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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Icon of Our Lady of Maryknoll

Commissioned for Maryknoll's Centenary, this icon was "written" by Fr. William Hart McNichols and depicts the Blessed Mother teaching the Child Jesus to bless the world, which he holds in his hand. His foot is extended outward as if Our Lord is eager to be about his "Father's business." As per instructions, McNichols depicted Jesus less European and more like the children Maryknollers encounter everyday in mission overseas.

Providentially, the icon arrived at Maryknoll today, on the feast of St. Michael and the other archangels. The Mass today celebrated the Maryknoll Brothers and was the unofficial kick-off for Centenary celebrations here at the Center. The icon is scheduled to be consecrated on October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

This icon is a gift to Maryknoll from Fr. Gerry Hammond, Fr. Ed Szendrey and me, in honor of our deceased family members.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Holy Hour

The Maryknoll community celebrates the feast of St. Michael, patron of the Maryknoll Brothers.

Piping in the relic of St. Michael

Michael Dalton accompanies the translation of the holy relic of St. Michael to Father Larry Murphy for safe-keeping till next year.


Mr. Denis McCool and his wife, Nurse Jeanie McCool (Health Services) escort Bagpiper Michael Dalton to the St. Michael's post Mass party.

Healthy celibacy

Maryknoll's Wellness Initiative welcomed Fr. Gerald McGlone, S.J., executive director of the St. John Vianney Treatment Center in Pennsylvania, who spoke to about 37 members in the Asia Room on  

"Models of Affective and Celibate Development"

In order to break the Great Silence about the whole area of sexuality, we sometimes need an outsider to come in and give us permission to talk with one another about these very important areas of love, intimacy, friendship, boundaries. (Unlike the usual conversations around here: my latest colonoscopy and the Yankees. Same-same IMHO.)

Most of us were "trained" not to even address these most important topics, so as a result we were our own frame of reference, without contact with an outside reality. The heart never found its way to the head. Thus we stay in our heads we feel safe...or so we think.

One guy said they were trained in formation by Bishop Comber to confine "morality" to abstract issues like "robbing the bank in Tarrytown." (I wonder if, looking back, that wasn't a euphemism, like "Hiking the Old Appalachia Trail"  is today?) back in the day, formation never addressed sexual issues besides "don't be alone with a woman."

There was an Anglo-Saxon interpretation of the law: See a red light and stop; and the Roman interpretation: do what is convenient and safe. The so-called "Third Way", popularized in the 1970s, said one could have a special relationship involving sexual intimacy but was still considered celibate if orgasm was not involved. A "Spiritual Relationship" with another person was expressed as asexual intimacy. 

In today's secular culture, "Bromances" and "Mandating" are common same-gender relationships without genital expressions. In days of old, there was a clear line between First Base, Second Base etc. Nowadays there are no clear expectations so many misunderstandings and cases of unintended date rape. Bill Clinton gave a Baptist spin on sex which said only intercourse constituted sexual relations.

"Rainbow Parties" are where women wear different colored lipsticks to paint rainbows on guys during oral sex. 

Silence on one side and Anything Goes on the other are two dangerous extremes.

What and where is the in-between state where healthy sexuality and celibacy abide?   (More will be posted of subsequent talks in the coming days.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ELB 2.0

Insofar as many have inquired as to the happenings here among us last week concerning all that has occurred at the extraordinary session of the Extended Leadership Board, it seemed fitting for me as well to blog it for you, most excellent Theophagus.

Well, OK, Father Mike Duggan, regional in the U.S., was gracious enough to fill me in over lunch yesterday so that I may masticate and regurgitate it to you in bite-size, easily digestible, if not easy-to-swallow morsels.

So here is it. ELB dealt with four topics: Communication, Mission, Retirement, the relationship between ELB and the General Council, and morale of members. (OK, that’s actually five, but the first four directly impact the last, n’est pas?)

MISSION It was heartening to hear that, for all the problems facing our leaders, the future of Maryknoll mission work is still a priority. Clearly we can’t be in as many countries as we are now, but do we concentrate on putting all our mission eggs in just one overseas basket? Or do we maintain our multicultural interests by having at least two Regions?

Someone opined that the best gift we “old timers” can give the 12 men currently in formation and, God willing, to more men who will enter formation in the coming years, is to “get out of their way.” New wine! New skins!

COMMUNICATION It comes as no surprise that this was identified as THE most serious challenge facing our members as we try to discern what leadership is thinking, what they did, and why they did it. Indeed, the reason for ELB 2.0 was to give the Regionals another chance to come together and talk with one another and the Council and brainstorm, as well as express their opinions on the state of the Society and define just what the nature and purpose of ELB is.

RETIREMENT Let’s face it, the big wave is already crashing over our heads. But what is the right time to retire? And who decides? And how do you convince a man to give up the only life he’s known? What does “retirement” even mean? Some men think it means that, absent a formal Maryknoll assignment, they are free to do whatever they want. (So then, what’s the difference between that and what Maryknollers usually do?) The retirement age may be raised to 70 sometime in the future, but this is way too complex an issue to decide right now. More discussion in needed. [In journalistic parlance, this is what is known as “burying the lead”, but I like to reward those of you who plod through my other paragraphs with a solid nugget of news.]

