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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


On the bright side: Maryknoll may soon be waterfront property!

Holy Week Bits of Tid

AN THEN THE RAINS CAME. Sweet Mother of Pearl, the quadrangle out back reminds me of the rice paddies that used to surround every mission in Asia up until 1975. Guys now gaze out from the upper cloister and wistfully say, "I remember when this was all dry land."

Luckily the rains held off so that we could have not one but two Palm Sunday services, one for our community and the other for the 150 Haitians here for retreat lead by Fr. Romane St. Vil, back from his second relief trip to Haiti.

Fr. Dennis Moorman and Deacon Steve DeMartino, along with Fr. Dave LaBuda, are in Jamaica (the one in the Caribbean, not the one in Queens) conducting a Vocations Retreat at the parish of Father Leo Shea. Five young men are attending. Please hold them in prayer for guidance and discernment during this holiest of weeks.

The Holy Week Vocations Retreat alternates between here at the Center and at a mission site overseas. Absent any young'uns here this week, we are scaling back on our own services. For example, this Good Friday we will not have the outdoor Stations of the Cross as has been our custom nigh these many years. If our guys had to schlepp that huge wooden cross themselves around the property, more than our Lord would be falling three times.

There may be as many as six men applying for admissions to the Society this year. Pray for them, the admission board, our men in formation, their formators and for an increase of vocations to Maryknoll.

The rains are to continue till Wednesday, after which the spring sun and temperatures in the 70s are forecast for the Triduum.

[Personal musing: one of the reasons Pope Benedict excommunicated Fr. Roy Bourgeois was because Roy's outspoken and public advocacy for women's ordinations was causing "scandal and confusion" among the faithful. Now that His Holiness himself is the source of scandal, confusion and not a little anger, outrage and disappointment, how will he discipline himself? Just wondering...]

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lenten Day of Reflection

FR. JIM GAVIN, ofm Cap., gives house residents a talk on the love of God encountered through the gift that is Christ.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sure and it's a leprachaun, don't ya know.

Fr. Ernie Brunelle appears at the St. Patty's Day

pre-parandial wearin' o' the green.

All-important House Meeting

LAST WEDNESDAY the monthly house meeting took up, among other things, a suggestion from the all-important Safety Committee that hand railings be added in the main chapel to assist those who need assisting to mount the one step to the main altar and, if also necessary, the three steps to the tabernacle.

The all-important Liturgy Committee had already considered this recommendation by the all-important Safety Committee and, like Solomon of old, decided it best to split the thing in half. Walking through the chapel with Mr. Al Vitiello (Physical Plant) and Ms. Nancy Kleppel, Fr. John Kaserow suggested a single rail on both sides of the altar, one near the credence table, the other near the presider's chair. This will help those who need help and maintain the aesthetic symmetry of the chapel.

Railings up the three steps to the tabernacle seemed like P.C. attentiveness run amok. Upon reflection, no one who needs a cane or walker to get around would be approaching the tabernacle to get or replace the ciborium. That's why God created M.C.s and acolytes. Besides, if a man required TWO railings to go up, then how would he negotiate coming down the steps with the ciborium? Thus that recommendation was wisely scrapped.

In other news, the all-important Food Committee announced that that evening's traditional and de rigeur St. Patrick's Day offering of boiled corned beef and boiled cabbage and boiled potatoes and boiled carrots, would be offset and, one hopes, ameliorated by a savory lamb curry stew. Irish Coffee and "spontaneous" singing of Irish ditties, thanks to the labors of Br. Kevin Dargan who passed out song sheets, took people's minds off the corned beef.

Two says later, St. Joseph's Day (just like St. Patrick's Day, minus a parade but with better food) would further shatter our Lenten promises with seafood ravioli and sundry cannoli and sfogliatelli.

Looking ahead, a prime rib dinner would celebrate Holy Thursday's celebration of the Lord's Supper and the institutions of the Eucharist and the priesthood. A collation would follow the Mass on Holy Saturday. And on Easter Sunday, something new: a special brunch would follow the morning 9:00 Mass.

