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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

October surprises?

+ We welcome Fr. Dave Smith, newly from Tanzania, who has arrived at Mother Knoll to take up his new role as Maryknoll's Chief Financial Officer, replacing outgoing CFO Fr.Richard Callahan. Dave shared some interesting tidbits of news from Tanzania, currently in the midst of a presidential election. Tales of chicanery and dirty tricks rivals anything going on here in the U.S., one week from midterms.

I strongly urged Dave to get involved in some kind of week-end ministry, just so he can get out of this loony bin and maintain his sanity. Interestingly enough, Dave said I was the second person to suggest that in the past 30 minutes. I maintain you can tell by how a person conducts himself here whether or not he gets away on weekends or not.

+ Super G, Fr. Ed Dougherty is, even as we speak, visiting the DPRK for the first time. (One wag at dinner suggested he's there to pick up tips. Another countered that the new heir designate could pick up a few pointers himself.) Fr. Gerry Hammond, who visits several times a year with the Bell Foundation that supplies medical supplies to the North, is accompanying him. Would be nice if Gerry finally gets permission to establish a residency in Pyongyang. Wouldn't THAT be a great way to inaugurate our centenary celebrations!

+ Keep sending prayers for the Holy Spirit to bless participants at the vocation retreat going on right now at Los Altos. Fr. Dennis Moorman, Fr. Jim Madden and Deacon Steve De Martino are directing the retreat for five prospects.

+ The new security system in now active. You'll need a swipe card to get in any door except the main entrance. I doubt this will curb the mysterious recent disappearance of the purificators from the sacristy, along with the new aspergellum, the old aspergellum, both holy water buckets, and complete set of summer vestments. Seems the foxes are living in the chicken coop.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fr. Michael Lapsley - The Time Has Come to Forgive and Forget


Fr. Ed Szendrey's notes of Fr. Michael Lapsley's talk

About 100 people gathered in the Asia room, including ten Society members, to hear a talk on "The Time Has Come to Forgive and Forget" – Fr. Michael Lapsley, SSM

Robert Ellsberg introduced Fr. Lapsley: Fr. Lapsley bears the marks of his story on his body. He is one of the founders of the Institute for Healing of Memories (IHOM). When he was a boy, he considered becoming either a priest or a circus performer. At age 17, he joined the Society of the Sacred Mission, an Anglican religious order. He was assigned to South Africa in 1973 and soon after joined in the struggle against Apartheid. He was expelled in 1976 and relocated to Zimbabwe.  In 1990, he was maimed by a package bomb attack perpetrated by members of the Apartheid regime. He has overcome physical and psychological wounds to continue to work for justice. He returned to South Africa in 1992 to help victims of Apartheid heal their memories. H continues to travel the world speaking on forgiveness and facilitating workshops for trauma victims.

Michael Lapsley:
He spent 2 months at Maryknoll, New York in 2009. Fr. Lapsley has a long acquaintance with Maryknoll. He has always admired how many Maryknollers are committed to linking faith and justice, as well as their willingness to walk beside the poor and be a champion for their rights.
“Why did you come here today?” Did the title resonate with something in your life? The old Apartheid regime said we should forgive and forget, and move on. Fr. Michael looked in the Scriptures to see what the Bible said about forgetting. Often when the word ‘forget’ appears it is preceded by two words: do not. The three Abrahamic religions are the great remembering religions. In Hebrew Scriptures, whenever the Hebrews were lost, the Prophets called them to remember God; the reason they were lost was because they had forgotten what God had done for them. When a fellow Christian tells you that you have to forget, tell them they are talking junk.
What kind of memory does the Bible call us to have? It is redemptive memory – healing memory, which brings life from death. As humans we are all too aware of another kind of memory - destructive memory. How do we move from destructive memory to life giving memory? This question applies to individuals, communities (secular and Religious) and to nations.

It is often based in acknowledgment. There is an important difference between knowledge and acknowledgment. In an abusive family, many may have knowledge of the abuse but there may be a lack of acknowledgment. The recent acknowledgment by UK of the crimes committed in Ireland on Bloody Sunday – even though it is 37 years later - has finally started the healing of memories. Oppressed groups carry in their souls the memory of their oppression. The oppressors usually do not have – or claim not to have - knowledge (take for example the different views of the experience of slavery between Black and white Americans). Acknowledgment is not the end of the journey but the beginning of a new journey.

What does Bible say about forgiveness? On the Cross, Jesus prays for others to be forgiven, but does not himself say ‘I forgive’. Forgiveness is glibly looked upon as easy. Forgiveness is tremendously difficult. Forgiveness begins with admitting wrong. Then we go to God. Then we try to make amends.

As Christians we often reduce forgiveness to saying sorry, while ignoring the need for restitution and reparation. Zaccheus is an instructive story. He faces the reality of sin and commits to giving restitution four times over. Fr. Lapsley has met so many people who have forgiven that they may be free. The word in Greek for forgiveness has its root in the word used for the untying of a knot. In Christianity we often use forgiveness as weapon against causing harm. We tell the wronged person to forgive without first acknowledging their pain. If their pain is first acknowledged, maybe then they can begin the journey to forgive.
Forgiveness is a choice. At Apartheid's end, millions faced prospect of forgetting and burying the past. But the decision was taken to instead acknowledge what happened through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

(Fr. Lapsley a shared a short video about the TRC)

For 5 years South Africans shared to their stories of pain. Lapsley wondered of the many who did not qualify to tell their stories (20,000 stories told in a country of over 40 million). Lapsley decided to take steps to create a workshop for healing of memories.  It is a 21/2 day experience for healing the memories of individuals on both sides of the Apartheid struggle.