Mike Duggan says there was ample time for him and each of the other Regionals (Fr. Alfonso Kim-Asia; Fr. Jim Lynch-Latin America, Fr. Dave Smith/Fr. Lance Nadeau-Africa and Fr. Tom McDonnell-Retirement) to speak what was on their minds.

But were they heard? And what positive changes will be made? Log in for future developments!

ELB 2.1 is scheduled for a week before and after June 4, 2011, when N’ShaAllah, we will celebrate the ordination of the Rev. Mr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry to the Maryknoll mission priesthood!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pix from today

Namaste, Jack Corcoran!

 The pictures below came in from Father Ed Szendrey of today's Benefactors Appreciation Day at the Knoll. Note his reference to the passing of Father Jack Corcoran earlier today. R.I.P 

Note: Jack was admitted to the CCU in a Kathmandu hospital on Friday and put on a respirator. According to Sister Janet Hochman, M.M., he was in and out of consciousness, but seemed to recognize visitors. His condition continued to deteriorate until today he went to God. Namaste, Jack!

Hi Joe,

I'm attaching some photos from today's Benefactors' Appreciation Day, in case you want to blog about it.  I was not here for most of it, but it seems to have been a resounding success.  The folks I met were genuinely appreciative of Maryknoll and enthusiastic about our work.  I heard the numbers 700 and 800 thrown around, so I guess the number of attendees was in between there somewhere.  If this is an indication of the interest that will be shown in next year's 100th, I think it bodes well.

I just texted you this, but in case you haven't heard yet, Doc just told a few minutes ago that Jack Corcoran passed away.  Highs and Lows.

Take Care,

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rodrigo's diaconate

New wine, fresh skins!

Today's post comes from our formation house in Chicago, where we just finished a wonderful fiesta celebrating the ordination to the diaconate of Rev. Mr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry, M.M. by Bishop Gustavo Garcia, MSpS, auxiliary of Chicago. 

All the food for the 175+ guests was prepared by Sem. Tony Lopez and Brother candidate Glen D'Angelo, with help from the others. (The pulled pork and potato salad were exceptional!)

I am happy to report the spirit at the house is upbeat (albeit pleasantly chaotic) with so many Maryknoll guests: Frs. José Aramburo and Ed McGovern representing the General Council, Rev. Mr. Steve DeMartino and Fr. Dennis Moorman from our vocations office, Fr. Jim Noonan, Fr. Pete Chabot, Fr. Gerry Persha, Fr. Dave LaBuda and yours truly.

Rodrigo's parents were also in from Virginia. Mrs. U-C gave a wonderful greeting to all the Maryknollers before Mass where she tearfully shared how initially she feared she'd be "losing" her son when he first told them he wanted to become a priest. Now, she said, her heart is overflowing with happiness and pride. Mr. Ulloa spoke in Spanish on how happy he was and filled with gratitude for Maryknoll.

This was all a warm-up for the liturgy at St. Clare of Montefalco (Cappuchin) church where Rodrigo had taught religious ed prior to his OTP. His former students were all there! The litany of the saints during the prostration is always a tear-jerker for me, but at the end of the ceremony when Rodrigo went and knelt in thanksgiving before an image of Our Lady of Guadelupe, I lost it.

I wasn't alone. Apparently Jim Noonan also lost it in the sacristy, but in this case "it" refers to his stole which mysteriously disappeared between the time he put it down and the time he took off his alb. (See section on security and surveillance cameras in my previous post!)

All the Maryknollers here were impressed not only with Rodrigo, but with all our candidates. We have a fine bunch of guys willing to throw in their lot with us in mission.

Last week back at the Knoll, several of us discussed whether the candidates should spend more time at the Center. No doubt they add life to the place and I must confess I was among those who like having them around. After all, they say they enjoy hearing our mission stories and meeting our "living" history. I didn't at all like hearing from guys on the other side of the question, who contend that a short visit of a few weeks or maybe even a month is OK, but anything longer runs the risk the prolonged exposure to too many toxic personalities and the negative vibes just below the surface at the Knoll could in fact be detrimental to our candidates.

Having just spent three days with them in Chicago, I have to say I must now agree with this position. There are enough challenges and personal conflicts with ten candidates living in the same house without adding our own neuroses to the mix. The saving grace is that, for whatever difficulties are inherent in formation, the candidates feel their formators, Fr. John Eybel (rector) and Br. Joe Bruenner, sincerely care about them. The men said as much to me. A good sign! Maryknoll's future is in good hands.

So, many thanks to John and Joe for their hospitality! To Deacon Rodrigo for his inspiration and witness today. To Shawn Crumb, Chace Olinger, Angel Garcia, Jonathan Hill, Tony Lopez, and Glen D'Angelo for their many kindnesses and friendship. Thanks to Philip Yang for inviting me to a Chusok (Korean Harvest Moon Festival) at the Columbans last night, and special thanks to Daniel Kim and Peter LaToef for taking me to Midway airport today.

John and Joe invite Maryknollers to visit the formation house when in Chicago and to talk with the men. It will rekindle your zeal for mission!           

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Head in the clouds (Literally!)

