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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Paying respects, fulfilling the gospel

Yesterday at the behest of Superior General Ed Dougherty, Fr. Mike Duggan (U.S. Regional Superior) and I went to the consulate of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in New York City to pay our respects as North Koreans mourn the death of their leader, Kim Jong Il. Prior to our going, Doc cleared it with local Maryknoll Korea superior Fr. Gerald Hammond who makes about 10 visits to the DPRK every year with the Eugene Bell foundation.

Yesterday's visit is similar to a gesture made in 1994 when Kim Il Sung died.

The consulate is located on the 13th floor of the Diplomatic Center at 820 2nd Avenue, a few blocks from the United Nations. Mike and I presented ourselves at the door in Roman collar and sporting our Maryknoll badges. After a moment's scrutiny via the peep-hole, a man opened the door to greet us and invite us into a small office, sparsely appointed.

We introduced ourselves in Korean, which seemed to both please and confuse him as he sized us up. We were careful to use the North's word for both the country and the language ("Cho Sun") as opposed to the South's word for the same: "Han Guk". He took our coats and after having us sign in, he directed us to a smaller room where a large portrait of the Departed was draped with black ribbon and surrounded by at least 30 floral tributes of mostly white flowers used by Koreans to show mourning.

An official photographer appeared to capture our corporal act of mercy as first I, then Mike, bowed, stood for a moment of silence and then made the Sign of the Cross.

Another man emerged, so the four of us schmoozed a bit. I mentioned how I had visited Pyong Yong in 1989 with Fr. Paul Mun who, along with South Korean student activist Im Su Kyoung was jailed in the South for visiting the North without permission. They remembered both.

I also mentioned how Fr. Hammond visits the North with the Eugene Bell Foundation and that Mayknoll first went to work in Pyongyang in 1923. THAT finally impressed him.

Mike and I signed a special book of condolences and added prayers for the peaceful reunification of the Korean people. Our hosts asked for a business card which we didn't have, but they offered a notebook to get the full title of Maryknoll in both English and Korea and my contact info.

Yesterday's Divine Office had prayers asking God to help us break down barriers that divide people. Hopefully our small gesture yesterday planted a seed.

Were the North to one day open itself for full time missioners, I'm there!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New crèche in dining room

The Infant Jesus was the last figure to be placed in the new Nativity set in our dining room. This set was made in China and was offered at BJ's Wholesale for just $100! The figurines all have cloth adornments.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas concert success and other achievements

What with marathon confessions at local Korean church all last week, I have been remiss in posting about our Christmas concert last Friday which was an overwhelming success on many levels.

It debuted Mr. Chris Reilly as our new music director. Since September he did a masterful job getting us prepared. He seemed quite at home and at ease before the packed house.

One regrettable note is a bad cold prevented Father Mike Duggan from singing the solo number he had prepared.

Thanks to Mike Virgintino for advertising the event and we once again performed to an overflow crowd, with the Lady Chapel and Sanctuary accommodating late arrivals. Unlike last year, the choir did not have to surrender our chairs!)

Refreshments and two Santas greeted the people after the one hour+ concert.

The next day was the Lay Missioner and Sisters Sending Ceremony, which, being on a Saturday, I did not attend. On the following Monday we mercifully and masterfully drew our Centennial celebrations to a close.

At 7 p.m., after super, we reassembled at the back of our main chapel and, with glow sticks (for merriment as well as safety) about 100+ Maryknollers and friends processed into the darkness singing Christmas carols. We stopped briefly outside St. Teresa's, sand a song, and then, with two patrol cars from Ossining Police with lights blazing and blocking Route 133, crossed the road to the Sisters'. At midspan, Superior General Ed Dougherty handed over the Processional Cross to Congregation President Janice McLaughlin.

A brief prayer service followed in their chapel, followed by a HUGE sigh of relief from the Fathers & Brothers that our year-long festivities are at last over.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Day of Recollection

Fr. Jack Rathschmidt, ofm cap., and former faculty member in our School of Theology, gave us a talk on Advent gratitude. He gave kudos to Fr. Bill Frazier whom he described as one of the best professors he ever knew.

In the preface of the Mass for the Dead we read "for those who believe, life is changed, not ended."

He shared an image of Dr. Elizabeth Johnson who wanted us to imagine ourselves in a huge stadium filled with people, all our deceased friends and relatives, cheering us on who are still on the playing field, daily working out our salvation.

Gratitude is at the heart of the meaning of Eucharist. Jack offered gratitude for Maryknoll and Maryknollers who are, in his words "in my bones." He quoted Meister Eckhart who said, "If we utter no other prayer, let us say 'Thank you' and that will be enough."

Today is the feast of St. John of the Cross, who once said, "Whether a bird is tied by a thread or a rope, it is still bound. Our task is to free ourselves from what holds us back and fly into the mercy of our all-loving God."

We think of those who "laid hands" on us and passed on to us the traditions that make us who we are and compel us to be the visible sign of God's love (Hebrew: hesed) in the world.

Like with a mother's love, God's love for us is total, gratuitous and unconditional.

God cuts the thread or rope that ties us to the world of allurements and insanity and compulsions, because we do not need these. Our only proper response is gratitude.

If we are willing to die to our fears, our illusions, our self-absorption, only then will we realize God is enough for us.

Baptism is the dying to this old life and rising to new life in Christ.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advancing the Cause

Monsignor Richard Mathers, from the New York archdiocese, has been interviewing Maryknollers here these past few days to gather personal testimonies in support of the canonization of Bishop James A. Walsh. The interviews last two hours and ask how the life, spirituality, example and possible canonization of our Co-Founder would impact and inspire the individual missioner. To date, eight such interviews have taken place.