Fr. Ernie Lukaschek introduced Fr. Ed Szendrey as one of the two (along with Fr. Bob Jalbert, who wasn't present that day) newly elected members of the U.S. regional council. For his part, Ed, representing the all-important Crisis Committee, reminded the men that, except for those who live in the Assisted Living area (Second Floor M & C wings) all are expected to vacate the building when they hear the fire alarm no matter the hour. Men who remain in their rooms in the Assisted Living wings must notify the main reception desk of their whereabouts so EMS can, if necessary, evacuate them.

The question of some guys being unable to hear the loud, shrill and ear-splitting alarm will be addressed by the Crisis Committee.


UPDATE: Fr. Romane St. Vil has returned to Haiti for another relief mission.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Gathering of Elders

The men agree to continue discussing the future of Maryknoll, or
"Denial isn't just a river in Egypt."

Maryknoll future to be continued...

THE THIRD and ostensibly last conversation on the future of Maryknoll was held last Tuesday, March 17 at 4 p.m. in the Africa Room. Twenty eight men attended---the largest number to date.

Father Bill Frazier and John Kaserow once again facilitated. It must be noted that, while no new ground was broken, it was an animated discussion with varying opinions and points of view expressed.

Fr. Larry Murphy pointed out that he had attended the USCCB meetings for ten years and individual bishops have visited our missions in Latin America for decades, but little came of this.

Fr. Mike Zunno questioned whether a false dichotomy (my words) existed between pastoral and missionary activities.

Fr. George Ratterman said something in Latin to which Bill Frazier vehemently objected, but whether it was to the content or to the language itself is unclear.

Fr. Dennis Morrman, the youngest man present, shared that five men are attending our vocation retreat this Holy Week at Fr. Leo Shea's mission in Jamaica.

But the most excitement was generated by the proposal from Chapter by Fr. Jerry Kelly and Fr. Dave LaBuda for some sort of mission center. Should this be here at the Knoll? Should it be part of MEP? Should it be under the bishops? This latter suggestion was viewed by some as a certain basium mortis (Rattermann ain't the only one who can fling it around in Latin).

The concensus was that the men wanted to continue this discussion (sure beats the hell out of talking about coloscopies, PSA numbers, BMs and March Madness) and that Kelly and LaBuda would be invited to come and talk to us and explain their vision for a mission center.

Meanwhile, out on the Lido deck, the band struck up with "Nearer My God, to Thee."


UPDATE ON GLEN ELLYN GHOST: Fr. Dan Jensen informs me that former Maryknoller Joe Bastien ('63) takes responsibility for starting that whole haunted seminary business and, now thanks to the internet, just like a ghost this story will neither die nor go away.

Maybe for our Centenary we could arrange for an apparition or two by, oh, I don't know, how about St. Ichabod Crane?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Slow news day?

THANKS to Mr. Gregory Darr, head of our Chicago MEP house, for forwarding this curious entry he found on a paranormal website called Was our seminary in Glen Ellen haunted? You decide:


Maryknoll Seminary

Glen Ellyn,
Il 60137

County: Du Page

Location Description:

Has been knocked down. It was said that this Maryknoll Seminary is haunted by the ghost of a dead monk who hung himself in the bell tower. The monastery is huge, with hundreds of rooms and no electricity turned on as the place is boarded up and the bell tower sealed off. Reports of fresh blood "bleeding" from the exterior of the bell tower and strange noises are not uncommon, and the place is still used as a secret gathering place for various cults and possibly Satanists, as there are satanic markings and words from ancient languages on some walls. Unfortunately, this seminary has been torn down so it can no longer be seen. There are subdivisions and houses going up in that area now.


Can any of you Glen Ellen alums confirm or corroborate these accounts? Was there a suicide in the bell tower? Are Latin, Greek and Cantonese occult languages? [Spoiler alert! The following question is called a "softball pitch". Feel free to hit it out of the park in the comments section.] Can you explain the strange noises emanating from our old seminary?

Bonus question: How can you tell a Satanist from a Maryknoll seminarian? (Oh, I have an answer, available on request via personal email. Prudence prevents my posting it here.)

BTW: Br. John Mullan explicitly requested he not be included in this blog.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Maryknoll's future

FATHER BILL FRAZIER and FATHER JOHN KASEROW held the second "conversation" in the Africa room with 26 Society members concerning the future of Maryknoll. They started by summarizing the first two sessions: four weeks and two weeks ago.

