.

Be warned, the movie is exceptionally violent—yet not bloody. Apparently the red would contrast too much with the surrounding dust. The film answers the question of what humans would be like with their instincts untamed and unchecked by religion and it is not a pretty picture. Describing the old world now long dead, Eli says, “People had more than we needed and threw away things people kill for now.” Chapstick, gloves, and the most precious commodity of all—water —become the coin of the realm.

Paradoxically, it is the Bible and not Eli (whose name means “God” for those not up on their Hebrew) that has the leading, albeit silent role in this movie.

At one critical point, Eli concedes, “I spent so long keeping this book safe, I forgot to live by it.”

This movie will stay with you and make you think. It will force you to reexamine your life and lifestyle. Above all it will introduce the Bible and its power to transform lives to a whole new audience and generation.

The Book of Eli’s presentation of a post-apocalyptic world challenges the Avatar juggernaut starting Friday, January 15.

Maryknoll Haiti Relief [Update!]

WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS a special appeal email will go out from MEP in Fr. Ed Dougherty's name to all our sponsors, soliciting funds and prayers for the people of Haiti.

People are given three ways to contribute:

By mail: Maryknoll Haiti Appeal
P.O. Box 302
Maryknoll, NY 10545

Or by phone: Toll free phone number (in the US) 1-888-627-9566

In addition, at the Center we will celebrate a special Mass for the people of Haiti next Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. in our main chapel. Maryknollers and employees are invited to participate.

Perhaps wherever two or more Maryknollers or supports are gathered next Wednesday at 11 a.m. local time, you might conduct your own prayer service in solidarity with us at the Center who kneel in solidarity with the people of Haiti.

Haiti Relief Effort

FR. ROMANE ST. VIL, M.M. will be Maryknoll's point man in Haiti to oversee distribution of donations from a special Maryknoll account still being set up. Romane is expected to leave for his homeland, perhaps in the next week, as part of a second or third wave of responders coming in from around the world.

Romane has heard from only a few relatives so far, with mixed news. His half brother and two children have died; his late mother's house and his sister living in it are OK. Many others remain to be accounted for.

Romane leaves today for Norwalk, Connecticut, where the large Haitian community is mobilizing to send aid, as well as medical personnel.

Fr. Ed Dougherty is meeting with folks in the Price Building even as I post this. Once he returns, I hope to get details of how Maryknollers and supporters might help Romane and Haitians directly. Check later today for updates!

In the mean time, if you are in the States, you can donate $10 to the Red Cross simply by texting the word 'Haiti' to 90999 on your mobile phone. Your contribution will appear on your phone bill.

You may also go online to access Catholic Relief Services where they have set up a special Haiti relief window on the upper right corner of their homepage.

In the mean time, pray for those still trapped in the rubble, that they find deliverance; pray for the injured, that they find healing; pray for those who mourn, hunger or thirst, that they find consolation and help; and pray that we who live elsewhere may open our hearts and realize we are all brothers and sisters on this one precious and fragile planet.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An idea from Fr. Brian Barrons

This is from Fr. Brian Barron's Blog

LAST APRIL when Fr. Ed Dougherty was visiting Jilin, we had a chance to talk about Maryknoll's Centennial in 2011. Based on my experiences over the years of having US seminarians visit and help me with my ministries in both Tanzania and China, I suggested we try and get 100 U.S. Diocesan Seminarians to the Missions in 2011. I big challenge, but a good challenge!

Not too long ago I talked with Fr. Ed on the phone and he asked me to sort of help get things going with this idea of getting 100 US seminarians to the missions in 2011. (Prior to posting this on the bulletin board I have emailed a copy of it to Frs. Dougherty, Aramburu and Jalbert)

To pull something like this off next summer, I think we need to start looking at a few things asap!!

1. Which Maryknoll missions would be interested in welcoming one, two or more seminarians next summer? Actually anytime in 2011, but the summer seems the best time for the seminarians to do something like this. With some local group and Regional meetings coming up it would a great if some guys reading this post could put it on the agenda of their meetings.

2. The program hopefully won't involve buying 100 air tickets, but the expenses of the men while they are on the missions should be budgeted for. The seminarians who have spent time with me over the years pay their own way, which makes this idea financially feasible for Maryknoll.

3. If you have good relations with your hometown/ home diocese bishop or vocation director that might be of help when we get to the point of recruiting seminarians. I know from experience a program like this fits in well with the formation program at the North American College in Rome. (When the seminarians finish their first year of studies they are asked to find a summer pastoral placement in Europe or a mission country.) At this early stage Maryknollers can mention this idea in emails or letters to sort of let those important people know that we are thinking of doing this.

4. Hopefully our own seminarians can also take part in this program and share experiences with the diocesan seminarians. Last summer we had the Maryknoll seminarians (Mark and Lam) together with the North American College seminarians over here in China and it was great.

5. Post ideas on this bulletin board or send ideas to me at this email address: ,or to Fr. Jalbert in New York. If things take off and start looking good, others will be involved!

We need all sorts of ideas. Don't be afraid to add your two-cents.
I am hoping that as guys read this they will share the news with other Maryknollers (cut and paste if necessary) and we can turn this idea into something great for the US Church and the seminarians involved.