(Hey, it's not the worst place to have one's head.)

I know I just posted a few hours ago when all too often days or weeks go by without so much as an annoying peep from me, but I could not resist posting from 35,000 feet up on a Chicago-bound Delta flight. You see, for all the emphasis on homeland security especially effecting airports and air traffic, THEY offer Wi-Fi right on the airplane. In flight even.

So I guess Mother Knoll has higher security standards than the FAA. This surely explains the new security swipe-card system being fine-tuned even as I post. In a matter of days the ubiquitous X key will go the way of the Walsh Building and rotary phones and only the special security card will admit you to one of the eight (of 32) doors from the outside. Till then the soon-to-be defunct keys will still let you in from the quadrangle near the R-wing elevator and near the M-Wing elevator.

Also, if you've already read my earlier post today, that list of meddling committees is by no means exhaustive. Trust me, the Maryknoll members are equal opportunity annoyers. Perhaps this is but a reflection of the overall frustration in the body politic with anyone in authority. Diminishment and limitations are potential sources of deep spirituality, if one takes the time and energy to plumb their depths. If not, well, you end up with a houseful of cranky, old men.

Meanwhile, men complain the Knoll is turning into a "prison" with all the rules and extra safety measures. Consider the 12+ surveillance cameras both outside and inside the building that create a comforting illusion of security while, at the same time, fostering a disquieting sense of paranoia. Nice. Also a special antenna will soon be installed in our tower so we can get live TV feeds from St. Patrick's Cathedral. Nunc dimitis, Domine, servum tuum...

Now if we could only catch the Maryknollers (from outside the Center, I'd wager) who made off with entire sets of summer vestments, or the guys who help themselves to community newspapers and magazines, or who borrow books from our library to help the cousin of a parishioner overseas, maybe this expense for extra security would be justified.

As it stands, what has saved us thus far from an unfortunate and tragic incident such as seem to occur throughout the country on an almost daily basis is, in fact, either dumb luck or divine intervention. Surely asking all would-be thieves, kidnappers or murderers to sign in at the reception desk doesn't seem much of a deterrent, don't you think? Although offering Purell hand sanitizer is a nice touch. And what is with that offering box within six feet of entering the building? So whatever committees thought these brainstorms up, consider yourselves called out and offended.

The good news or break in the storm clouds is that the house committee and Regional Council and Center Coordinator and physical plant and Channel 15 all seem to be in agreement that those tacky bulletin stands, often numbering as many as five and making our rotunda look like ye olde roadside Burma Shave signs (remember?), have got to go. In their place and discreetly on the wall, a flatscreen monitor will scroll up-coming events and visitors. 

Of course this requires electric wiring and Lord only knows what other committees have to sign off on it (Remember it took six MONTHS to get the statue of Our Lady of Maryknoll moved from being shunted to a corner of the rotunda into her present place of honor on the Spellman Room.)

Speaking of which, why do we need yet another sign indicating where the Spellman Room is, when there is no public event in the Spellman Room that day or all week? Mayhaps the person who used to spend so much time putting the letters and numbers on the bulletin stands, can use 15 seconds to remove or re-place the Spellman Room sign as needed---or not. All this is to restore some dignity to our main entrance which, alas, is starting to resemble a yard sale.

I leave you with an observation on these above topics by Fr. Ed Szendrey, who opined over lunch outside one day last week, that given the current trend, in less than 25 years we will read: "Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kraft Foods."     

Laundry list (Don't shoot the messenger...or the laundry lady)

Well, folks, ELB is midway through their extraordinary session, but halfway is not all the way so keep those prayers and intersessions coming. Amongst many important presentations about aging, retirement, what is the right time and when can you tell if a member should start to consider coming "home" to Maryknoll and why so many members avoid Mission Central like vampires avoid daylight (my words), it seems that this time around there will be adequate time for input from ELB members, N'Sha'Allah.

Two themes are certainly bubbling (or simmering) not so far below the surface here at Mother Knoll and from a surprising wide range of members, age, Region and theology-wise.

One is what seems to be a total breakdown in communications between leadership and both individual members as well as regions and departments.Odd—and sad—as the last Chapter was supposed to herald in a new age of openness and transparency.

The second is more subtle if not insidious. With all the necessary, indeed urgent, hiring of lay employees in top managerial positions and with the emergence of our able stable of lawyers and insurers calling the shots, guys have the distinct impression Maryknoll and Maryknollers are no longer in charge of their own actions and lives.

Let me hasten to add that this is NOT the fault of the employees, who are doing the jobs for which they were hired. The fault, dear Hamlet, is not in the stars but in ourselves. It isn't enough to have an M.M. nominally at the top of the food chain. He must be proactive. It needn't be a full-time assignment, either. But when decisions are made that effect the quality of life here at the Knoll (and I assume at other centers), a Maryknoller should put the final stamp of approval or disapproval on the action or decision.

For too long we have witnessed an abdication on the part of Maryknollers who hide behind what our lawyers, insurers, internet auditors, external financial auditors, health services, safety committee, and yes, even the all-important food committee says about how we are to live.

