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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Give us a break"

[The following letter apparently came in response to the official statement on the decision to stop funding the SOA Watch]

In the Empire
18 August 2010

Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers:

"Given Father Bourgeois' central role as the founder and public face of the SOA Watch, Maryknoll Society leadership has determined that it cannot continue its financial support of that organization without giving the impression that it also supports the actions of its leader concerning the issue of women's ordination"

Who the hell are you guys kidding? Does anyone seriously believe this mealy mouth excuse to cut off funds to SOA Watch? The group writing this nonsense would have flunked Moral Theology 101 in my Franciscan classes. Ever hear of the distinction "remote and proximate cooperation"?

"Without giving the impression..." TO WHOM? This is a stretch that boggles the imagination and strains rationality. Why not acknowledge the real cause for this embarrassing statement? Come on, WHO pressured you? The troglodyte neocons in your order? A Chancery lackey? Maybe one of your donors threatening to cut you off? Or is it some Vatican miter trying to justify the recent outrage considering backing women's ordination to be a 'delicta graviora'?

How about a moment of truth instead of your lame excuse? I must say I will have to cut off funds to your Order lest I give the impression I believe your statement has any integrity.

By the way, what do you say to MANY Catholic activists who have demonstrated and have been jailed and fined over the years trying to indicate the Church opposes torture and Death Squads? What impression do you wish to avoid cutting them off from your support?


(Rev) Tom Dunn
Laurel, NY

[Blogger's note: I must confess I didn't know what a "troglodyte" is, although I've seen it bandied about on Facebook. I went to and found the following: trog·lo·dyte [trog-luh-dahyt]
1. a prehistoric cave dweller.
2. a person of degraded, primitive, or brutal character.
3. a person living in seclusion.
4. a person unacquainted with affairs of the world.
5. an animal living underground.
Origin: 1545–55; < L trōglodyta < Gk trōglodýtēs one who creeps into holes, cave dweller, equiv. to trōglo- (comb. form of trṓglē a gnawed hole; cf. trogon) + dý(ein) to creep into + -tēs agent suffix

I wonder if that makes me one????]

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Disheartened and dismayed"

To date I have received five letters from Catholic priests (two from the same priest) expressing their strong disagreement with Maryknoll's decision to cut off our yearly subsidy ($17,000) to the School of Americas Watch because of Fr. Roy Bourgeois' continued advocacy for women's ordination. I presume I was included in these correspondence (to Fr. Ed Dougherty, Fr. Bob Jalbert or Mr. Jim McCullough and cc-ed to me) because my name appeared in the NCR column by Ms. Heidi Schlumpf.

Here are two letters from Fr. Brian Joyce from Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill, California, which I reprint with his permission:

July 30, 2010

Dear Fr. Dougherty,

I write to you as an experienced, active pastor and a long time friend and supporter of Maryknoll to express my disappointment and dismay at the decision to withdraw my customary and long time annual financial support to SOAW. It makes a clear and alarming statement about the current direction and goals of the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers. The ongoing protest by SOAW is one of the very clear and doable calls for justice in our nation and one which directly affects the people of Latin America where Maryknoll has so faithfully served.

Any argument that the goals and funding of SOAW should be tied to the recent "excommunication" of Fr. Roy or considered part of any agenda over ordination of women is obviously mistaken and wrong headed. For the thousands upon thousands who annually protest at Fort Benning or financially support SOAW and Maryknoll's work as well, the issue is clearly not ordination of women. The issue is the School of Americas Watch. Our local congressman and the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor said to me of the School of the Americas and its promotion, "If we lay down with dogs sooner or later we will get fleas." No mention of women's ordination there! Only a serious issue of justice which up to know Maryknoll has joined in addressing and now has uncharacteristically deserted. My considerable efforts at fund raising will now be directed to SOAW and the sisters, not the fathers and brothers, of Maryknoll.

May God bless you and may you quickly reconsider.


Rev. Brian T. Joyce


[This second letter was addressed to Mr. Jim McCullough, in our Marketing and Development office and cc-ed to Father Dougherty and me. Once again, it is reprinted here with Fr. Joyce's permission.]