When the topic was first broached two years ago by the Centenary Committee, the consensus was the Maryknollers would support the effort IF it leads to a rekindling of the mission spirit by Catholics in the Church in the U.S.

The cause for Father Thomas Price's canonization is being promoted separately by the Church in North Carolina.

In the race to official recognition of sainthood by a Maryknoller, bets are on Father Vince Capodanno and Bishop Patrick Byrne to get there first. Both are martyrs, thus alleviating the need for hard-to-find and harder-to-substantiate miracles. Capodanno has the full weight of the U.S. military behind his cause; Byrne may be included in the next batch of Korean martyrs to be canonized that consider modern martyrs in the 20th century.

While Bishop Francis X. Ford certainly qualifies as a modern martyr, popular wisdom suggests his cause is on the back burner as relatations between the Vatican and the Peoples Rebublic of China would not benefit from this complication.

One wonders, then, what's stopping the canonization of Archishop Oscar Romero?

Politics? What politics?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Our Lady of Maryknoll greets visitors to the Exhibit

Centenary souvenirs to take

Gifts from Korea

Gifts from Colombia

Gifts from Taiwan


MEPD National Meeting

Every Maryknoll mission promoter, educator, and assistant from around the country has been involved in a series of all-day meetings that started yesterday and continue till Friday.

The wonderful result is that we have a full house of energetic and creative mission promoters who are talking about things other than recent ball games and medical procedures (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

The priests and deacons among them are taking turns presiding and preaching at our daily 11:30 liturgies. (Although, truth be told, Koreans attending the English Masses offered at the church in Queens seem to have adapted to the new translation of the Missal better than our guys.) Despite having cards with the new words, you still hear guys making the wrong response, or trying to finesse it into the new response. Thus, "Lord God of posts" combines power and hosts.

In other news...

Since December 1, the Spellman Room has had an exhibit of all the artifacts, gifts and programs that have come in from around the Maryknolll world to commemorate our Centenary. Of special note is a small book on a stand in the middle of the room inviting everyone to write a "message to the future." This book of greetings, prayers and good wishes will then go into the NEW time capsule that will be reset into our cornerstone to be opened circa 2061. (When, presumably, the Chinese Buffet and Casino that will occupy this place will struggle to find someone who can translate from the dead language of English into Mandarin.)

Btw, the contents of the first time capsule from 1953 that Fr. Dougherty opened last month have been put on display in the Founders Shrine in the middle of the First Floor M Wing.

Things are looking great for our Christmas Concert this Fruday, Mission Sending Ceremony on Saturday, Centennial Closing Liturgy next Monday (Dec. 12), employees Christmas party on Tuesday the 13th and Advent Day of Reflection on Wednesday, Dec. 14, with Capuchin Father Jack Ratschmidt (of MST fame) offering us his thought.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

World AIDS Day Mass & Eucharistic Adoration

December 1 is World AIDS Day. For many years, the Maryknoll AIDS Task Force under the capable leadership of former MK lay missioner Ms. Susan Weissert, held many moving and meaningful activities here at the Knoll in conjunction with this date.

Alas, Susan's mandate and the Task Force ended two years ago; double alas, AIDS is still hitting the people of the world, especially the poor, very hard.

Last year the day came and went without fanfare. This year, albeit on short notice, our community Mass tomorrow will be offered for all the Maryknollers around the world who minister to people with HIV/AIDS. Plus Eucharistic adoration will follow in the Lady Chapel from noon till 5:00 p.m. with people (hopefully) taking 30-minutes to one hour shifts. Then Evenin Prayer at 5 will be followed by Benediction.

We encourage you wherever you are around the world to spend some time in prayer for the people who have died of AIDS, those who live with the disease or HIV, as well as for the Maryknollers involved in this important ministry.



Artifacts from the Time Capsule opened two weeks ago, along with displays from Centennary activities around the Maryknoll World, and many of the beautiful banners, plaques, statues and pictures we have received, will be showcased starting Thursday, December 1 till our official closing liturgy on December 12, Feast of Our Lady of Guataluoe.

A momento book will be available for people to write their prayers, greetings and good wishes to the Missioners of 2061. That book and other new artifacts will be placed in the cornerstone and sealed for the next 50 years.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Catholic Youth Gathering (Updated 11/25/11)


Fr. Leo Shea returned to Mother Knoll long enough to give a glowing report of the bi-annual gathering of the National Catholic Youth Conference. This year's conference took place in Indianapolis and attracted some 20,000+ teens plus another 2,000 adults, staff, vendors from around the country.

Maryknoll managed two booths and all entities were represented. From the Society were Frs. Shea, Jim Madden and Brs. John Blazo (who could be an exhibit all by himself) and Joe Bruener. Brother Candidate Ryan Thibert came from our formation house in Chicago to help us speak in the language of the young'uns. Assisted by Ms. Giovanna Soria from our Revista staff, John manned the "prayer block" counter where people were invited to write prayer intention on small wooden blocks. These are then brought to Maryknoll, NY, and become part of the "Prayer Hut" in our Visitors Center. Likewise, they taught the teens how to fold origami peace cranes, which also adorn the Prayer Hut. Mr. Bill Gordon, from our media department, took some great pix and video of these activities.

Mr. Greg Darr, who heads our MEPD office in Chicago, kept crowds interested with the "Maryknoll Mission Map Challenge" and invited the kids to write notes to Maryknollers or family and friends and engage them in conversation about mission. They also gave out t-shirts, "The Radical Bible" (Orbis) and small mission crosses. These supplies ran out after two days of the three-day conference.