Now, lest you think this is "washing our dirty laundry in public," as one member expressed his uneasiness to me with this much appreciated yet far too candid blog, because—and this is a direct quote—"anybody can read it. Even Jesuits and Franciscans." Let me hasten to back up the contention of one of my defenders that other groups face the exact same issues and maybe we can help one another find a solution expressly by shining some daylight on it. To wit, the following link to a Cappuchin blog that makes my paltry effort seem positively Pollyannish by comparison.

I refer you to some Franciscan dirty habits:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Coming events

We have a busy week coming up.

Tomorrow Sept. 19, we welcome 150 visitors from the Bronx who will be here for a tour and lunch. Members averse to crowds are encouraged to eat earlier (12:00~12:30). In addition, Fr. Marty Lowery will host about 20 Korean Catholics from the community in Connecticut to celebrate a "Chusok" (Harvest Moon festival) Mass and they will supply their own traditional foods for lunch. Chusok falls on Sept. 21 this year. September 19 also marks the great and glorious feast of San Gennaro, and if that's not enough to make his blood boil, all the fried food available along Mulberry Street might do the trick.

But the big event is the reflection day at Mariandale on Sunday for members of ELB who have been gathering from Asia (Fr. Alfonso Kim), Africa (Fr. Lance Nadeau) and Latin America (Fr. Jim Lynch) in recent days. Fr. Mike Duggan (U.S. regional) and Fr. Tom McDonnell and Fr. Tom Ahearn (Retirement community) had no need to gather because they are already here. This day of reflection will open a fall session of ELB that will go till Friday.

Providentially all these will culminate on Saturday, not here at the Knoll but in Chicago, where Sem. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry will be ordained to the diaconate by the Most Rev. Gustavo Garcia-Siller MSpS (Misioneros de Espiritu Santo) from Mexico.

Then the next day, focus returns again to Mother Knoll for Benefactors Appreciation Day, when we get to say thank you and benefactors get to hobnob with missioners.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Six Months till Lent!

Chocolate-covered strawberries had the lowest calories of all the goodies.

Deserts galore!

Tonight Sodexo put on a magnificent desert table featuring sugar-free as well as coma inducing confections.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

House meeting

Many issues surfaced at our monthly house meeting this afternoon:

Fr. Dick Callahan spoke about the current construction taking place or planned in the coming year. Eight items will come before the 2011 budget committee:

* Swipe cards for security access will be needed for all doors (eight of the 32) from the outside in the near future, but a special glass structure with sliding doors and intercom will be built in the back similar to the one on the side entrance for those who don't yet have a card.

* The mailbox area will be renovated to make it more spacious.

* The tower needs work, especially masonry repairs.

* Blacktopping around the main entrance and driveways, as well as around the gas tanks and St. T's., will be replaced.

* A sprinkler system will be installed in the south quadrangle (where OLOM and the kiosk are) so grass can be readily watered, given the added wear and tear on our lawn with the various

* A columbarium (niches for urns containing ashes) will be constructed behind the Founders Tombs (the Crypt) on either side of the Holy Spirit altar beneath our main altar. Sixty-four 10" x 10" niches are planned. These are for Maryknollers who request cremation. This seems an appropriate place since, in addition to the Founders, plaques with the names of Maryknollers buried overseas or elsewhere in the United States line both walls.

* The main chapel will be cleaned and restored, especially the narthex (thanks to Fr.Ed Szendrey for that bit of pedantic arcana), as the Lady Chapel was last year.


Fr. Kevin Hanlon announced the Benefactors Appreciation Day, our first in three years, will take place on September 25. Eight hundred guests are expected. Concelebrants for Mass are encouraged as are Maryknollers to volunteer to help out and greet guests. Those who have native garb from their mission are encouraged to wear it.


From the all-important Food Committee comes word the summer items will rotate out of the menu, such as chicken wraps and vichyssoise. These will be replaced by more robust fare: pate de fois gras and if your taking this seriously you haven't been reading this blog long or don't know me well.

But seriously, folks, Comment Cards will appear in the dining area beginning tomorrow so no one need wait for the biannual survey to express opinions, questions or suggestions regarding our most excellent Sodexo Food Service.

Oktoberfest will be our next opportunity for ethnic food and, if I might make an educated guess, it will be German food, music and decor and I'll bet anything it'll be in October.

Challah french toast will soon be offered in the morning.

New food survey to go out soon.

Maryknollers are reminded to please sign in guests at meals. Sodexo needs to account for the number of meals even though Maryknollers are not chargged for guests.

Numerous signs in rotunda, announcing various events, often look like those old Burma shave roadside ads. A flatscreen monitor with revolving info will go far to making our main entrance more inviting and classy.


One hundred and ten visitors from the Bronx will be here Sunday on a tour. Members are encouraged to take their meals within the first half hour of mealtime if they wish to avoid the crowd, although the men are encouraged to mingle.


St. Micheal's Day will be a great celebration of our Brothers' feast day---complete with bagpipes!

Lastly, Fr. Emile Dumas sent word from St. Teresa's that the men there are most appreciative of visits from guys here. He encourages more visitors and signing up for Mass there.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

For what it's worth

• The new state-of-the-art voting machines they installed throughout New York State did not work here today at Maryknoll, a.k.a. Ossining Voting Precinct 20. And since they already got rid of the old voting lever machines, we who were eligible to vote in today's primary had to resort to ye olde paper ballot. These had to be marked and sealed in an envelope the old fashioned way and will be manually counted at 9:00 p.m. Who says the Third World is gone?