August 13, 2010

Dear Jim,

Thanks you for your letter of August 5. While everyone recognizes Fr. Roy as founder and inspiration of SOA Watch, given a moment's reflection, no one would think of him as its "public face"! The public face of the SOA Watch is clearly the four churchwomen killed by military death squads of El Salvador, six Jesuits and their companions slain in El Salvador, and the countless victims whose names and crosses are carried in procession each year at Fort Benning. That is the public face of SOA Watch and that is the face, people and cause, Maryknoll leadership has chosen to forsake. It is interesting that you cite how Society members have long been involved in the defense of human rights throughout Latin America. I question whether those members were consulted or whether they would agree with this recent decision.

I have been a faithful and vocal supporter of Maryknoll for many years, so I am doubly disheartened and dismayed at the decision and also at your "explanation". Please note my contribution this year, exactly $17,000 to mirror the amount withdrawn by Maryknoll leadership, will go to SOA Watch.

You still have time to reconsider.


Brian T. Joyce

[A xeroxed copy of Fr. Bryce's check to SOA Watch appears on the bottom of his letter.]

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lay Mission Anniversary Supper

About 40 present and former Maryknoll Lay Missioners broke bread with Society members on Friday as they gather to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the MLM movement. Tables were decorated with the flags if all the countries they served. On Saturday, the Mass will be celebrated in our main chapel with Archbishop Timothy Dolan officiating.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not quite family

Former Maryknoll seminarian John Pahls read my post of Father Mike Duggan welcoming the new men with the quote from The Lion in Winter, "What family doesn't have its ups and downs?" While we like to consider ourselves the Maryknoll Family, his experience ---and alas others as well --- belie that phrase.

With his permission I post his two emails:


Dear Joe,

Sure, go ahead and post what I wrote. I didn’t run it by Casey or Matt yet can’t imagine they would have any problem mentioning their marriage bans. Ah Yes Fr. Joe, my final weeks with Maryknoll… Perhaps with all of us there are a few watershed moments over the course of our lives, marking times when things are altered forever. In my incarnation so far there was when I left home to join the army as a teenager in 1982, the day my Mom died in 1993, and December 19, 2006, the dismissal, was another such moment. Life really changed after that, not just Maryknoll but the whole relationship to the Church and sense of God.


Hey Joe V:

A blast from the past here----- it’s John Pahls the former seminarian that exited the society December 2006. Greetings. Howdy do.
Really like your blog. Think it was Matt Rutter sent me the address and I’d say at least once a week check in. You help me stay connected to what encompassed my life for 6 years. Thank you. You are a good writer! Particularly poignant was one posting concerning a vocation weekend you wrote something to the effect…”let’s hope these potential candidates pray, truly discern the Holy Sprit, yet join Maryknoll anyway. ;)----- I’m lovin’ it. That was rich.

Fr. Joe, as much as I enjoy your blog and read it, did want to chime in on your latest post, a recounting of Mike Duggan relaying to the current candidates how a family, as he referenced in the great Lion in Winter film will sometimes argue, harangue, etc.

I never was comfortable with the Maryknoll as family analogy often given to us as seminarians. A family may disagree, argue, discuss, etc. it is true. Yet I contend at the end of the day a family is still bound to one another, there being a connection at the core, hopefully a loving one. Yet in the society a formator evaluates, judges, writes up judgments and documentation, and at times contingent upon their personal wounds or struggles, may work behind the scenes to have a seminarian “dismissed” from the family. That was my experience, certainly. A family does not evaluate and dismiss its members, I contend. Therefore, a family analogy for those in permanent oath, yes. Yet Maryknoll as family for
someone in temporary oath, or not in oath at all, my experience did not prove this.

Anyway, again, I love your blog. After so many years in the society Maryknoll is still part of who I am, still pulls on me. Maybe stranger still if I did not read it.

Still keep in touch with 2 guys was in the seminary with, Casey Sterr and Matt Rutter (although when living together in 2002 Matt and I almost came to physical blows one night, you ever hear that one? We laugh about it now). The three of us are actually getting married within a 6 month time span. Matt and Tabatha earlier this August, Casey and Susanna September 25, and Saren and I, January 1. John McAuley are in touch as well, I visited him in Taipei in June.

Take care, Joe!

John Pahls

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ups and downs

U.S. Regional Superior Father Mike Duggan gives a copy of the Society Constitutions to the five new members in formation. Mike alluded to the famous scene from The Lion in Winter where Henry II (Peter O'Toole) spends the Christmas Court with his erstwhile imprisoned wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Catherine Hepburn), trying to poison, stab or strangle each other. At one point, Henry flings Eleanor to the ground after throttling her. She looks at the camera and says, "What family doesn't have its ups and downs?"