There were also five Maryknoll Sisters there as well, and as soon as somewhere gives me their names, I'll post them here, along with the Lay Missioner and Affiliates present.

Leo says the young people were very interested in Maryknoll and mission work.

Let's hope this translates into a big boost in both inquiries and acceptances into our formation programs.


The first of two Thanksgiving celebrations was held Monday. Regional Superior Fr. Mike Duggan was main celebrant and homilist. The lay mission candidates and staff attended the Mass and joined us for a Pre-Thanksgiving Happy Hour and dinner. Last year we had Fr. Stephen Taluja; this year Mr. Merwyn DeMelo representing the Indians at our feast.

A second Thansgiving Dinner, sans Pilgrims, Indians and just about everybody, will take place tomorrow on the proper day.


Correction to previous post: My grammatical construction and poor choice of verbs created the false impression that the one-woman show by Lisa Wagner was sponsored by the Amistad Catholic Worker house of New Haven. In fact, the presentation was totally sponsored by Maryknoll, with proceeds going to the Catholic Worker house in memory of the late Maryknoll Father Tom Goekler.

The next day I spent a delightful coffee break in the dining room schmoozing with Tom's twin sister, other sister and two brothers-in-law who came from East Haven specifically for the performance.



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Chinatown North (欢迎您 !)

About 40 young people from Transfiguration parish in New York's Chinatown are at Maryknoll today and tomorrow for a retreat. Fr. Ray Nobilletti is their pastor and it is great having them around, not only bringing life and vitality to Mother Knoll, if only for a couple of days, but also lowering the median age by 50%.

If these young people are anything like my Korean youth group, the dining room will sound like we are back in our Asia missions. (Although truth be told, the vast majority speak English like the native New Yorkers they are!)

As member of both the house council and the all-(self)important Food Committee, I tried to impress on Ray the sacrosancticity (is that even a word?) of meal times. For lunch, large groups are asked not to go to the dining room until 12:30 and the same holds true for dinner. Groups should go down at 6. This way the Maryknollers can eat and run/hide if they so choose. There are some members in whom the Maryknoll spirit of hospitality still flourishes and who go out of their way to stop and say hi and give words of welcome to our visitors.

The other "rule" is that no group should go to dinner at 6:30, when the kitchen staff is supposed to be breaking down the food service and cleaning up. Sorry to say, a recent group did just that and the staff was forced to stay and work way past their normal quitting time. As this group was a "repeat offender" this became a serious enough issue that it will be brought up for discussion at our next house meeting in December.

Very few want to close Maryknoll off to outside guests. I certainly don't. That isn't the Maryknoll way. It's hard enough living in a retirement home/assisted living/museum. Take away the visitors and we are little more than a mausoleum. But we have two conflicting values at work: hospitality to guests vs. justice for employees. It simply isn't fair to our workers. If guests (and especially the Maryknoller hosting them) cannot keep to the meal schedule, then that group should not be allowed back.

We do want to keep our Center as a place where people can come and breathe in the mission spirit. But we do not want to do this at the expense of losing the goodwill of our employees.

On a totally unrelated note (except as member of the house committee, food committee and liturgy committee) I did raise three safety issues at the house meeting last Wednesday that I failed to mention in this blog.

Corridor lights should stay on all night. I know some well-intention (I hope) soul keeps turning the lights off outside my room. (Is he trying to tell me something?) While we appreciate the desire to save electricity, we should also want to spare someone a fall requiring hospitalization. Also, with our increased emphasis on security, we do not want intruders to have dark corridors to lurk in. (Having told this to the community, someone still turned off my hall light that night. *sigh*) Of course, some Maryknollers did not attend the meeting nor watch on Channel 15, which makes this blog more important---except they probably don't read it!

The second safety concern: guys saving seats in the inning room by leaning the chairs up against the table. Besides aesthetics, the protruding legs can easily trip up someone carrying a tray of food and unable to look down. (We nearly lost someone that way.) I noticed that this egregious practice is usually done by visiting Maryknollers who won't be around long enough to visit the man in the hospital they caused to trip.

Seats can be saved simply by placing a few items (utensils, napkin, glass) on the table indicating the place is taken.

And the last safety concern: using the sanctuary (Blessed Sacrament Chapel) as a short-cut to Mass in the Lady Chapel. Even the velvet rope restricting access doesn't dissuade the die-hard (and more lazy than pious, IMO) members from cutting across. TWO men have already taken bad falls in this way when they did not clear the step.

Ah, life in community!

Friday, November 18, 2011

One-Woman Show

Ms. Lisa Wagner brings Dorothy Day to life with a dynamic performance last evening at Maryknoll.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Goings-on at the Knoll

Here are some brief snippets of things happening around the Knoll these days:

The eastern region Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) is meeting here this week. Much of their discussions will center around the Presidium workshop. (Either I'm getting old or these superiors are getting younger each year.) It is nice to have an almost full house again.

At the monthly house meeting yesterday, we spent most of the hour bracing ourselves for the imminent changes to the English Mass. First of all, even the smaller chapel edition weighs a ton. How the older men serving as acolytes will be able to hold this for any length of time will be a challenge. Fr. John Kaserow, our house liturgist, suggested we may have to set up a stand in front of the presider's chair to hold the book.

But that's the least of its drawbacks. The committee who translated this may be experts in Latin, but they know squat about the English language. Here's the basic error with literal translation from Latin: it sounds awkward at best and stupid at worst in English.