(Fr. Lapsley shared a short video of an IHOM workshop).
(From the video) – The key is story-telling in the context of a journey. We choose the path of remembering and healing, rather than burying and forgetting. If we bury poisonous memories, they continue to damage and destroy – ourselves and those around us. The workshop culminates in rite of passage. Participants celebrate the step in their journey towards healing that they have taken through the IHOM workshop.

When people come to our workshop, we promise one step on a journey towards healing.
Lapsley is accompanied by Matoda, who is a member of the !Xhosa speaking people. Matoda was very moved by those he met here during his time in Maryknoll in 2009 and the stories he heard. 'My heart and dream for Maryknoll is that every wisdom and story can be captured'. He was a drama teacher in Capetown. He has participated in IHOM workshops which has been transformative for him. He has used his experience as a drama teacher to help those in workshops explore their painful memories.

Fr. Lapsley is often by members of the audiences he speaks to that he is a wonderful example of forgiveness.   However, Lapsley have yet to forgive anyone. He has moved from victim to survivor to victor. Still, he does not know who sent the letter bomb that maimed him. If the perpetrator comes forward, then forgiveness is on the table. . If the person who did this (sent the letter bomb) to Lapsley is a prisoner in himself, I have the key to his prison.  Lapsley believes a 1000 times more in restorative justice than in punitive justice (he was recently uninvited from speaking at a prison in the United States when the prison’s authorities discovered that Lapsley would speak on justice as a restorative process).  

Lapsley hopes that in his broken-ness he is evidence of what hatred and war does to people. But 1000 times more he wants to serve as a witness to the power of kindness, love and justice over hatred and war.
Lapsley dedicated his talk today to the Maryknoll martyrs, especially the four women martyrs of El Salvador.

Fr. Michael Lapsley

Time to forgive

Maryknoll Speaker Series Presents... Father Michael Lapsley, SSM

The Time Has Come to Forgive and Forget

Sunday, October 24th, 
2:30 p.m. 
Maryknoll Society Center
Free Lecture

Anglican priest and missioner Father Michael Lapsley explores how people can forget and forgive from both personal experience and a biblical perspective. For those struggling with everyday or extraordinary grief and loss, his story offers new perspective and healing.

Born in New Zealand, Michael Lapsley joined his religious order, the Society of Sacred Missions, in Australia. In 1973 he moved to South Africa, eventually becoming chaplain to both black and white students at the very height of the apartheid oppression. When he began to speak out on behalf of students who were shot, detained and tortured, he was expelled from the country.

In neighboring Lesotho he continued his anti-apartheid work and was targeted by South African operatives with a letter bomb hidden between two Christian magazines. Seriously burned, Fr. Lapsley lost both hands and the sight in one eye.

Since then, he's gone from victim to survivor to victor, helping to found the organization, The Institute for Healing of Memories.

Join us for this most timely and inspiring presentation. Admission is free and open to the public!

Maryknoll Society Center
55 Ryder Road, Ossining, New York 10562
RSVP: Colleen Brathwaite
(914) 941-7636, ext. 2445

Museum of Living Mission and Gift Shop open before and after the lecture.

Listen to the Voices of Our World interview with Fr. Lapsley on June 6, 2010

Tribute for Sr. Anna Boland

Aloha Fr. Joe,

I tried with no luck to put this on your website.

I received the news of Sister Anna's passing this afternoon, 23 October 2010.  Picking up our mail I saw a letter from Maryknoll and was sure of the sad news inside.  Sure enough.  I came out to the car crying and my wife asked me what was wrong.  We both sat and cried.
We had just spoken of her a few minutes before.  Nine days ago I had a stent put in and my wife asked if I that emailed Sister Anna.  I
told her that I intended to do that.

Sister Anna and I were third cousins.  Although I am twelve years younger we grew up in the same farming community in the Cox Creek
area of Clayton County in NE Iowa.  We had mutual great great grandparents, Daniel Ivory and Bridget Kealy Ivory who were married
in St. Michael's Catholic Church in Danesfort, County Kilkenny, Ireland.  We attended the same one room school house.  She actually
lived on the Ivory family farm a mile from where I was born.

I went to Korea to teach at Seoul American High School in 1963. Sister Anna arrived in 1965.  My wife and I retired in 1997 and Sister Anna a few years later.  She had attended our last Baccalaureate service for the Class of '97.  My wife and I were the speakers.

Sister Anna was a very important part of our lives in Korea. Many times we traveled the two hours to get to her clinic on week-ends. We would take some of our teacher colleagues and military doctors and nurses to met her and to observe her marvelous work.  I helped via the Officer's Wives Club to find funding for her work, especially anti snakebite medicine. I also took my photography students and some of my art students to the county and cattle market in her rural town and we would picnic with her in the shade of the sycamore trees.

Sister Anna was a wonderful human being.  My wife said today that Sister Anna was the most self-actualized women she had every met.
May she Rest In Peace.  She will be dearly missed by all of those who knew and loved her.

Michael F. O'Brien
PO Box 384899
Waikoloa, HI 96738-4899

BTW, Sister Anna and I were both year of the Rabbit!!  Did I ever meet you in Korea?  Fr. John Heisse was a very good friend of our. We first met him when I said Mass on Yongsan, 8th Army.

We also knew many of the Sister at Jeung Pyeong.
Denial is not good for your health.