The Society was seen by some members as having lost its purpose and sense of urgency. A developer said too much influence is placed on raising money as opposed to sharing the mission spirit. Do we need to return to the mindset of the founders? One man said an Orbis editor told him he systematically removes references to mission from mss. (?) [blogger's note: sounds apocryphal to me.] Do we need to clarify our spirituality or do we need a formal outward sign or dress?

In the Church at large mission is not emphasized; various crises and scandals plague it; little interest in Ad Gentes mission; bishops see themselves as pastors and not missionaries. Ireland, among other countries, has few vocations; Asia has more ordinations but can these take up the slack?

Fr. Larry Murphy asked a pivotal question: what do we mean by "Church"?

Fr. Dan Dolan was surprised some men look down on "change", as in laity now doing many jobs once done by only Maryknollers. He sees this as a positive adaptation to our reality.

Fr. Charley Cappel said in the old days we believed "outside the Church is no salvation." Vatican II changed this but with it we lost our sense of purpose for mission.

Fr. Ernie Brunelle sees the Evangelicals and Nondenominationals as doing the mission work Maryknoll used to do and going to dangerous places such as Pakistan, risking imprisonment and death.

Fr. Kevin Hanlon says one problem is we are conditioned not to emphasize our particular charisms or uniqueness for fear of offending the laity. He feels we lack focus.

Bill Frazier said one thing these conversations wanted to accomplish is to see whether we need to change Maryknoll, or change the Church. How are our vocations being prepared?

Fr. Ray Sullivan responded to Kevin's observation by saying he doesn't feel close to the Affiliates although at yesterday's presentation on Haiti it was an Affiliate who volunteered on the spot.

Yours Truly opined that when I was a seminarian at Hingham in 1973, we were visted by two missioners: Fr. Joe Trainor and a young priest who shall reman nameless since he has left the Society. In any event, all of us younger guys felt more inspired by Trainor. The young priest was cynical and sarcastic; Joe was happy in his vocation as priest and enthusuastic to be a missioner. I said we can't really change the church or the Society, but we can change ourselves. We can become what we want the Society to be. When prospects visit us, subcontiously they are thinking, "Is this the kind of group I want to spend the rest of my life with? And is this what I will turn into if I join?'

Kaserow said the men in Chicago like to visit us because we offer our insights and experiences.

Bill Frazier observed that most of us were trained to be pastors, not missionaries. Out of 220 pastoral references to Vatican II in the official manual for priestly formation, not a single one is to mission, he said.

We ended with a quote from Ad Gentes, "The Church on earth is by it's very nature missionary..."

Bill passed out several papers he prepared responding to the "takeover of the missionary Church" by pastoral concerns.

This blogger is left to wonder which is easiest to change: the Church, the Society or ourselves? Only one is even possible. Perhaps it's easier (and certainly safer) to focus our energies and attention elsewhere rather than to be about the self critical work required by legitimate renewal and reform.

Sent from my most excellent iPhone

Regional election!

This just in: Fr. Ed Szendrey and Fr. Bob Jalbert have been elected to
the U.S. Regional Council with 43 and 34 votes respectively.

Thus concludes one of the more arduous electoral undertakings in
Society history, having begun with straw ballots last April.

Congratulations and best wishes to Ed and Bob who join Br. Wayne in
assisting Regional Superior Fr. Mike Duggan in governing the largest
region in Maryknoll.

Sent from my most excellent iPhone

Monday, March 8, 2010

Haiti report

Maryknollers hear Fr. Romane and Fr. Dennis speak on their trip.

Haiti cheri

ABOUT 50 Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers (some from St. T's), Sisters, Affiliates and employees gathered in the Asia room this afternoon to hear Fr. Romane St. Vil and Fr. Dennis Moorman speak about their recent humanitarian trip to Haiti.

Romane began the presentation by leading the gathering in singing "Come, Holy Ghost" and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory Be.

Romane said that following the earthquake many people, especially from the Connecticut area where he works, were looking to make donations for the relief effort and they trusted Maryknoll to make sure the money got to where it was most needed. Maryknoll sent him to Haiti to access needs.

In Haiti he discovered three major needs: shelter, food and medical are still urgent and will remain for the foreseeable future.