I made this point when I met with the Sunday school teachers last weekend to prepare them for the changes. "Gamsa hamnida" translates from Korean as "Thank you." The response is: "Chun maneyo" but the literal translation is not "You're welcome" but rather "Ten million." Makes absolutely no sense in English.

Ergo we get stuck with "consubstantial" in the creed. And don't get me started about the Spirit descending like "dewfall." (Cat Stevens, call your publicist!)

Anyway, the burden falls on the celebrant to make the Mass prayerful, perhaps requiring a greater miracle and mystery of faith than Transubstantiation.

Lastly there was a moving, one-woman performance in our Asia Room on the life of Dorothy Day, entitled "Haunted by God." The show was sponsored by the Armistad Catholic Worker house in New Haven, Conn., in memory of Fr. Tom Goekler who worked there and who passed away a year ago in Honduras.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

For posterity

Ms. Kathy Brophy records this historic moment for Channel 15. Mr. Valentino
Concha-Nuñez does same for Revista Maryknoll. Others gathered to witness the extraction and opening of the Maryknoll time capsule following the 11:30 Mass today, November 16, 2011.

From one superior to another

Fr. Dougherty reaches into the excavated cornerstone to extract the time capsule that hasn't seen the light of day for 58 years, when placed there by then superior Bishop Raymond Lane.

Hidden treasure?

Fr. Dougherty displays newly extracted time capsule to the assembled Maryknollers and employees.

Another opening, another show

Mr. Al Vitiello, from physical plant, helps open the rusted and corroded
box sealed in the chapel cornerstone since 1953.

Voices from the past

Fr. Dougherty opens the time capsule and describes the 20+ items placed there by Bishop Lane in 1953.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans Day

Note the shadow of the photographer!

Things to be thankful for

Yesterday about 20 Maryknollers gathered around the Celtic Cross at the top of our cemetery for a brief (thank God, it was freezing!) ceremony to honor the many deceased Maryknoll veterans. Fr. John Kaserow lead the service that included singing "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." Every year, twice a year, Br. Kevin Dargan does a great job making sure each veteran's grave has a marker and flag.

Fr. Ed Dougherty, superior general, announced via email to all the members that the cause for canonization for one of our founders, Bishop James A. Walsh, has (finally) been officially opened. Why there was a delay of more than ten months (It was supposed to have opened last January) was not divulged. We conspiracy theorists are left to our overactive imaginations to speculate as to why Rome is now more receptive to things Maryknoll.

Catholic New York (The archdiocesan newspaper) did two very excellent pieces (an editorial and the entire center spread) on our Centennial. If I can figure out how to post their URL (weblink) I will do so.

Three evergreens will be planted in loving memory of our three founders: Bishops James A. Walsh, Fr. Thomas F. Price and Sister Mary Joseph Rogers. The two for the Fathers & Brothers will most likely be planted on either side of our main chapel. The site for the Sisters' tree is to be announced.

To symbolize the transition from our Centenary to that of the Sisters', the Maryknoll Processional Cross, containing relics from each Founder as well as from deceased Lay Missioner Joe Honnerkamp, will be brought over to the Mother House following the closing liturgy on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12.

Listen carefully for the HUGE collective sigh of relief as the Centenary of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers comes to a close.

(Now, where were we in our discussions about the ambo????)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

All Souls

Yesterday afternoon about 25 Maryknollers gathered around the Founders' Tomb for a special prayer service for the repose of the souls of the 720 deceased Maryknollers buried here and around the world.

Father John Kaserow conducted the service assisted by Fr. Ernie Lukaschek.

Snowstorm damage

Last Saturday's Nor'easter played havoc on many of our trees, both newly planted or long established. Some will be trimmed back, but many, like this one, will have to be removed. Ironically, this tree had replaced another one destroyed by a previous storm.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

National Catholic Reporter (NCRonline)

Here's what our friends at NCR had to say about Sunday's Mass:

Sent from my most excellent iPhone

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Procession of flags

These are the 47 countries Maryknollers served these past 100 years.

Protesters in support of Fr. Roy

Several protesters braved inclement weather to show their support for Fr. Roy Bourgeois across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Streaming the Cathedral Mass

OK, folks, at 2:00 p.m. EDT you can watch Maryknoll's Centenary Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral live on your computer by logging on to:

(I am still trying to activate the direct link!)

As you may have heard, there was a freak Nor'easter yesterday that dumped 8+ inches around Westchester and points north, knocking down leaf & snow-laden trees, branches and utility wires. Quite a mess.

I, for my part, was spared (?), because I had a wedding at St. Patrick's yesterday, followed by a junior high school students' retreat out on the Island. My wedding gig (the first for me at the cathedral) did give me the opportunity to scope out the ever elusive bathroom facilities. Interestingly enough, guests from the serial weddings occurring yesterday were give access to the bathrooms. Of course, 20 is a lot different than 2,000.

Once I get back from the Mass today, I will post my observations, but then I shall take two days off to recuperate from PCF (Perpetual Centenary Fatigue).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Annual Halloween Parade


This is either Maryknoll employees getting ready for Halloween or the beginnings of the Occupy Maryknoll Protest.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mission Central

Religious superiors and council members began arriving today from around the United Stated, Canada, Mexico and Colombia for the annual meeting of Mission Institutes & Societies of Apostolic Life (MISAL) that begins here tomorrow.

I am presuming (always dangerous, to be sure) that said superiors will also participate in the Centenial Mass this Sunday at St. Patrick's Cathedral at 2 p.m.

The Maryknoll Centential Choir holds its final rehearsal this afternoon for that Mass.