Michael F. O'Brien
PO Box 384899
Waikoloa, Hawai`i 96738

Fourteen of my books on

Friday, October 22, 2010

St. Paul's letter to Maryknollers

The aftershocks continue rumbling just below the surface, suggesting something more visceral is at work. We would do well to attend to it before its toxicity infects the quality of life here at Mother Knoll.

I cannot help thinking some of the things said had no basis in reality. One man complained that the "monstrosity" didn't "say Maryknoll". Asked later what he meant by that, he "clarified" that the design had nothing to do with mission. Hmmm... in contrast to what? The tabernacle, altar, baldachino, stained glass windows, rood screen and crucifix? What does he suggest, draping a zebra skin over it?

Ah, but it is time to move on, especially after morning prayer today. Several Maryknollers suggested I post the reading from today's office. We could have used this advice last Wednesday, but we would do well to remind ourselves of these words at our next and every gathering.

Ephesians 4:29-32

"Let no evil speech proceed from your mouth; but only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you are sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, indignation, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. And be kind and compassionat to one to another; merciful, forgiving one another, even as God has forgiven you in Christ."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ambo ambitions

What our community chooses to do or not do with the ambo and more importantly the rage bubbling not far below the surface still remains to be seen. One member missed the meeting because he was on duty to accompany guys to the hospital and such an emergency arose. He was so incensed at the direction (or lack thereof) that the meeting took that he is ill disposed to do anything more for what he perceives to be an increasingly growing group of guys who do nothing but complain when somebody moves their cheese. Our non community is in danger of falling apart (or the facade of community is in danger of collapse) unless steps are taken to invite the men to work through the underlying issues.

In the mean time, I found the following definition of Ambo on the New Advent website informative and amusing, seeing as how tradition sometimes had not one but TWO ambos (or ambones) in early churches to---ready?---facilitate communications!


A word of Greek origin, supposed to signify a mountain or elevation; at least Innocent III so understood it, for in his work on the Mass (III, xxxiii), after speaking of the deacon ascending the ambo to read the Gospel, he quotes the following from Isaias (40:9): "Get thee up upon a high mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion: lift up thy voice with strength". And in the same connection lie also alludes to Our Blessed Lord preaching from a mountain: "He went up into a mountain--and opening his mouth he taught them" (Matthew 5:1, 2). An ambo is an elevated desk or pulpit from which in the early churches and basilicas the Gospel and Epistle were chanted or read, and all kinds of communications were made to the congregation; and sometimes the bishop preached from it, as in the case of St. John Chrysostom, who, Socrates says, was accustomed to mount the ambo to address the people, in order to be more distinctly heard (Eccl. Hist., VI, v).

Originally there was only one ambo in a church, placed in the nave, and provided with two flights of steps; one from the east, the side towards the altar; and the other from the west. From the eastern steps the subdeacon, with his face to the altar, read the Epistles; and from the western steps the deacon, facing the people, read the Gospels. The inconvenience of having one ambo soon became manifest, and in consequence in many churches two ambones were erected. When there were two, they were usually placed one on each side of the choir, which was separated from the nave and aisles by a low wall. An excellent example of this arrangement can still be seen in the church of St. Clement at Rome. Very often the gospel ambo was provided with a permanent candlestick; the one attached to the ambo in St. Clements is a marble spiral column, richly decorated with mosaic, and terminated by a capital twelve feet from the floor.

Ambones are believed to have taken their origin from the raised platform from which the Jewish rabbis read the Scriptures to the people, and they were first introduced into churches during the fourth century, were in universal use by the ninth, reaching their full development and artistic beauty in the twelfth, and then gradually fell out of use, until in the fourteenth century, when they were largely superseded by pulpits. In the Ambrosian Rite (Milan) the Gospel is still read from the ambo. They were usually built of white marble, enriched with carvings, inlays of coloured marbles Cosmati and glass mosaics.

The most celebrated ambo was the one erected by the Emperor Justinian in the church of Sancta Sophia at Constantinople, which is fully described by the contemporary poet, Paulus Silentiarius in his work peri ktismaton. The body of the ambo was made of various precious metals, inlaid with ivory, overlaid with plates of repoussé silver, and further enriched with gildings and bronze. The disappearance of this magnificent example of Christian art is involved in great obscurity. It was probably intact down to the time of the taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1203, when it was largely shorn of its beauty and wealth. In St. Mark's, at Venice, there is a very peculiar ambo, of two stories; from the lower one was read the Epistle, and from the upper one the Gospel. This form was copied at a later date in what are known as "double-decker" pulpits. Very interesting examples may be seen in many of the Italian basilicas; in Ravenna there are a number of the sixth century; one of the seventh at Torcello; but the most beautiful are in the Roman churches of St. Clement, St. Mary in Cosmedin, St. Lawrence, and the Ara Cli.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fallout over rusticating

OK, that was one of the most vitriolic house meetings in recent memory.

The dining room was abuzz long after the cease-fire was declared and, while respecting anonymity, I shall try to capture the spirit of the meeting. Remember those cantankerous town hall meetings last summer, when Tea Partiers shouted down all opposition? Child's play. Amateurs.

Things went downhill after Fr. José Aramburu delivered the dictum from the Super-G that the ambo experiment be postponed for one year to allow centenary celebrations to go on without distraction. About half the assemblage applauded. Normally that would make further discussion moot, but adrenaline and testosterone were already rampant. Later, one member of the liturgy committee vented his frustration with the General Council for waiting till the very last minute, literally, to quash the experiment. "How dare you? How dare you?" Chalk this up to yet another egregious lack of communication from on high.