Fr. Brian Barrons M.M. (王神父)

Jilin Medical College Experimental Medicine Center
D-208 No. 5 Jilin Street
Jilin City, Jilin Province 132013

Office Phone: 86-432-4560011
Home phone: 86-432-4561011
mobile phone: 86-13844640372
Brian's blog (The Great Wall)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Huffington Post: Haiti Hammered By 7.0 Earthquake, Hospital Collapses

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Haiti earthquake

A 7.0 EARTHQUAKE rocked Haiti today with widesread destruction reported, including the presidential palace. Because most communications have been knocked offline, reports of casualties are still sketchy but feared to be in the thousands if not higher.

No word yet from our own Fr. Romane St. Vil whose family lives in Haiti.

Please keep him, his family and the people of Haiti in your prayers.

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Presenters at today's gathering

Photo taken with Camera Zoom app.
Ms. Caolyn Bossinas (left) and Ms. Jennifer DeMaio.

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Forensic proof we actually attended.

Ah yes, I remember it well

MAINTAINING FOCUS, LOGIC & Good Brain Function was the topic of a
presention for the residents by Ms. Jennifer De Maio, occupational
therapist, and Ms. Carolyn Bossinas, speech therapist, both employees at
Maryknoll for several years.

Twenty nine guys attended. (I presume the others forgot.)

We started with an exercize finding and circling a sun with a line
through it on a page with many different symbols, apparently designed
to see how quickly we can recognize suns with lines through them. This
also helps when driving and information has to be processed quickly. I

Remembering names of new people we meet (hopefully they are, in fact,
new people) comes from repetition and association. Remembering names
of new people we meet (hopefully they are, in fact, new people) comes
from repetition and association. To remember a list of things to buy,
it helps to group them into categories. (Produce, dairy, meats, ammo
etc.) Planning and organizing helps to remind us to pay bills.

Journaling is a great way not only to recall the day's events but also
to leave an intimate record for future archivists, historians and

"People who fear they are getting forgetful tend to have clutter in
their rooms and lives." (Now they're getting personal!)

The entire presentation was video recorded by Kathy Brophy for future

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Wayne's In!

BR. WAYNE FITZPATRICK'S ELECTION as first consultor to the U.S.
Regional Superior (Fr. Mike Duggan) has been approved by Rome,
according to Super G. Ed Dougherty.

Congratulations (again!) to Wayne. Ballots for the second consultor
will go out immediately. God willing, we'll have the full slate in
place by the time of our regional assembly in May.

Speaking of which, when he was still candidate Duggan last August and
there was a movement afoot to suppress, eliminate and otherwise
abolish the U. S. Region, Mike urged caution. Such a change, he said,
would best be handled by the entire region in person at our next

Well, surprise, surprise, now Regional Duggan says there won't be time
for this discussion in May and such a change were best handled by

And around we go.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Odds n' Ends

MY HIATUS of blogging came from way too many things happening here at the Knoll these days. On top of all this, during my three-day shift on the Medical Emergency Team (MET, formerly EAT) two Maryknollers had to be accompanied while being taken by ambulance to Phelps Hospital. Both are in stable condition and should be back here soon.

Some things that have gone down:

• The Chinese priests and Sisters completed another successful winter-break seminar under the guidance of Father Larry Lewis. Given that no less than eight are studying at Fordham University, I asked why none was staying with us here at Mother Knoll. Larry whispered, "They like visiting here but would find it too depressing to live here." Ouch.

• Yesterday's Memorial for our late Maryknoll brother Father Doug Venne was an inspiring tribute to both the man and to mission. In fact, it merits a much longer posting which I hope to get to early next week after...

• A week-end retreat by forty Sunday School Teachers from St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang Korean Catholic Church in Flushing, NY beginning tonight at 8 p.m. I pray for a less drama-filled experience than the one two months ago with 60 high school students!

• But I would be remiss without singling out Father Ernie Brunelle whose cell phone went off not once but twice during the Mass yesterday. Normally I would be more forgiving, but this was at least the fifth time Ernie's phone has interrupted one of our Masses. Perhaps if we threatened future offenders with public exposure on this blog they might have the courtesy to shut it off in advance or at least have the common sense to withdraw from the assembly and not let it ring for over a minute. Twice.

• Sodexo Food Service has had to take the unusual but necessary step of wrapping in individual waxpaper bags all the cookies, bread and sandwich meats in our kitchenettes. The problem arose at St. Teresa's where a resident had a habit of taking several slices of bread to his room, then after several days had passed, returning the unused portions back to the refrigerator. Also, in these days of H1N1 precautions, it is better not to have all these hands in the cookie jar, as it were. And the problem is not limited to the men at St. T's. Sodexo Manager Margie Sheehan reports that on more than one occasion, a resident has gone to the kitchenette and taken a bite out of the leftover entrees and returned the uneaten, though bitten, portion. Ew.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Unger resigns

MARYKNOLL MAGAZINE and Revista Maryknoll Editor Linda Unger submitted her resignation today to Mr. Bob Ambrose, C.O.O. of the Mission Education and Promotion Department, to pursue other career opportunities.

As editor-in-chief back in the day, I appointed Linda to succeed out-going Revista editor Moises Sandoval and I took some flack for appointing a "gringa". But my judgment and decision were vindicated as Linda brought wonderful improvements first to Revista and later to MARYKNOLL magazine when she became über editor in 2008.

I wish Linda well in this next chapter of her life and personally thank her for the years of dedication and commitment, creativity and journalistic excellence she brought to our publications.