• Looks like we'll be adding the Myanmar flag in the main chapel now that Fr. Jim Kofski is officially assigned to the erstwhile Burma. To be sure, Br. John Beeching has gone in and out for years, but Jim will have residence there. Will we ever add the North Korea flag?

• Maryknoll has purchased a house in Washington, D.C. but so far I haven't learned where it is or who will live there. My guess it will be part Office of Global Concerns and part Promotion, but that is total speculation on my part.

• The liturgy committee agreed on new concelebration stoles for our 100th to replace the ones we have from the 1970s (if only our theology could be so easily updated!) They are reversible, red or white, with a circled, Chi Rho in gold. We await hearing back from Fr. Joy Tajonera as to final adjustments. Once we see the revised sample, I will post a picture here. Center houses or individual Maryknollers who want to order these stoles for your use overseas will be told the cost and given an address to contact Joy directly to place your order.

Sent from my most excellent iPhone

Monday, September 13, 2010

Perpetual Help

The superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, founded by Maryknoll Father John E. Morris in what is now North Korea, visited the Knoll and their founder's grave with several of their members. Some MK Sisters and Fathers who worked in Korea later enjoyed lunch with them at the Sisters' Center.

Visitors from near and far

Br. John Blazo hosts students from Bishop Francis X. Ford High School in Brooklyn.

If the shoe fits...

Many thanks to Fr. Dave Smith for sending this Dilbert cartoon. It's reassuring to know our lunacy isn't unique.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Sr. Janice & Baobab tree

Packed house

Sr. Janice & Food for Thought

Sr. Janice McLaughlin, president of the Maryknoll Sisters, spoke this afternoon to an overflow crowd of Maryknollers in the Founders Room about her 2009 Orbis book, "Ostriches, Dung Beetles and Other Spiritual Masters." The author of several books, Sr. Janice considers this her most spiritual book.

How did this book come to be? Although she didn't realize it at the time, It ended up being her farewell gift to Zimbabawe.

As a child Janice was always interested in nature. She remembers looking at tadpoles or going fishing with her father on the lakes and rivers around her native Pittsburgh. Waiting to get a fish to nibble was her first experience of contemplative prayer.

With her assignment to Africa (Rhodesia) she was overwhelmed with the beauty of nature and the people, with their faith, their joy and their hope in the face of terrible oppression. Visitors to her mission in the millennial year inspired her to see as much of Zimbabwe as possible. About the size of Texas, Zimbabwe has about nine million population. For New Year's they drove to Lake Kariba and visited the game parks.

All along the way to Victoria Falls they saw magnificent wildlife. Janice listened to the game guides, who explained animals and plants and was struck by the description of the baobab tree and how it survived in dry, hot climates and can live for more than 1,000 years. When it gets a disease, it expels it from within, leaving a gaping hole yet healed. Janice wondered whether we could do that spiritually. She began to take notes.

Janice also learned to appreciate the lessons taught by animals from her dog in Africa.

Lions are playful and enjoy leisure. They are family-oriented.

Zebras are each original. Like Maryknoll Sisters, there are no two alike. Babies can find their mothers even in a huge herd.

Elephants live in matriarchal families and they truly never forget. They communicate with sounds imperceptible to humans from a distance of 50 kilometers. They mourn their dead. They gently caress their deceased and leave. After a year they come back to find the bones and do a dance with them. Elephants separated from their families go rogue.

Giraffes symbolize flexibility. Their agile tongues get around thorns to get to tender leaves. They regulate their blood flow when they drink. They have much to teach missioners about being adaptable.

Wildebeest exemplify cooperation. They give birth together. This assures some will not be eaten.

Herd animals cooperate in keeping watch and helping all avoid danger and get through hard times.

Rhinos are examples of stability and this unfortunately makes then easier to shoot. Poaching is on the rise in East Africa and the rhino may disappear in less than 100 years.

The hornbill shows unconditional love. The male seals its mate into the hollow of a tree where she and the babies are totally dependent on the male. Her chapter on the hornbill begins the book and is the most personal for Janice. Her neighbor in Pittsburgh was a policeman who had to take care of his sick wife and their daughter, working two jobs, dedicating himself totally to their well-being.

When she was imprisoned in Rhodesia and faced the death penalty, she felt the comforting presence of God. Like the female hornbill imprisoned in the tree, she was totally dependent on God for her survival. She doesn't think people need to wait till they are arrested to experience this loving presence of God.

Zimbabwe means "House of Stone" and one can see rock formations from the Rift Valley. These formations were used for thousands of years as places to worship. Africa makes you appreciate the wonders of life and nature.

A poor man from Zimbabwe was one of two artists who illustrated the book. She learned he died recently of cerebral meningitis. So many of the people she knew and worked with on Africa have since died of AIDS or other debilitating disease. Yet despite all the suffering, there is a peace and tranquility that emanates from Africa.