When one member of the retirement community demanded to know who were the members of the liturgy committee, the man sitting next to him interrupted with "Expletive deleted, George, we just stood up and were introduced. Why don't you pay attention for a change instead of just mouthing off?"

That same man later apologized to George in front of the membership, but then added how George has been a "festering wound" in his side for many years. As of this posting, he didn't apologize for that back-handed apology.

But the fireworks didn't stop there. After several members pontificated about the ambo being a countersign to our service to the poor, a member of the liturgy committee vented how he was sick and tired of hearing guys complain about the cost of the ambo but no one wants to discuss the millions of dollars Maryknoll spends so its many retirees can "rusticate in Westchester". The murmurs were loud and long.

Only later at supper did I Google "rusticate" and learn it simply means to dwell in the countryside. By then, the damage was done and considerable umbrage taken by people who strongly resented the homophonous albeit unintended insult.

That being said (and much more was), discussion at my table went to a deeper level, namely, what is behind the strong emotions and vehemence over a piece of liturgical furniture?

One member inquired what the difference was between a pulpit and an ambo, and apparently the former is Protestant and the latter older and Catholic. In addition, I Googled ambo and learned it was Latin from the Greek amphi (as in amphitheater) and it meant a circular or semicircular place to speak...or run. So in a way it means to talk or run around in circles.

Check in next year for Ambo 3.0

Moot Ambo, for now

Moot point, for now

Torpedo 1.0

Vicar General Jose Aramburu, speaking on behalf of the General Council, asked that the implementation be delayed one year because of the upcoming Centenary celebrations. That nicely cut off discussion at the knees.

Ambo 2.1

The residents gathered for the monthly house meeting focussing entirely on the proposal by the liturgy committee to take the ambo out of storage and reconfigure the main chapel to accommodate it in accordance with liturgical guidelines.

Translation: we already paid big bucks for this ambo 10 years ago and, in deference to sound stewardship, shouldn't we at least try to use it and see how it goes?

Background: ten years ago, the liturgy committee, center coordinator (Fr. Mike Duggan) with the permission of then superior general Fr. Ray Finch commissioned a new processional cross, presider's chair, credence table and ambo by the Icarus Studios in Latham, N.Y. The design was to complement the architectural style of our main chapel. Two things threw a monkey wrench into the augmentation of these innovations. The ambo, which was to raise the dignity of the Liturgy of the Word, alas also raised the blood pressures of many residents when they saw how large it was. Placed next to the altar, it rivaled if not dwarfed it. Then it was learned that the total cost "rivaled the down payment on a house in Upstate, N.Y." and the proverbial fit hit the shan. Within two weeks the ambo was removed, dismantled and put into storage.

The proposal is to reconfigure the chapel like the Lady Chapel, but with the ambo farther down the main aisle, facing the altar, much like the set-up during the Triduum.

I shall blog the discussion next.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oktoberfest @ Maryknoll

Kartoffelpfankuchen, Sauerbraten, Apfelmuse und Spätzle (und natürlich Bier) haben wir heute Abend gegessen um Oktoberfest viel Spass zu machen.

Spaetzle station

Chef Mike cooks up another taste treat.

Oktoberfest @ Maryknoll

Saturday, October 16, 2010

World Mission Sunday 2010

Contrary to what the official Maryknoll pocket calendar says, World Mission Sunday is NOT tomorrow, October 17 but rather the following Sunday, October 24. But hey, that's an understandable mistake. Why should Maryknoll know when World Mission Sunday is anyway?

Of course I could be wrong. What would the Society for the Propogation of the Faith know about World Mission Sunday anyway?

Hey, but don't just take my word for it. Check it out for yourself:

Believing the Maryknoll 2010 Calendar, incoming vocations head Fr. Jim Madden and outgoing vocations head Fr. Dennis Moorman flew out to Indiana yesterday (despite a terrible windstorm that continues today) to tag-team on what they thought was World Mission Sunday. Of course, we can always explain away our chronological faux pas by saying that for Maryknoll, EVERY Sunday is Mission Sunday!

Meanwhile, unofficial word (read: believable rumor) has it that Fr. Leo Shea is temporarily singing "Jamaica, Farewell!" because he has generously accepted the Super G's offer to take the reigns of the Centenary Steering Committee---but not till January. Fr. Bob Jalbert has also graciously agreed to hang in there till December.

Those unsettling noises you hear are the members of the SubCommittee for Planning the Opening/FoundationDay/Closing Liturgies at Maryknoll, NY, stifling their gasps, shrieks, moans and other expressions of panic as they realize there are only three months left till the Opening Mass and the heads of the eleven (count 'em --11!) committees have yet to meet together so the fingers on the right hand know what the thumb on the right hand is doing.

Thus plans tentatively unfold for the Opening Mass for Tuesday, January 25, 2011 (The Conversion of St. Paul) least we THINK it's on Tuesday. Where's my Maryknoll 2011 calendar?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ambo 2.1

The House Committee today agreed to use all available means to communicate to residents the urgency of attending the house meeting next Wednesday, October 20 at 4 p.m. In the Asia Rrom.

At that meeting, U.S. Regional Fr. Duggan and the liturgy committee will revisit the Ambo controversy of ten years ago.

This is in the interest of communication and transparency.

This meeting will be to start the process of discussing the pros and cons of using the ambo and the suggested rearrangement of the main chapel that goes with it.

The suggestion is to place the ambo midway down the main aisle toward the back of the church but facing the altar.