But the BIG news is that, after MONTHS of memos and meetings, we will be streaming the Mass LIVE, not just via Chanel 15 but over the Internet, so anyone can watch no matter where they are in the world. (Granted, our guys in Asia might not be disposed to watch at 2 a.m., their time, and just wait for the DVD; guys in Latin America can watch at a reasonable hour and Africa can view it at 7 or 8 p.m.)

Here is the URL to watch via the Internet:

Of last minute àgita: the Cathedral staff notified us today that there were not enough chairs to accommodate all expected 75+ concelebrants as well as the 50+ member choir, so the singers either stand or go up in the back choir loft where we'll need walkie-talkies and telescopes to know what's happening around the main altar.

The one saving grace of the choir loft idea is that, unlike the cathedral itself, there is a bathroom up there.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Now departing for Fields Afar

Fr. Stephen enjoys one last coffee break before heading to Cochabamba.

The mission continues...

Fr. Stephen Jaideep Taluja, our youngest if not newest Maryknoller, leaves today for his first overseas mission assignment to the Latin America region. He will refresh his Spanish at our language school in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and travel around the region to discern where he will eventually work.

Born in Punjab, India, in 1981, Stephen converted to Catholicism from Sikhism at age 16 while attending a Catholic school. He immigrated to the States in 2000 and made his first contact with Maryknoll shortly thereafter and was ordained in 2009.

In addition to his native Punjabi, Hindi, and English, Stephan speaks Spanish, and has dabbled in Aymara, German, Greek and Hebrew. We hate him.

Being the new breed of Maryknoll upstarts, Stephen eschews our time-honored (?) tradition of ringing the tower bells whilst the assembled community waves goodbye (a lá the Munchkins to Glenda) as his car drives around the front circle three times before heading off to fields afar, which for now means the local airport.

Before finally getting his assignment overseas, Stephen assisted at Transfiguration parish in New York's Chinatown. His youth, energy, popularity and personable style apparently intimidated someone and his tenure there (along with two Chinese priests who also assisted) was prematurely terminated (let the reader take note.)

In a word, Stephen can't get overseas fast enough and so we wish him Godspeed in this new chapter of his mission vocation.

Awkward segue: one very nice addition in the new Roman Missal is a special preface for one or several missionary martyrs. Not that anyone should get any ideas. I shall be offering salient comments, pro and con, on the new translation in future posts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Learning how not to fall

Learning how to age with grace

Dr. Dennis Klima, from the department of physical therapy at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, gave a full-day workshop today on fall prevention, and coping with Alzheimer's and dementia.

About 55 Sisters and 20 Fathers and Brothers attended. It was also streamed live on Channel 15 to those who didn't want to venture out of their rooms.

After Br. Wayne, I was the second youngest at 63. Although I have yet to fall, my memory has never been all that good, so I figure this was as good a lesson as I was about to get on how to grow old gracefully.

In a way, we "younger" guys who live here at the Knoll are blessed. After all, how many "normal" people have access to 83 different examples on how to age?

I have a friend who is dealing with his aging mother. She drives him nuts. But his greatest fear is that he will be as difficult as she is.

That's when I appreciated the treasures we have here.

This perception was validated by a vocation prospect who came for the tests and interviews as part of the admissions process. He had never visited Maryknoll before, but has long felt he had a call to missionary priesthood. He was really impressed at how the residents here seemed really to enjoy each other's company. He even said to me, "That's how I want to be when I grow old." (I thought to myself, "Yeah? Stick around a few more days!")

So maybe the men here don't realize that their mission work is far from over, and how they age speaks as much to the gospel and kingdom of God as any work they did overseas.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sign of new life

A new elm tree was planted today in the quadrangle to replace the 82-year-old elm that gave up the ghost a few months ago.

This is a sure act of faith: to plant a tree under whose shade you will not sit.

Renewing Maryknoll

Marist Brother Sean Sammon gave a wonderful, week-long retreat to the retirement community as well as the residents here in the main building. From everything I heard from the men, they appreciated his simple, straightforward presentations.

Here is a synopsis of his talk on Thursday, offering us the Virgin Mary as the model of discipleship.


There is a dying and rising that we must be about, individually and as an institution. Renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to get out of the way.

While the future may be with the Laity, there are still people called to exclusively religious life. The 1960s may have been an aberration with regards to numbers of vocations. We must look back over a whole century to get a more realistic view.

Many young people do not know a priest, Brother or Sister personally.

Young people have more choices than we did a few decades ago.

Some congregations have made a conscious decision to die. This is a shame because the congregation does not belong its members, but to the church.

We can create a fatalistic atmosphere or be open, inviting and welcoming.

The younger generation has not been catechized as we were.
They live in a world filled with questions.
The young are not conservative or traditional. They do not really know the past as we know and lived it. We must enter a dialogue with them.

A cross-section of young people show the same range of opinions as we have.

We must keep an open mind about views different than ours.

Imagine what parents think about the realities of religious life.

Each of us and our lives are the best advertisement for religious life.


Mary is a model of vocational discernment. She pondered these things in her heart.

Jesus is the ideal vocation promoter. "Come, follow me."

Vocation is tied up in our life dream. On whom or in what do you place your heart?

Most young people don't feel worthy of religious life.

Young people have a great respect for priests and religious.

Mary at the Annunciation:

A call
Many questions
Growing awareness that the call comes from God
Leap of faith.

A vocation is not a one time call, but a life-long conversation.

For some it begins in the high school years or university.

First reaction: let's hope these feelings go away.
The persistence of the Lord.
What can we do to change the perception?

Prior to Vatican II we knew who we were.