Lastly, the dung beetle Janice sees as perseverance, never giving up, forging ahead despite overwhelming odds---like writing this book! Each chapter comes with discussion questions and suggestions for action.

Her book is on sale in the Maryknoll Gift Shop for $11.60

Empty Walsh building

Future novitiate, retreat house, formal garden, parking lot or ...?

Future of Walsh building?

The Walsh building, oldest building on the property and home to MARYKNOLL and Revista magazines as well as Orbis books, Voices of Our World radio and New Media offices for decades, has been vacant for more than two years since the staffs of those operations moved over to the highly utilitarian but less interesting Price Building.

"Rumor has it" that a plan for the future use of the Walsh building has already been decided, but it is easier to get the minutes to the staff meeting of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il's inner circle than to pry information from those here in a position to know (let the reader take note.)

Speculation abounds (which it is wont to do when information is scarce and communication rare). One man thought a Center for Spirituality would be nice, or perhaps a counseling center. Another suggested an expanded parking lot would be useful. Another said a formal garden right at the entrance of the property would be pretty.

I, for my part and for what it's worth, bandied the future of the Walsh building about with the former Super G, Fr. Ray Finch. He and I agreed it would make a great initial formation house for men when they first enter the Society. Since that is supposed to be a non academic year, it would be a wonderful opportunity for the men to imbibe the spirit and history of Maryknoll and meet the veteran missioners while still having some measure of independence and privacy.

It would take a considerable investment to gut the insides of the Walsh building and bring it up to code as a residence. But I heard it could comfortably hold 20 bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area (which it already has) a living area and rec room as well as a small chapel. And wouldn't it be a great sign of hope for the future of Maryknoll? Your suggestions?

And while on the topic of North Korea, isn't it ironic that North Korea now also has a Facebook Page that no one living in North Korea can access? I mean, really. Talk about insecure, despotic control freaks!

Monday, September 6, 2010

The St. John's Bible

Fr. Mike Patella gave the last of his lectures in the Asia Room on Saturday morning on the creation and progress of the hand-written on parchment St. John's Bible on display in Collegeville, MN or in various museums around the country.

Here, thanks to the notes of Fr. Ed Szendrey, are highlights of that presentation.


The St. John’s Bible Project.
• A project to create a new hand-written and hand-illuminated version of the Bible.

• The idea was first proposed in 1996, about the time that many Dioceses and Religious Communities were thinking of ways that they could celebrate the new millennium, that is to say the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s birth. The Benedictine (OSB) community wished to do something that incorporated both the tradition from which the Church arose, but also looked forward to the future of the Church.

• This idea originated with Donald Jackson.  Jackson is the court calligrapher for Queen Elizabeth II (he hand-wrote all of the invitations for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and also hand-writes all official edicts from the Queen). Jackson participates in a workshop at St. John’s University called Calligraphy Connection, which draws calligraphers from all over the world.  In 1980, during an interview on the Today Show, Jackson expressed that one thing he wished to do was to produce a hand-written version of the Bible (much like those of the Middle Ages prior to the advent of movable type).

• In 1996 Jackson presented this idea to a member of the OSB community for consideration as their millennial project. This member brought the idea back to the OSB Superior.  He agreed that the St. John’s OSB community would facilitate and sponsor this project.

• One thing they DID NOT want this project to become was an “antiquarian romp” through history.  Rather, they wished to use this ancient artistic medium to speak to the present-day reality of the Church and its faithful.  Therefore, they wished to have represented in the illuminations women, the poor and marginalized, the concerns of the average person in the pews, environmental concerns and the tension between science and theology (they wanted as much science as possible represented).

• It was decided that the New Revised Standard Version would be used, over the New American Bible.  This is because the NRSV translation more seamlessly incorporates gender neutral language and also because the NAB is currently undergoing a re-translation (they wanted to use a version that will not change in the near future). NRSV was also translated by both Protestant and Catholic scholars.  Using this translation is in keeping with the project’s goal to be ecumenical.

• The first step was to bring together a group of theologians, scripture scholars, artists and art historians (called the Committee on Illumination of Texts).  This group would meet and reflect on passages and sections of the scriptures.  They would then send their ideas to Jackson (at his workshop in Wales, UK), who would in turn draw up sketches that he would send to the committee in Collegeville (Patella: This project could not have been done before the advent of e-mail).

• Jackson put out a call to the calligraphers around the world to look for a team to work on this project.  Of the dozens who responded, he chose four.  So good is this group that on those pages where more than one worked on writing, only an expert can tell where the work of one ends and another picks up.

• The Bible was divided into 7 volumes.  The first section they worked on was the Gospels and Acts. This was followed by the Pentateuch, Psalms, Prophets, Wisdom Lit., Historical Books, and finally Epistles and Revelation (this last volume is still in production).

• Portions of the finished volumes have been exhibited at the Museum of Biblical Art in NYC, the Library of Congress and the Victorian Albert Museum in London.

• The volumes have been digitized and shrunken (with great success in maintaining the beauty of the original) and will eventually be compiled into a 7 volume edition priced at $600.  300 ‘Heritage’ editions will be produced, which will be exact copies of the original (even to the point of printing them on parchment). These will sell for $145,000 (obviously intended for University and Museum collections).