Some things to consider:

1) Can the ambo even be reassembled, given its ten years in storage?

2) This is only done as a limited experiment with time to evaluate at the end.

3) Ample time for opinions and discussion will be provided.

4) The arrangement is not that different than that used during the Triduum.

Other aspects and considerations will be providedat at the house meeting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Commendation from ICCR

Fr. Joe LaMar was among six others in the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility who received special recognition from the 280+ member ICCR for their efforts to bring accountability and transparency among financial institutions involved in the current derivatives debacle. Congrats Joe, for a job well done, which also gives a positive public face to the role of religion in modern American society.

Speaking of which, at dinner tonight someone noted how little the General Council is seen around here these days, to which another Maryknoller, noted for his rapier wit and quick repartee, replied: "They're so transparent their invisible."

Fr. Roy Bourgeois was among the members in attendance at the retreat. I so wanted to see him and Bishop McNaughton at the same table to be able to report on if or how they got along. But such a scene did not transpire.

Roy did say the annual student march to close WHINSEC will again take place next month down in Fort Bennington, Georgia, despite loss of financial support for SOA Watch and the withdrawing of the Jesuits, ostensibly to concentrate efforts in the Washington, D.C. area. The Jebbies are at least more up front by acknowledging pressure from those in high places.

Last day of retreat by the numbers:

At the final afternoon session: 50

At the Holy Hour: 40

At the Happy Hour: 38

At Evening Prayer: five (Two Maryknollers, Fr. Tim Graff, and two guests of Fr. Dan Jensen.)
Sent from my most excellent iPhone

"All Maryknollers are co-founders"

Fr. Jim Noonan pointed out that in the animal kingdom, survival is not always to the strongest or largest or most powerful, but rather to those species that are able to adapt. In the Spirit of Vatican II he challenged Maryknoll to "read the signs of the times."

He called for new "Montreal moment" to inspire the next 100 years. He pointed out that 80% of religious congregations do not make it to the 100-year mark. Each member can do something to renew the Society. The Church, being so large, will survive but in a different form than what we have been accustomed to. So it will be with Maryknoll. The Mission of God will continue, but in ways very different than what we experienced.

This final session ended with observations from the men. It is my observation that optimism and vision and enthusiasm for mission are not restricted to the "younger" members. Some elders had dreams for the future far greater than the common wisdom that says there is no interest in refounding. Jim called all Maryknollers co-founders of Maryknoll in the next century.

My personal reflection on Maryknoll's reFOUNDing will appear soon .(Thanks to Jim Kroeger for catching this important difference! Would that there is also refunding of SOAW in the future!

Speaking of faith

My insight into this final day of retreat given by Fr. Jim Noonan is that it's not so much the what but the who. Ironically, Maryknollers seldom share (we hate that word, which could explain why there are no break-out sessions on this retreat) what they believe with fellow missioners. So what Jim said, (the need for prayer, love, compassion, justice etc. etc.) wasn't exactly a news flash. But it is edifying to hear a fellow Maryknoll speak about the importance of faith in his life.

Btw, Fr. Emile Dumas reports that many men in St. Teresa's residence are following the talks live via Channel 15, but they did request that the notoriously soft-spoken Jim Noonan SPEAK UP. This could explain Jim's suddenly lively and passionate portrayal of YHWH calling out for justice through the prophets. That certainly woke guys up here. No word yet on how this effected the guys at St. T's.

Jim's sharing of his ministry among HIV/AIDS people in Thailand were the most interesting parts of his talk IMHO because they were personal and lived experiences. This underscores what the Magazines and promoters have known for, like, forever: our stories are our most powerful resource for getting out the Maryknoll message..  

Final Homecoming

The ashes of Fr. Jack Corcoran, brought back from Nepal by Asia Regional Superior Fr. Alfonso Kim pictured here, were committed to the earth in our cemetery following a funeral Mass celebrated by U.S. Regional Fr. Mike Duggan.

As per Maryknoll custom, the flags of the countries where the deceased served were displayed in the chapel. In Jack's case: USA, South Korea and Nepal.

Almost 200 people attended this final farewell, including former classmates and Koreans from local areas. At the graveside service, after "Salve Regina"
several Korean grandmothers spontaneously broke out singing "Arirang" the quintessential Korean folksong. Maryknollers who worked on the ROK joined in.

Jack's ashes (personally I don't care for the portmanteau "cremains"...but then again I don't much care for the word "portmanteau") were divided between Nepal and here. Some defender of all things canonical kvetched that this was in violation of canon law. To this man I posed the counter-question: what does canon law say about dividing the body of Mother Cabrini between New York and Italy?

After harrumphs the discussion returned to normal fare: colonoscopies, the Yankees and the weather.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

International Day of Deliverance

(You see it here first!)

Wouldn't it be great if the United Nations declared October 13 the International Day of Deliverance in honor of today's on-going miracle in Chile?

What a refreshing change to have more than a billion people around the world watching something other than terrorist attacks, oil spills and vuvuzela concerts.

More than 200 countries sent news teams, including Yemen and North Korea.

Each October 13 the world can recommit to the spirit of this day and dedicate itself anew to working with anyone anywhere to free those trapped, in captivity or held hostage whether on or under the earth or sea, or within the darkened recesses of their minds and hearts.

Meanwhile, God bless Chile today. God bless their miners and all who risk their lives at work everyday.

Sent from my most excellen iPhone

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rapt attention

Afternoon session (Love-fest)

Here are some nuggets from this afternoon's talk from Jim Noonan:

Jim spoke about contemplative prayer to our group for whom "action is essential."