There was reinforcement for making this choice.

We began to ask: what makes us different?

Families became less sure about who wears.

What encourages young people to join today?

Zeal for mission
Love for people
Love of God
Spirit of welcome and hospitality.

Young people prefer priests, brothers and sisters who are personable, approachable, outgoing; less comfortable with those who seem remote or stern.

Retreats and "come and see" programs are effective.

It's a mistake to wait till after a prospect is post college graduation.

Families are smaller now; young people make commitments at a later age, they have more choices.

Celibate chastity doesn't make sense to a number of young people.
Target specific age groups (high school and university age students).

,Be a living example of God's Good News.

Young people are looking for answers, stability, rediscovering traditional practices of faith.

They believe in external signs. (Habits, crosses, tattoos [I added this to see who's paying attention.])

Talk to individual young people and resist temptation to stereotype or generalize.

They are looking for active community life and a vibrant life of prayer.

Are some of our present structures and attitudes doing more to discourage vocations rather than promote them?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Let us eat cake!

Feting Bishop McNaughton

The U.S. Regional and Retirement Community retreat pauses to congratulate Bishop Bill McNaughton on 50th anniversary of ordination to the episcopacy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Rockin' Knollers


All we are saying is give peace a chance.

Knollstock & Town Hall Meeting

The weather FINALLY. cooperated to allow our annual Employee/Maryknoller picnic to take place in the space between the Price & Walsh buildings. Many dug deep into their closets to take tie-dye threads out of mothballs and put flowers in their hair. For some (like me), the 60s are only a top drawer away.

The "Rocking Knoller" band (Frank Enzerillo, Janice Singer, Bill Gordon, Holly, Cindy Lynch, Eddie Gonzales, Dave Agosta, Anthony Giadoso, Paul Lonce) put on a great performance of Joplin, Grateful Dead, Chicago and Guthrie tunes that got people, including Super G Fr. Ed Dougherty, complete with love beads, dancing to the beat.

Alas, I could not find the necessary ingredient for my special brownies (where can you buy chocolate at 11:00 p.m.?) so we made due with delicious, homemade flan and other desserts.

Following the picnic, the crowd migrated to the Asia/Africa Rooms where Fr.Dougherty held an open town hall meetting. For the first half hour, he reported on Centenary events. Doc announced the Closing Ceremony for the Centenary will be Monday, December 12 (Our Lady of Guadalupe) with Mass at 4:15. A special exhibit in the Spellman Room will exhibit artifacts and souvenirs of our year from around the world.

The recent edition of the St. Anthony's Messenger had great coverage of our centenary written by former Maryknoll Lay Missioner Mike Lavery.

Doc had great praise for the missiological paper prepared for this anniversary by our theologians.

Doc then recited a litany of the various Centenary celebrations around the country, as well as in Rome, Asia, Africa and Latin America. And we look to the big Mass at St. Patrick's on October 30.

Maryknoll has gotten several inquiries from Africa to help with the various refugee situations. The Guadalupe Fathers, (Mexican missionaries founded by Maryknoll Bishop Escalante, have become our heirs in the mission fields.

The results of an emplyee survey were alluded to. Ms.Adriane Glass, head of HR, reported that, among other things, employees have a clear understanding of Maryknoll's mission. A desire for clearer communications (sound familiar?) was expressed.

HR is always looking to compare and improve employee health benefits.

At this point, the special brownies that I didn't eat started to kick in, so I spent the rest of my conscious time concentrating on the fascinating pattern on the drapes. Oh wow.

I woke up for the Q & A. A request was made to set up computer kiosks for those individuals who don't have access to email at work. Another inquired about the compressed, four-day week introduced by the last council, that many see as disruptive and counterproductive. A committee will look at alternatives. One asked that voicemail be used to reinforce communications.

Doc then gave everyone the rest of the day off.

As soon as this happening ends, I'm crashing up in my pad.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

(WAY too) Moveable Feasts

KNOLLSTOCK, the four-times postponed Maryknoll employees and members picnic, was once again postponed till tomorrow when, for the first time in WEEKS, there promises to be sun and NO RAIN! Yay!

The picnic goes from noon till 2:00 p.m. and has a Woodstock theme. People are encouraged to wear 60ish style clothing, although truth be told, I couldn't fit one leg into my bell-bottoms from that era.

Of raised-eyebrow interest is the invitation to bring "themed deserts". I have threatened to bring my "special" brownies.

Then it was learned that following the picnic, we will have a Town Hall Meeting with our superior general, the general council and as many employees and members who care to attend. In this case, I think my special brownies should be mandatory.

This evening at 7:30 p.m. at St. Theresa's church in Briarcliff, NY., Fr. James Martin, S.J., will have a conversation about his latest book: Between Heaven and Mirth——Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life.

The author of ten books, including The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. Fr. Martin is all the rage in the Catholic speaker circuit and has appeared numerous times on Stephen Colbert's show, The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.

When Jim spoke here at Maryknoll last year, he packed (and then brought down) the house.

Which brings up a great proposal by Mr. Ken Woodward, of Newsweek magazine, who hosts this speaker series. Given that so many attend from Maryknoll each time, and given their limited space at St. Theresa's, the suggestion is that we move the venue here to Maryknoll in the future.

I think this is a great idea, IMO, and will be great for all involved as well as good stewardship of putting our facility at the service of the community.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

More news from the Knoll

On this great and glorious feast of St. Therese of Lisieux (the Little Flower) and one of Maryknoll's patron saints, I have some news to report.