• Proceeds from the sales will be used to finance the educational portion of this project, i.e. developing a teaching paradigm for the St. John’s Bible.  It is hoped that using this Bible as a teaching tool will get more people interested in the Bible and its history, as well as get them to see the Bible in a new way.

• Patella has used examples of this Bible to great effect in his ‘Introduction to the Biblical Tradition’ classes.  Catholic colleges are interested in acquiring Heritage Editions and using them as the center point for programs to revive the Catholic character of their institutions.

• By the way, no animals were EXPRESSLY killed to produce these works. The calf skin used to produce the parchment was obtained from abattoirs that were certified as using humane herding and slaughtering methods (which consequently results in a better parchment).

The second session was a powerpoint of some examples from the St. John’s Bible.  I will share my notes on just a couple of them.
• The illumination for the creation story is divided into 7 sections for each of the days of creation.  Day 1 begins on the left and then it proceeds to the right.  Interestingly, the section for the third day (the separation of the land from the sea) was based on satellite photos of the Ganges River Valley, considered one of the cradles of civilization.  The section for the sixth day (the creation of humans) was based on prehistoric cave drawings found in East Africa, where human beings are believed to have first evolved. The seventh day of rest is rendered in different tones of gold.  Throughout all of the illuminations of the St. John’s Bible, the color gold is used to represent the divine presence.

• The illumination for the Ten Commandments is rendered quite uniquely.  The bottom of the illumination is a series of random dots, but as you move upward, they begin to coalesce more and more until finally the words of the first commandment are distinctly seen at the top.  This represents the creation of the moral universe, chaos at the bottom, but more and more orderly the closer it gets to the top (i.e. God/Heaven).

• Interesting note on Proverbs 31:10-31 (instruction to the valiant woman/wife).  Instead of seeing this as instructions to a wife, read them with the mindset that this passage is referring to Christ (as much as Christ is the creative word, or Sophia, of Wisdom Lit.).  This passage is about what Christ does for God’s children, and what all children of God must do for one another. Good homily fodder.
Much more on the St. John’s Bible project can be found at .

Friday, September 3, 2010

Making a point

Fr. Patella lectures on Wisdom

Scripture class!

Today and Saturday morning, Fr. Michael Patella, OSB, Scripture scholar from St. Johns University in Collegeville, MN, spoke to a gathering of Maryknoll Fathers, Brothers & Sisters in the Asia Room on the Wisdom literature.

Wisdom books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs , Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Ruth, Esther, Lamentation, Judith, Baruch and additions to DanIel.

Why were the Wisdom books neglected for so long?

For years scholars dismissed Wisdom books as having no great theological depth or revelation with pithy sayings having little relevance for today.

Recently scholars are discovering a new depth and profound teaching in Wisom books which greatly influenced the early Church.

Tradition gave birth to the Bible, not the other way around.

Babylonian exile compelled Jewish community to write their stories and traditions down lest they be lost through assimilation and intermarriage. Most scholars believe the bulk of what we call the Old Testament was written during the Babylonian Captivity.

The intelligentsia, the artisans, the craftsmen were taken away; the poor were left behind, not fit even to serve as slaves.

Cyrus the Great allows the Jews to return and is hailed in Scripture as a man of God, although he wasn't Jewish.

Alexander the Great overthrows Cyrus. Alex dies and his empire is divided with Seleucus and Ptolemy take up territory north and south of Israel. Generally the Jews faired better under the Ptolemies. The city of Alexandria was the crown jewel of their empire with its magnificent library which was to contain all sacred  texts of all religions.

More Jews lived in Alexandria than in Palestine (like New York City). King Ptolemy asked the Jews for their Scripture, but in what language, Greek or Hebrew? Thus we get the Septuagint. The Greek and Hebrew texts often do not match at all. Some modern scholars contend they came from two completely different, although perhaps interrelated, sources. It was the Greek Scripture that formed the basis for Christian spirituality.

Christianity's sacred stories start out as an oral tradition.

The earliest preaching of Paul follows the pattern of preaching in the synagogue, stirring people up, causing a riot and ends up in jail. After getting out, he goes to another town and starts all over again.

Paul fails to impress the Jews is Jerusalem so he goes to the Gentiles and first preaches to the Diaspora---in Greek. The version of Scripture quoted by Paul is the Septuagint.

The people in Diaspora had different and more books and much of this was the Wisdom literature. It made more sense "connecting the dots" that Jesus was the anticipated Messiah in the Greek Scripture.

Our Old Testament is NOT the Hebrew Scripture and calling it that is nonsense. Jews don't care what we call our Old Testament as long as we don't try to force them to call their Scripture that. The Old Testament contained many Greek texts as well as Hebrew books.

St. Jerome labored to translate the Septuagint into Latin and struggled to reconcile the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures.

Martin Luther concluded much of the Catholic Bible was a gloss if not a distortion of the original Hebrew to justify much of the abuse of power he saw all around him. Many of the books omitted from the Protestant Bible were Wisdom literature. 

When we talk about the Hebrew Bible we refer to the Leningrad Codex, a ninth century Massoretic text that added vowel points to the Hebrew.