Service to the poor and to those in need is essential to our response as Church.

The Spirit will call us to offer different service in different circumstances.

Without prayer and contemplation, that quiet time for the Spirit to fill us, direct us and send us, it will be possible for us to carry on, but our actions will be radically different when we allow contemplation to influence our heart and the ways we relate to God, ourselves and others.

As this enriches our lives, it entities the lives of those with whom we relate; they, in turn, go and enrich others. Life has evolved and we are all interconnected. But are we aware if this?

Karl Rahner stated that in the future the Christian will be a mystic or will not be a Christian. We need to think of mystics as more than a few elite holy people. We start where we are and become conscious of being in touch with God here in the ordinary things of life. One who experiences the presence of God and in our hearts, and one who sees situations where God is not present or at least not evident, this person is a mystic.

Whatever our stage is, as long as we are conscious, we are able to respond to love and live around us. This has nothing to do with how active or busy we are, but rather how mentally and spiritually open we are. We must recognize the blockages that prevent us from growing: resentments, grudges, prejudices, fears, hurts---these prevent our spirits from flying and being free. 

We can be old, paralyzed and bed-ridden and still grow spiritually if we seek communion with God and others.

The fruits of contemplation are peace, love for others, connection, hopefulness and gratitude (which is at the heart of our Christian life). Jim suggests for each minute spent feeling sorry for ourselves, we spend ten minutes giving thanks for all we have and are.

The experience of mystery, awe before the presense of God here and now, a sense of wonder at the miracle of life and creation underpins our contemplation.

Retreat director

Father Jim Noonan, M.M.

U.S. Region and Retirement Community Retreat

By the numbers:

At the retreat: 77
At Evening Prayer yesterday: 7
At weekly rosary for vocations: 17
At the happy hour: 47


"Its always good when Maryknollers get together." (Fr. Mike Duggan, U.S. Regional superior) in introducing our retreat director.

Father Jim Noonan (Philippines, former Super G, Mekong, Washington, D.C.) directs our U.S. Regional Retreat this year, from October 12~ 14.

The theme is: we are on a marvelous journey that never ends. Every day we have the opportunity to deepen and experience our relationship with our selves, with others' with God and with all creation.

The meaning of life: loving relationships.

The more loving relationships we have, the more fully alive we become.

"Humanity has just entered perhaps the greatest transformation it has ever known..."
"We are mere fractions of our full potential."
"What we shall be has not yet been revealed."
"We are only at the threshold of our life as adults."

Relationship with ourself: become aware how lovable, unique and mysterious we are. We can go through life wearing masks, trying to be someone others think we should be or who we think we should be. We need to know. Our strengths and our weaknesses.

What we think of ourselves determines how we relate to others. Judging others destroys relationships and imposes a burden on us and leads on down a path that leads nowhere. The shortcomings in others that annoy us most usually remind us of our own shortcomings.

A retreat gives us time for silence and solitude to allow the Spirit of the living God to enter more deeply into us. The biggest distraction to growth in self-awareness and awareness of others, of God, and of creation is busy-ness.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Retro tech

Stepping boldly into the 19th Century

Several glass-encased (for transparency?), locked bulletin boards have been installed around the campus, with month-by-month calendar postings of centenary activities for 2011. New hand-written announcements appear from time to time as plans or dates are finalized. Several questions arise:

Who requested these bulletin boards? I presume they are the brainchild of the temporarily headless Centenary Committee.

Who keeps the key?

Who is responsible for keeping the info current?

Now for the main question: are we Maryknollers ever going to have access to a campus-wide computer calendar program so we can see at a glance which groups have which dates and which rooms for which meetings? This would certainly make planning easier. Events and groups could be color-coded and only those responsible for a given category could input, but all could see what's coming up. There is such a calendar used by the Center Coordinator but, as yet, no one but the office staff can see it, let alone input information.

But rest assured, I.T. is looking into it. (DHYB)

But speaking of Centenary activities, while the Mass on St. Michael's Day (Sept. 29) celebrating the Maryknoll Brothers marked the unofficial start of festivities here at the Center marking our 100th year here, pride of place goes to St. Mary parish in Wilmington, North Carolina. The pastor and former Maryknoller, Monsignor Robert J. Kus, held an event last September 11, 2010, attended by Fr.Dave LaBuda, marking the 100th anniversary of the close of the Eucharistic Congress in Montreal, where Fathers Walsh and Price first conceived the idea for a U.S.-based mission seminary. Coincidentally, the idea was to come to birth nine months and two weeks later.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just desserts

Head chef Michael McLoughlin & Sodexo Manager Margaret Sheehan prepare to deep fry a delectable delicacy akin to the ever-popular zeppoli that went like hot cakes. (You gained two kinds just reading this.)

Br. Kevin Dargan (and everyone else) partakes of the taste treats.

Fr. Mike Duggan learns resistance is futile.

Diet killers

Honey Crisp Apple & Cranberry Fritters

50,000 calories each.

Our sexual identities (That got your attention!)

Here is the third and final installment of last week's presentation by Fr.Gerry McGlone of the St. John Vianney Treatment Center in Philadelphia, on Affective and Healthy Celibate Development.


Case history---the Vancouver twins: in 1966 one boy was accidentally maimed during circumcision and it was decided to reassign him sexually and that he'd be raised as a girl. Psychologist John Money oversaw the transformation, mistakingly thinking the boy could then be raised as a female. He assumed male and female characteristics could be learned and developed socially, independent of biology. Big mistake. Even after ten years of therapy, the boy never identified as female. He spoke out publicly against random sexual reassignment surgery. In 2004, after years of severe depression, financial failure and a collapsing marriage, he committed suicide. Money admits he had totally misread the complexities of sexual identity.