First, the case of the mysterious motion-activated camera down in our lower woods seems to have been solved. Apparently one of the six outsiders who have special permission to hunt here with bow and arrow each fall set up that camera without the permission or knowledge of either Fr. Dick Callahan or Fr. John Hudert, who attend to our property. The camera is now gone.

But I heard from another Maryknoller that PETA has been known to raid our woods and destroy the aluminum ladders the hunters affix to the trees to better view their prey. Seems like everywhere's a battleground around here.

"Knollstock", the 60s-themed picnic for MK employees and members, (postponed twice already) has been postponed again till this coming Tuesday. We have been asked to dress in our best Hippie outfits, find long hair and sing protest songs. An e-mail also invited us to bring "themed desserts." The mind reels at the possibilities, but I guess that's the point.

Finally I am happy to announce we have finally hired a new music director. Mr. Chris Reilly will direct our Christmas concert, as well as lead music here on Sundays, for funerals, ordinations, jubilees etc. even as Ms. Lucille Naughton wraps up her remarkable career with us spanning four decades. Her last official duties are directing the music for our Centenary Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on October 30, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. and our Centennial Closing liturgy at Maryknoll, NY, on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Best of luck to both Chris and Lucille!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Civil vs. ecclesial disobedience

Picture it: March 19 (St. Joseph's Day), 1970. I and 16 other members of the War Resisters League were arrested blocking the Selective Service Office building in Albany, NY, to protest the war in Vietnam. We would henceforth be referred to in the Albany Times Union as "The Albany 17." My claim to fame was captured in the article as, "One youth sustained a bloody nose."

I raise this specter of the 60s to clarify my understanding of what civil disobedience entails: you see an injustice, you selectively and peacefully break a law, you take the punishment and you hope this focuses attention on the original injustice.

I also raise this to help myself clarify my own very conflicting emotions surrounding Fr. Roy Bourgoise and his precent predicament vis-a-vis the Vatican and Maryknoll.

Before espousing the cause of women's ordinations in the Roman Catholic Church, Roy made a name for himself as the founder of the School of the Americas (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) Watch in Fort Benning, GA. SOAW contends many of the more notorious tyrants and murderers of church people of Latin America are graduates of the school and it should therefore be closed.

Each year near the anniversary of the killings of the six Jesuits and their housekeeper and her daughter (November 16, 1989) by graduates of the SOA, tens of thousands of protesters, most of them young people, carrying coffins and crosses bearing the names of the thousands killed or disappeared in Central America, demonstrate outside the gates of Fort Benning. The demonstration culminates in some people intentionally "crossing the line" onto the base and therefore breaking the law. They INTENTIONALLY break the law to get arrested to focus media and, hopefully, the country's attention on the anomaly of having such a base on U.S. soil and supported by U.S. taxpayers.

Roy himself was arrested many times in the past and spent four years in federal prisons, often in solitary confinement (I guess so his presence doesn't corrupt the other prisoners). The judge made it crystal clear that should Roy get arrested again, he's going away for a long, long time. Subsequently, Roy has not "crossed the line", at least civilly.

Which brings us to ecclesial disobedience. Roy knew he was crossing the line by participating in an attempted ordination of a woman. And the punishment he incurred was excommunication. By continuing to speak out publicly on this topic, he now runs the real risk of dismissal from Maryknoll.

I understand Roy's case is now before the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples to decide whether or not the dismissal from Maryknoll is warranted.

Them's the facts.

What I still don't understand is, why fight the consequences of an action designed to provoke precisely these consequences?

Roy's "street cred" in the forefront of the women priests movement is enhanced by his excommunication and pending dismissal from Maryknoll. Forever he will be presented as a priest who paid the price for his solidarity with women.

Thanks to erroneous reports in no less a paper as the New York Times, most people think Roy has already been dismissed, even though the process has not played out. Maryknoll has paid the price amongst many erstwhile supporters, even though Fr. Dougherty, our superior, told me specifically, that Maryknoll would continue its financial and medical support of Roy no matter what.

What is to be gained by either side in interminably prolonging this process?


On a related topic, Fr. Ray Finch, up from Cochabamba, Bolivia, to attend the various centennial gatherings and upcoming mission symposium at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, reports a development in women's ability to become Yatiri (native healers) among the Aymara in the altiplano. Many people may not be aware that the Yatiri in Bolivia, Peru and Chile face the strictest selection standards in the world. To become a healer, one must be struck by lightning——and survive. Most do not, Ray says. But the interesting point is that for the first time, WOMEN who survive a lightning strike are being accepted as Yatiri!

Ah, but the Buddhists of Thailand have gone this one better, according to Br. John Beeching. Since it is against the law to harm a monk in this predominantly Buddhist country, to protect the endangered forests from loggers, the monks ordained the trees! And it worked! Loggers refused to lay a hand (or a saw) on these consecrated trees.

In fairness, though, I must confess we don't know the gender of these pious plants.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

St. Michael's Day

Community members gather after Mass this afternoon for a special happy hour and meal in honor of St. Michael, patron of the Maryknoll Brothers. Men interested in joining may inquiry at

Happy Birthday, Margie!

Ms. Margie Elliott Sheehan, food service manager, and her twin sister Cathy, get a surprise birthday party by Maryknollers and employees. Cathy is 50, but Margie's age is a secret.

Great food, friends, family and fun!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The choice is ours

Roman Missile

As the above photo shows, publishing houses are vying for our business with the new edition of the Roman Missal that will replace the soon-to-be-suppressed Sacramentary starting this Advent. Maryknollers are invited to check out the nine samples on display in the Spellman Room and select which version they like best. Editions vary from the very elaborate and ornate tomes going for $500+ to the humbler, no frills versions for $89. And several in between. The liturgy committee will then buy several copies for the many chapels in our Center. Individual Maryknollers may also order a personal copy for retreats and private home Masses (assuming these will still be allowed).