Romane thanks the Sisters and Lay Missioners for volunteering their services.

Last month he put together a team of three doctors (including Dr. David Kim, former parishioner at St. Paul's in Queens where I help out), three nurses which originally intended to work with refugees in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but they ran into bureaucratic obstacles so they moved their operations to Port-au-Prince. He consulted with UN, Red Cross and other agencies to see where best to offer service to the people.

He found Haiti lacked an overriding structure to coordinate distribution of tents, water and food so much aid remains at the airport.

The team stayed with Romane's brother at his house in the mountains where it was cooler, no mosquitoes and great food. They only ate the one meal each morning and worked in the city throughout the day with their mobile medical team. They treated 50~60 people each day.

Dennis then showed a slide presentation of the team, the devastation, tent communities and the Haitian people.

One million people remain homeless, although water and latrine facilities are available to most people, Dennis said.

Dennis, in addition to offering Romane moral support, was also able to use some of his training in ministering to people with emotional trauma.

On Monday, March 15th, Romane will accompany another larger group of medical volunteers into Haiti.

Fr. Dan Dolan observed it may be 20~40 years to bring Haiti back. Although we have fewer numbers, he said, Maryknoll can offer our experience in working with refugees, the most forgotten and most neglected.

Ms. Jo Albright, a Maryknoll Affiliate from New York City, said the Affiliates are looking for this kind of opportunity to help and she herself has volunteered and will be going to Romane's hometown next week.

Ms. Terri Misrwa asked if reports were true that the Haitian government was charging for relief supplies to get out of the airport. He said the government's reputation is well known but believes this is their attempt to exercise some systemic control over how supplies het out.

Fr. Joe La Mar asked what reports where given to the General Council and what was the plan going forward. Romane said he did meet with a few Council members and Fr. Ed Szendrey (internal auditor) but nothing definite has been proposed.

Fr. Kevin Hanlon wondered what would happen should patience and hope give way to unrest and chaos.

Fr. Dick McGee (Planned Giving) said he has many donors who have contributed to Haiti relief and would appreciate getting some report.

Br. Alex Walsh asked if any contact was made with Sisters of Charity or other groups. Romane said sinece many religious communities lost houses ands personnel so contact is hard. Forty Sisters of Perpetual Help died in their colapsed convent.

Fr. Joe McGahren asked if the international military could help with distribution. Romane said at this point it is enough for them to supply security, because it is still dangerous.

Dennis said Catholic Relief organizes "surprise" food drops to prevent unrest. All distribution is to women as men are prone to fight.

Fr. Mo Zerr asked if any heavy equipment is clearing areas. Again, Romane says the lack of leadership from government is frustrating.

Fr. Jerry Nagle asked who is coordinating Maryknoll's funds for Haiti. Romane said Fr. Szendrey and the Council are managing the expenses.

Fr. Bill Frazier wondered if there was a history of bad blood between Haiti and the D.R. Romane said much does get through the D.R. but it is political and they are taking advantage of the situation, such as charging NGOs $150,000 for a five-year contract on rental cars. On the other hand, the first doctors on the scene following the quake were Dominicans.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


MR. BILL VENDLEY, executive director for the U.N. Conference for Religions and Peace, is here for a two-day meeting with nine members of his team. Many of you may remember Bill from WAY back when he was a lay missioner. Fr. John McAuley also worked with the UNCRP before serving as publisher of our mags and books.

I was curious as to why the UNCRP was listed on our bulletin board as "Religions for Peace" and Bill said that is their popular title as each geographical group carries that name: "Religions for Peace in Africa" etc.

Ever the curious logophile, I mused if there were any religions for war? Fr. Mike Walsh opined that Odin might still have a following.

Today is also the quiet between the storms as 150 students and parents visited yesterday and another 150 are due tomorrow. (Personally I am a little miffed that, among various and sundry Maryknoll publications, our visitors will also be offered the Maryknoll lapel pin. I am all for generosity and hospitality, but gosh darn it I'd like something that exclusively designated Society members. Maybe I should resurrect that tattoo suggestion...)

It's a good weekend to be away from the Knoll, although I may have jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the metaphorical fire. This weekend I am with 70 Korean high school students and teachers at a weekend workshop at St. Josaphat's (Ukrainian) Catholic retreat house in Glen Cove, Long Island.