We expend way too much energy trying to be someone we are not. It won't work. If you want to develop the skill to relate in an intimate way, we have to learn to  recognize, acknowledge and express our deepest desires.  

Individuals who consistently go beyond themselves and are genuinely concerned with others are measurably more mentally healthy than those who are not relational and who increasingly close in on themselves.

We reduce our feelings to mad, sad, glad and angry. We must learn to express more emotions to be balanced and healthy.

We isolate and disconnect in religious life. Do we listen to one another in community? Do we spend time with one another? Can we connect with members of our community?

Young people are attracted to contentment, enthusiasm, honesty, and sincere concern in their elders. They will want to join a community that creates such members. Conversely, cranky, bitter, grouchy old men repel potential vocation prospects. Unless the young spend time with the elders and the elders share their stories with the younger members, they will never develop as men.

Can we priest and Brother one another?

First comes the call to discipleship, then comes our conversion.

Attentiveness to the other's needs opens us up to helping one another or at least be aware of the other's existence.

We Maryknollers are not trained for community life, it is not a Maryknoll charism nor our experience overseas, yet here we are together at the Center, often resentful of the circumstances that got us here. We have to be a brotherhood of brothers. How do we manage our feelings and sexuality? How do we get our legitimate, celibate needs met? How do we rediscover the connections here that we experienced overseas?

We isolate in community, settling for relationships of convenience, because we are afraid of true intimacy, of loss, of hurt and we do not acknowledge the need to grieve past losses or hurts.

How do I embrace the moment, feel what I need to feel, grieve and let go and move on to live fully? Are we open to permanent, intimate relationships that will sustain us, even though we have to eventually say goodbye?

If I do not know the God who created my body, how can the Incarnation make any sense? We are passionate and alive to the degree to which we are in touch with our deepest longings.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pray for the Maryknoll Sisters

We were all saddened earlier this week to learn of the sudden and unexpected death of Maryknoll Sister Dr. Anna Boland. She'd been visiting her sister in Ohio, felt tired due to a strong cold, and passed away in her sleep. Along with wonderful times together in Korea, I shared a birthdate with her. Her elegant and caring presence will be missed.

Today comes even more shocking news that Sr. Pat Startup was found dead in her room this afternoon after coming down with a cold a few days earlier. Sr. Pat was my age and in otherwise good health, so this comes as an even greater shock. Sr. Pat had worked on their vocations team a few years back and was working at the Sisters Center. Finishing her term on development, she was looking forward to working in Brazil..

Please pray for the repose of their souls and the consolation of the Sisters.

A mighty fortress is our HQ

Mr. Peter Murray, head of physical plant and center security, addressed a special house meeting this afternoon about security measures going into effect October 25, 2010.

Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick explained the desire to strike a balance between protecting our private residence and maintaining the public areas of our chapels, classroom, lecture halls, exhibits and gift shop. He said the Sparkhill Dominicans have a much more strict security than the one we are implementing. PaulIsts in Washington, D.C., have a link to the local police should an intruder break the security circuit at night.

A DVD of Pete and Father Richard Callahan explained the new procedures. The main entrance is always available without a swipe card. These swipe cards will replace the old X-key. A lost card can be decommissioned without inconveniencing others.

There are nine doors the swipe card will open. No other doors will open from the outside. All doors can be used as an exit. The X-key will no longer work after Oct. 25, 2010.

Pete and Mr.Al Vitiello answered questions about accessing the gym, why some doors work with the card but others don't, and the new electronic beam that automatically unlocks the door for egress. "Tailgating" (when two or more people enter with one swipe) should be avoided. No one should confront a stranger who enters this way, but the person should be reported to security.

Mr. Mike Reddy, from health services, stressed that the safety of the residents is paramount. Not to be alarmist, but he recounted how a neighbor was murdered during a "home invasion."

Outside groups still use our building on a regular basis, notably 12-Step programs.

Although we have a sign-in book at the reception desk, many people enter without signing in and there is no way to check if they signed their real name.

The security men emphasized that this is only phase one. The upper, residential floors will be secured like the F-Wing is now.

Finally, Br. Tom Hickey from assisted living, will try to make sure all residents have a swipe card.

No word yet if metal detectors and strip-searches will be required in the future.

Special visitor

We were honored to have with at Mass and lunch today Ms. Mildred Frykberg, a life-long supporter of Maryknoll. And that's saying something. Mildred is 106 years old! She remembers the sinking of the Titanic in 1912!

Fr. Ernie Brunelle is shown here holding the microphone so Mildred could thank Maryknoll for the warm welcome. She also expressed her gratitude to the Blessed Mother for many graces received over the years.

On this feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Fr. Mike Walsh also consecrated the new icon of Our Lady of Maryknol,l which will normally be in the main chapel and brought into the Lady Chapel for Marian celebrations.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Wonder of It All

Three items

THE WONDER OF IT ALL, a photographic exhibit of views around the Knoll during the four seasons, by Fr.Paul Belliveau, M.M., opened today in the Spellman Room. Paul's work reminds us of the beauty all around us here, whether natural or architectural. A group of about 25 employees and Maryknollers gathered for bagels and coffee as Paul cut the ribbon on the exhibit which will run till October 20, 2010.