Turning to and naming the new Sems, Mike added, "Welcome to Maryknoll."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fr. Charlie Cappel, living history

Photo taken with Camera Zoom app.

Sent from my most excellent  iPhone

Welcoming reception

Fr. Charlie Cappel, the last Maryknoller to have met Bishop James A. Walsh, shares his recollections with the five newest seminarians and the gathered community at a special reception in the Founders Room.

Sister Anne

Twenty Fathers & Brothers and 25 Sisters gather to hear Sr. Anne Bryan Smollin rapid-speak her talk on Humor. As with the airline instruction to put on your oxygen mask before assisting others, she says unless we attend to our care and sanity first, we won't be able to help others.

Corrections & additions

The Welcome reception for the seminarians will be in the FOUNDERS ROOM at 5:00 this afternoon, not the 3rd Floor Rec. Room. But speaking of seminarians, three Salesian seminarians are here with about 25 members of their Society as part of a strategic planning session. They said they'd love to meet our sems if they get back in time. I just got off the phone with Philip Yang who said they are on the road and will be back within the hour and will definitely stop in to meet Salesian seminarians. Interreligious dialogue at its best!

Maybe our guys can challenge their guys to a friendly game of Texas Hold'em.

Humor us

St. Joseph Sister Anne Bryan Smollin will speak to our community today at 3 p.m. in the Spellman Room on Humor, the Joy of Healthy Aging, Wellness, Spirituality and Stress. No joke.

Alas, I will only be able to chuckle for the first half hour because the All-Important Centenary Liturgy Committee for the Opening, June 29th and Closing Massses will meet at 3:30, and no doubt will be producing comic relief for months to come.

The 10 seminarians return from Enders Island Retreat Center today and the five new guys will be officially welcomed at a special Hour of Happiness at 5 in the Third Floor Rec Room.

I still feel we need an Office of Maryknoll Traditions and Customs, for which I would willingly volunteer. In years past, a cassock, cincture and Chi Rho marked one's progress through the Formation process; Now we got nothing. I suggest guys in the first year should get a rosary; and when they take first oath they should receive the official Maryknoll lapel pin with the coat of arms of the Society; after that maybe one of several articles of clothing (Tee shirt, cap, polo shirt etc. with the Maryknoll logo on it, perhaps with different colors designating different years).

Too bad the sems won't be back in time today to attend the Humor seminar. because from what I hear, Formation is no laughing matter. Around the salad bar I do hear from multiple sources that two mistakes Formators make (and this has been true since I was in the seminary back in the 19070s) was acting in what appears to be an arbitrary manner and not treating their charges as adults.

Might I be so bold as to suggest that this tendency also plagues men in leadership? (Hey, if I get called in because of this, I'll claim I was just kidding. Get it?)

Providentially today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of our co-founder, Father Thomas F. Price, and we all know what a jokester he was. He also entered the seminary on his birthday when he turned 16. Another piece of the puzzle.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Maryknoll is very in tents these days.

Once more with feeling

The lawn in the Quadrangle had almost recovered from the abuse of putting in the emergency access grid under the grass, Founders Day, Jubilee and the blistering summer drought, when the tents are going up again.

We expect 500+ Haitians here on Saturday for their annual day of prayer, praise and reflection. Our own Father Romane St. Vil organizes this event. IMHO our lawn is a small price to pay to attract life and enthusiasm to this place, not to mention a faith-filled people.

This could be a foretaste of what our main building can become in the future. I know the Koreans from St. Paul's in Flushing could easily fill this place several times a year were it converted into a functional* retreat house and mission center. And that's just from one parish. Haitians, Vietnamese, Filipinos and Hispanics could just as easily spend several weekends here each year. Training other groups for mission, cross-cultural seminars, conferences on interreligious dialogue all could take place here with just a few Maryknollers heading a staff of competent employees. I've seen this at other centers.

My concern is that from where I sit (outside in the Quad watching the tents go up) I don't detect any future thinking except for turning off the lights and locking the door. BIG mistake.

*Functional means grandfathering guys out of the R Wing and letting retreatants and workshop attendees have those floors to themselves. It means putting the word "active" back in retirement. It means not giving in to whoever whines the loudest that all this commotion is disturbing their nap.

