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Friday, May 14, 2010

Needed: A new Maryknoll "mythiology"

A COLLOQUIEM OF MARYKNOLL MISSIOLOGISTS gathered again here at Mother Knoll this week, as they are wont to do from time to time, to theologize and come up with a paper or two on mission. Fathers John Gorski (Bolivia), Jim Kroeger (Philippines), Kevin Hanlon (USA) and Bill LaRousse (Philippines) have been hard at it since Monday but no word yet as to when and what we can expect from their deliberations.

In the meantime, I got to doing some musing of my own. When we held our annual May crowning a few weeks back, we prayed the prayer Bishop James E. composed to Our Lady of Maryknoll in which he asks the Blessed Mother's intercession for Maryknoll as we minister to "the poorest and most despised."

Would that this were true! This type of expression permeates many of Maryknoll's mission statements, documents and prayers and we blithely repeat it but, with literally only a handful of exceptions, simply is not the case. Oh, even I helped out a poor person from time to time when I was in Korea, but "the poorest and most despised" simply were not the emphasis nor purpose of my ministry.

Who are the most despised today? Well, at least in the Unites States and unfortunately in a growing number of countries around the world, without a doubt and with no competition, it would be pedophile priests, accused, convicted or just suspected. How many of us would even speak of them in sympathetic terms much less minister to them?

Ah, but there is a group that did, and without fanfare. Not ten miles north of us, the good Friars of the Atonement (Graymoor), back in 2002 when accused priests were being tossed out of rectories and had no place to turn, opened an entire wing of their friary to these "most despised." They discussed and voted as a community to offer hospitality, with strong restrictions, to these men until they could figure out where they might go and live.

Now, to be fair, Graymoor has experience dealing with men in recovery (or at best rehab) through St. Christopher's Inn. And we here at the Knoll have the logistical problem of Brookside Elementary School being right across the street.

But to my knowledge the question never even arose at a house meeting or regional assembly or general council meeting. One might argue that our focus is overseas mission, but I counter that our duty as missioners does not end just because we crossed the US border. Another unfortunate factor in recent years and especially since 2002, is the veto power lawyers and insurers have over our public activities, especially here in the States.

A Maryknoller could never be the Good Samaritan here because our lawyers and insurers would caution against getting involved and fellow Maryknollers would remind us we can only live the gospel overseas.

So we continue in our increasingly set ways, not permitting outside realities to disturb us, and content to repeat prayers about ministering to the poorest and most despised.

While I encourage our Maryknoll missiologists to come up with something new and inspiring in the realm of overseas evangelization, I see a chronic need for us to purge our prayers of pious platitudes and replace them with realistic and contemporary expressions of just what exactly it is we Maryknollers do. Or better yet, how about reflecting on the words of our founders as well as the giants in our Maryknoll pantheon: James E., Francis Ford, Considine and Nevin, and discuss what we can do—even here in the States and in our present aged condition—to make these a reality and make an effort to live up to our self-inflicted myths.

Now THERE'S something to commemorate our centennial!

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