Fathers Mike Duggan and Dennis Moorman became certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioners following their three-year-course in this specialized area of therapy and counseling. We have all heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D.), but somatic experiencing recognizes how the body has a memory of its own and stores up trauma in physical, as well as psychological ways. Given the many areas of violence and abuse in our world, this is a most needed and welcomed ministry. Congratulations, Mike and Dennis!

At the weekly Monday rosary for vocations the fourteen men who gathered for prayer around the Founders' Tomb each drew the name of a man in formation and will pray for that seminarian or Brother candidate the entire week, when new names will be drawn. Given we had 14 guys at prayer and 12 candidates, two of them are getting doubly prayed for. In this way we strengthen the spiritual bond between us and guys in Formation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Welcome to the Knoll!

Fr. Jim Madden officially starts his new assignment as Vocation Director by getting acquainted with his
new-fangled iPhone.


Fr. Tom distributes the pie as guys enter.

More partiers!

Pizza Party!

Welcome to the Retirement Community

At a pizza and beer party in the Sheridan Room, Fr. Tom mcDonnell welcomed new members to the Retirement Community: Br. Al Patrick (who was absent--again--like he was the first time he was welcomed); Br. John Frangenberg, Br. Dave McKenna (retired since 2005); Fr. Gerry McCrane; Fr Dave Pfeiffer; and Fr. Bob Donnelly.

Fr. Jim Madden was formally welcomed to his new post as director
of vocations, but Jim, too, was absent--no doubt meeting with one of many prosects. (Or trying out his new iPhone as he learns to speak the language of American youth.)

Fr. Charlie Cappel was again feted for hitting the 93rd milestone.

Sent from my most excellent iPhone

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kairos moments

Here is the second installment from the talk on Affective Celibacy here at the Center last week by Fr. Jerry McGlone, S.J., director of the St. John Vianney Treatment Center near Philadelphia.

Enough guys continued discussing these topics days after the talk, so several men are proposing getting together in small groups on a regular basis to continue the conversation.

Taking our Chronos (ordinary time) and using it for Kairos (God's time).

What do people say about priests today? Here are some responses: pedophiles, irrelevant, dedicated, holy, selfless, out-of-it, perverts, prophets...and everything in between. One man suggested there is a disconnect between those priests who work with the people on a regular basis and those who work in an office for the bureaucracy.

Following the sex scandal, many priests feel sold out by the hierarchy (thrown under the proverbial bus); in religious life, members feel abandoned by their leadership.

This is God's time, whether we like it or not. We would be foolish not to read the signs of the times. Do we really believe that something good can come out of this sex abuse crisis? The delusion we live under every day is that time is all about us. Our response is key, this is our choice and responsibility in freedom to live in the reality of the moment. 

"We cannot chose the time in which we live, all we can decide is how to use the time we have been given." (BTW, that's Gandolf's line from LOTR).

This moment is either opportunity/grace; or darkness/sin.

What we talk about is rooted in our pasts. Our sexuality did not develop in a vacuum. We have a vision of what we can become, that is the promise of the covenant, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in whose footsteps we walk to seize the day, the hour, this moment---and live!

We have an on-going formation we must be about, always unfolding. 
How does all this relate to Addiction and our Culture of Addiction?

Usually we face a both/and situation. We learned about sexuality in silence, and in community. It's always about intimacy. Anything that leads to secrecy and silence leads to addictive patterns.

The Church is not just about us here in Maryknoll, or the local parish or our small community, but rather it embraces the whole world. We need the bigger vision while living in the here and now. How well do we mission here at Maryknoll among one another? Do we show even half the attention, the detail to one another as we do to the people we serve?

Mary's "Fiat" becomes our saying "Yes" to life and possibility.

What is sexuality? Where do we first learn about it? In the street or schoolyard? From our friends or from family? Not one man here said he learned about sex from our parents. Sexuality, on the other hand, may be observed at home. Sex became si meting secretive, not out in the open, and not knowledgeable.

Celibacy, on the other hand, was learned or referred to in the seminary. It was the obligation for one who wanted to become a priest or Brother. It was seldom explained or talked about, so it too deformed in secrecy and silence. We seldom share our stories.

A "sexual celibate" seems an oxymoron. We expected to get "zapped" with the grace to remain celibate. And when this doesn't happen...?

St. Ignatius Loyola taught: "In matters of celibacy, be like the angels." Not a big help. What was the Maryknoll teaching on celibacy? How did we learn to assimilate all those feelings and changes our bodies were undergo in?

The younger members expressed a more earthy understanding of sexuality, and formation afforded opportunities to talk about sex with women as well as men. So there is a big generational divide between older and younger members. Our sexual templates are formed over many years from many sources, for good or ill. The younger men currently in formation and those considering joining are much more relaxed about talking openly about sexual matters. (But what happens when these men encounter formators not equally open or relaxed discussing sexuality?)

We are sacramental, incarnational. All the sacraments are about touch and physicality to express spiritual truths.

Where did we learn how to be celibate? Trial and error, observation and by being Imperfect. We must recognize our sexuality as part of our God-given identity and humanity.

This fed into the "Lone Ranger Mentality" and why older Maryknollers--like the average American man--have difficulty trusting and relying on others. Like an undertow or rip current, we survive only by going with the flow. It starts with the creative crisis of the churning of the sea by some far-off storm. How do we respond to the currents tugging at us? Is this not connected to the same call to vocation and relationality for which we have no role model. We must face and embrace our imperfection. That is incarnation.           

Friday, October 1, 2010

Remember when all this was rice paddies?

Well, after last night's and today's torrential rains, it is again!