With the discovery of a complete book of Isaiah among the Dead Sea Scrolls, a comparison with the Massoretic text could be made and it was discovered it was spot on.

New attention, then, was given to the "Catholic" books of the Bible as being instrumental in development of early Church's understanding of Jesus.        


After coffee break, Mike continued:

Dabar and Logos---how to these Hebrew and Greek word for Word influence the development of Christianity.

Alexander the Great wanted to impose Greek culture on the entire empire. Greek was to the ancient world what English is today. With the language came the culture and with that came conflict. Hellenistic culture influenced the world. This became a big problem in Israel because it was monotheistic and modest and the Greeks were polytheistic and elevated the cult of physical beauty. Circumcision was repulsive to the Greeks and tried to suppress the practice among the Jews, thus undermining the sign of the covenant.

Greek culture fostered learning. Gnosticism came with it as a religion-philosophical movement.

The word Dabar (Word) spoken is of primary importance especially in an oral culture, even more son than the written word. In the ancient world, the spoken word stays forever. This is the opposite of our way if thinking. The dauber has a life of it's own.

Once a word leaves one's mouth it cannot be recalled.

The dynamic Word of God suffices to create. "Let there be light!"

Naming things establishes supremacy over them. Name equals being. The word posits the reality it signifies.

"Thus says the Lord...." means the spirit of God impowers the prophet.

Logos is used rarely in Matthew and Mark. Luke uses it more. 

Logos is a loaded word in Greek.  It means cognitive thought, reasoning, rationality, logic, logistics, philosophy. 

In the NT it carries both Dabar and Logos 

John uses it far more differently than the Synoptics. The word is Jesus himself. He formats the great incarnational principle at the heart of Christianity. Paul and John are thinking alike.

This is foolishness to the Greeks and scandal to the Jews. The Greeks understanding of Logos is tied with Gnosticism, a secret knowledge given to only a select few. Paul had to contend with this, as did John.

To Gnostics considered the body as a prison at best and a hindrance at worst.

Christians proclaimed the Logos as the connection between God the creator in Genesis and the Savior in Jesus and his physical life, death and resurrection.

Gnostics provided the vocabulary and intellectual traditions against which Christian were forced to articulate their incarnational and Trinitarian theology.

John's prologue answers the Gnostics and lays the groundwork for belief in the preexistence of Christ and belief in the Trinity.

For Paul, the Logos is the Gospel which is the Word of God which is Christ which is eternal life. It is a distinct dynamic reality. Paul often talks about the Word, without "of the Lord" for it refers to an eternal reality.

Philo wrote a treatise connecting Dabar with Logos. Logos is neither created or uncreated but rather mediates God.

The Hebrew word "ruah" connects the breath, wind and spirit. The Greek word "pneuma" means the same thing.

Hokmah (wisdom) in Hebrew becomes Sophia in Greek. Both are feminine nouns. This will influence the development of Christian theology.        

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spinning our wheels?

There are more variations on the latest Maryknoll Brothers vs. the Vatican vs. Father Dougherty vs. the Maryknoll Constitutions (note plural) story than different melons in the fruit salad at our famous salad bar, source of grist for the mill and posts for this blog. I shall attempt to distill their common elements.

Apparently whoever is in charge of putting up with us at the Vatican, grew weary of our continually asking for exceptions and variances to our Constitutions. Br. Frank ten Hoopen, for example, some years back was allowed to serve on the regional council in Africa. As was Br. Mark Gruenke after that. But then followed the election of Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick, not as advisor or consultant but as U.S. Regional Superior and we all remember how that turned out. So apparently the recent election of Br. Mark Huntington to serve on the Africa Regional Council was too much for somebody. (Here the stories vary as to who exactly said, "Basta con tutta questa sciocchezza!" but since there are only two actors in this drama who speak fluent Italian, it kind of narrows it down. Now the question is, what does "questa sciocchezza" refer to, the continual election of Brothers or this blog?) Btw, I intentionally did not translate that, so you have a reason to talk to our members of Italian descent and find out who really understands the mother tongue.

The upshot of all this is, apparently, a moratorium on electing Brothers to any leadership roles until we take a look at our Constitutions and revise or amend them accordingly. The Brothers will be meeting soon to discuss this amongst themselves (and they have every reason to feel "verklempt"---go ask a Maryknoller from NYC) and will run their ideas past Fr. Joe Everson, our canon lawyer, to submit these either to ELB or to this blog or to the Food Committee, whichever seems to carry the most weight, authoritatively if not physically.

As it stands, we are a clerical Society of Apostolic Life with auxiliary lay Brothers. Do we need to rethink our identity? (Now THERE'S a project worthy of our Centenary!) Or perhaps a simple sentence or two will suffice, to the effect that "Only a cleric can be elected as major superior and no consultant shall have automatic right of succession." In the event of a "sede vacante" (ask someone ordained before 1965 or after 2005), a clerical member of the General Council will assume responsibility of leadership until another election can take place. Or something.

Perhaps ELB (Extended Leadership Board) later this month will take up the all-important task of discussing vision, directions and priorities. Or perhaps they will simply gather to watch PowerPoint presentations, flip charts and pie graphs of mind-numbing statistics and reports until they run out of time to consult on anything of substance.