"People perish for lack of vision." Ain't it the truth.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Comings and Goings

Yesterday we had a nice, if cramped, welcoming get-together in the Second Floor R-Wing Rec Room for four men who have recently taken up residence here at the Center. Br. John Frangenburg, Fr. Jim Nierkarcz, Br. Al Patrick and Br. Conrad Fleisch have swelled our ranks here to 89. Br. Conrad is especially amazing. He is 99 years old (one month older than our Society, BTW) and he looks and feels marvelous. His mind is sharp, his health is good and he walks regularly. No, I do NOT want to look and act like him when I am his age. I want to look and act like him right now!

To no one's surprise, yesterday Maryknoll and our music director/pianist/organist finally parted company after about a year and a half of a rather awkward relationship that "just didn't fit." Although expected, her departure was sad because she is a very nice person but just didn't have what it takes to lead music for our community. For the foreseeable future we will rely on a list of local talent for funerals and look forward to Ms. Lucille Naughton coming back to direct music for Christmas and the all-important Centenary liturgical celebrations, not to mention Jubilee and the ordination of Rodrigo Ulloa to the priesthood next spring.

Speaking of seminarians, TEN of our TWELVE seminarians will be here this weekend as they gather before their opening retreat in Connecticut on Monday with Fr. Dr. Peter LeJacq directing. The five Newbies: Jonathan Hill, Tony Lopez (another one!), Peter Letouf, Glen D'Angelo and Chase Olinger will join the "older" seminarians: Rodrigo Ulloa, Shawn Crumb, Angel Oswaldo Garcia, Philip Yang and Daniel Kim. Seminarians Dae Kim and Lam Hua are doing their OTP in Bolivia and Kenya, respectively. Not to jinx this sudden influx of new life, but we might have a goodly number joining us next year, so keep those rosaries and Angeluses flowing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back with more news

I was away on retreat the first week of August and then was up to my sister's place in the Adirondacks to soften the transition back to life here at Mother Knoll. As you might expect, things continue to happen. In no particular order:

+ One man mentioned that, going on two years into this "new" Council, we have yet to get a copy of the revised and amended Constitutions or directory or any particular conclusions or directions. There are rumblings from various quarters about a "return to an old style of leadership." I find this odd, given the oldest man on the team is only 63. But as Fr. John Meehan, of blessed memory, once observed when he said Korea had no young members (this was back in the 1980s and I rattled off several names), "I'm not talking age."

+ Twenty five Chinese priests and Sisters from the mainland, who are studying here in the States as part of in the Chinese Seminary Teachers & Formators Project organized by Fr. Larry Lewis, are trickling into the Knoll for their yearly retreat and workshop. This will lower the average age in the building to about 35 and will give us a good, lively spirit here in the house for the next two weeks. Larry, IMHO, is an example of the Maryknoller of the future: one man in a critical position playing a crucial role to help develop a local church, in this case, China. To that end, the fifth alumnus from the program has just been consecrated bishop with the full blessing of the Vatican as well as the approval of the Chinese government. Bishop John Baptist Yang Xiao Ting, 46, was ordained coadjutor of the Yulin diocese (Shaanxi Province) last July 15. From 1999-2002 Yang studied sociology at Catholic University in Washington. Yang was ordained to the priesthood in 1991, the first Chinese to be ordained after the seminaries were re-opened in the 1980s.

+ You all remember the notorious ambo whose price would cover a down payment on a house? Well, it's due to make a reappearance after more than 15 years in storage exile. Granted it is WAY too large to be placed anywhere near the main altar, still I agree with those who contend that sound stewardship at this point demands we at least try to use it since we apparently tried and failed to give it away. My suggestion is to put it towards the far end of the main chapel and rearrange the chairs between the altar and the ambo to choral style with the pews in back still facing forward. This would visually balance the ambo and altar and give prominence to the Liturgy of the Word. I expect major kvetching on this in the coming weeks. The ordination of women and suspended funding of the School of America's Watch are out there somewhere, but by golly, nobody rearranges furniture in the chapel and gets away with it.

+ Speaking of down payments on a house, I want to publicly thank Fr. Jerry Hammond of Korea for generously pitching in to help me and another Maryknoller pay for a hand-painted icon of Our Lady of Maryknoll by Fr. William Hart McNichols for our 100th anniversary next year. His offering will be in memory of the Hammond and Barr families, mine will be for the Veneroso and Kindar families (long story!)