Luckily Father Dennis Moorman and Fr. Ed Szendrey graciously agreed to help with confessions this evening. Between us and Fr. Gabriel Lee, the pastor, we should finish sometime before midnight.

Hmmm...for a penance could we ask them all to apply to Maryknoll???

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Last night's fire alarm

At 1:30 this morning the fire alarm went off. About 20 residents with workable knees and hips walked down the stairs and out of the building. As per policy, guys on the Second Floor Assisted Living (C & M wings) waited in their rooms for the all-clear or subsequent EMS evacuation. We went back in about 20 minutes later.

I was willing to blame late-night toast burning or pagan incense offerings, but the cause turned out to be more banal. Dust in the attic had accumulated enough to trigger the sensors. (Why they couldn't have been triggered at a more decent hour, I do not know. I have come close to triggering the censors myself, but that's grist for another mill.)

Sent from my most excellent iPhone


WE WELCOME BACK Fr. Ernie Lukaschek, pastoral coordinator, who returned from convalescing at St. T's following surgery. Ernie is easing back into his duties and met briefly with the newly constituted House Council (Blazo, Dargan and moi. Ahearn was on the road) today over lunch. We discussed upcoming celebrations (St. Pat's Day, Holy Thursday and Easter) as well as solutions to the on-going problem of the disappearing periodicals.

At the behest of Ms. Margaret Sheehan (Sodexo) and other employees, we are considering putting up a world map, perhaps in the back of the dining room, with markers or pins indicating where all our missioners are. This interest arose following the earthquake in Chile when some employees wondered if we still had men there or not. (Taiwan quaked late last night, our time, and all seem to be safe, thanks be to God.)

[BTW: this would be an improvement over the method used by MK Magazine and MEP, where just one man in a country is enough to color that entire area as a Maryknoll misssion. Thus, Fr. Joe McCabe single-handedly kept all of Russia in the Maryknoll column for many years, as currently does Fr. Vince Cole in Indonesia. This brings up a story of some years back when I and then Maryknoll photographer Eric Wheater were on our way through Central America. I commented that the smaller Maryknoll got, the more countries we were getting into. He replied, "Yes, it's Maryknoll goal to have nobody everywhere." Vey Zen. But I digress.... ]

We also welcome back Mr. Miguel Ramos (Rose's husband), center housekeeping, also after his convalescence.

It was also good to see Fr. Mike Snyder and his two sisters, Mary and Monica, who visited briefly today. (Their brother John did not accompany them.) Mike is back in the States for the funeral of his Mom, Rose, who passed away last week.

We look forward to welcoming Fr. John Walsh into our midst who is contemplating closing up his mission in the Bronx and moving to Mother Knoll.

This weekend, no less than TWO parishes (St. Christopher's in Buchanen and St. Patrick's in Verplank) will send children and their parents here for a one day retreat on Friday and Sunday respectvely. Each group will have about 150 participants. The theme: "One Body; One Mission". Fr. Dennis Moorman will have an opportunity to do some very remote vocations preparation!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lenten Visitors

Fr. Ray Nobiletti and several parishioners participate in day of

Good, good, good, good vibrations?

The Office of Adult Faith Formation of the New York Archdiocese held their annual Lenten reflection day here on Wednesday. About 45 DREs, staff, secretaries, teachers and office people attended, as did our own Fr. Ray Nobiletti and several of his staffers from Transfiguration in Chinatown.

The theme was on the vibrations, good or bad, that we and other people give off that often subconsciously effect the thoughts and feelings of those around us.

I had the opportunity to schmooze with a few of them over lunch. Those who were visiting Maryknoll for the first were particularly impressed with our building. For good or ill they weren't around long enough to report what vibrations they picked up from our men. But given the way visitors tend to bring out the best in us, I'm confident they had a positive experience here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Aborage @ the Knoll

More than 50 trees around campus were damaged, and some destroyed, by
last Wednesday's snowstorm. Even the majestic linden (in front of the Walsh Building) lost some large branches but luckily did not suffer irreparable damage such as this tree on our front lawn to the left of the chapel.

Broken limbs

More victims of last week's blizzard

More woodage

Today the sound of electric saws fill the air as the grounds crew
cleans up Mother Nature's