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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


  1. Hi... Would someone let me know how I might get in touch with Father Bill Frazier? He is an old family friend who gave something rather extraordinary to my father, Dick Stroh, many years old, a rather large document which dealt with issues surrounding death. My father held on to it... and shared it with me just last night. I would like to talk with Father Frazier about it... he may remember me as a young blond boy who probably made too much noise when he visited with us at our home in Chappaqua.
    Thank you.
    Bill Stroh

  2. I just read your request and will forward it to Fr.Bill. I believe his email address us: wfrazier@Maryknoll.orh