You laugh? Have you checked out what the diocese of Phoenix is implementing in the not-yet-determined future? They are curtailing the number of times Communion under both species may be offered to the laity. You may read their official document here: as well as read their reasoning, among which is that too frequent Communion under both species risks the Sacrament becoming "commonplace." Google it for yourself, and read the blogosphere which is all abuzz with not-so-positive reactions.

You may read one such blog here:

One blogger speculated that by drastically decreasing the number of times the laity receive the Precious Blood, they effectively eliminate the need for so many Extraordinary Ministers cluttering up the aisles. First came the return of kneeling during the consecration; can altar rails be far behind?

To be fair, I don't know of many parishes that offered Communion under both kinds on a regular, let alone weekly basis. And special occasions (weddings, funerals, retreats) are exempt, as are religious houses.

Coincidentally (?), Eucharistic Adoration is enjoying a come-back. This succeeds in putting the pesky laity back in their place in the bleachers, as the Eucharist once again becomes a passive spectator sport. Surely somewhere in the Dead Sea Scrolls, (now available online!) Jesus must have actually said, "Take and stare at this; this is my Body. And don't even think of drinking my Blood except on rare occasions outlined in your diocesan directory." Of course, Jesus said all this in Aramaic and God only knows what Jesus really meant.

On a sadly tangential note: last week at a meeting of Directors of Religious Education in the diocese of Brooklyn, auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano mentioned how one of the oldest extant chalices in the Vatican museum is made of glass and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The bishop was visibly moved by the theology that maintained the vessel was secondary to its precious contents. As Mary let the divine presence shine through her flesh into that of her Son, so too did this transparent chalice focus attention on its most holy contents. Then he added, almost wistfully, "Of course, nowadays this wouldn't be allowed."

I suggested to Fr. Leo Shea, Coordinator for All Centenary Committees, that among the artifacts we are considering putting into the Centenary Time Capsule, we might include the Sacramentary which passes into oblivion this November. Wouldn't that be divine justice if, in 50+ years, the people open the capsule and see how Mass was done in the later half of the 20th Century? They might rise up and demand that their female bishops return to the Traditional Vatican II Mass in English and forgo praying the liturgy in Latin.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Haitian Day (finally!)

After first canceling because of Hurricane Irene and then being unable to find enough buses the following Labor Day weekend, the annual Haitian Day at Maryknoll is finally happening!

Prayers bombarded heaven this week as the weatherman threatened not just rain but deluge. It did pour last night, and today it is overcast, but no rain is predicted for today. The sun may even peak through. The temperatures are in the mid 70s, so it's perfect for this type of outdoor event. An estimated 500 people will attend for prayers, talks, Mass and even a procession with a statue of Our Lady of Maryknoll.

Maryknoll Fr. Romane St. Vil coordinates this yearly gathering from among the Haitian communities from as far away as Staten Island and Long Island.

Many thanks to Maryknoll Father Ed Szendrey for sending in this photo.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bishop Pardy's Cremated Remains to be transferred

Tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel on the second floor, Father Mike Zunno will gather with the family of Bishop James Pardy (d. 1983) to offer Mass as the urn containing his cremated remains is escorted to Cheong Ju, Korea for reinterment.

As a point of clarification from the initial blog on this subject (Aug. 9, 2011), the Pardy family was not involved with the decision to cremate. When Fr. Dougherty received the request from the Cheong Ju diocese to have the bishop's remains exhumed and transported back to the diocese he founded, Fr. Dougherty phoned the family and got their permission. The topic of cremation did not arise.

As the project unfolded, the Society realized there was a huge amount of paperwork, permissions and expense involved to transport human remains across international borders, so it was decided that cremation would best facilitate this process. Regrettably, the family was not informed of this and only learned of it by reading Knollnews. The family asked that a clarification be made, stating they had only given permission for the exhumation and transferal of the remains and were not consulted or involved with the decision to cremate.

Maryknoll sincerely apologizes for any hurt or confusion this may have caused.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Your guess is as good as mine

So there I was, walking Hopi through the path in our lower woods yesterday afternoon as is our daily wont, when a flash caught my eye. There, affixed to a tree about 20 feet from the path, was a motion-activated camera. Odd place for a security camera, I thought to myself, since no one had reported stolen leaves or tree limbs. So I called physical plant.

Mr. Al Vitiello arrived on the scene and once again, the camera flashed. He didn't know who had put it there or why. A call to our security office quickly ruled them out as the owners of the camera. Two remaining suspects, as it were, would be Fr. John Hudert who is known to frequent this sylvan glade throughout the year, whether to trim the undergrowth or cross-country ski; or our former chef who is an avid bow-and-arrow huntsman this time of year and may be staking out a position for future prey. In any event, 24 hours have past and we have yet to identify the camera's owner. (Could THIS be the Scotch tape on the door of a latter-day Watergate?)

Meanwhile, continueing my walk Hopi and I happened upon this sight in our lower cemetery:

My first guess was that this is a grave for someone's pet boa constrictor. But Al explained that after 30 some-odd years, it has been decided to put in proper drainage for this level. (Talk about "Ewwww" factor.) We aways knew the water table at this section was inordinately high, but with recent rains, and several more days of deluge expected this week, it was agreed that this unintended burial at sea need no longer put a damper on things, so to speak. (For the curious and less squeamish among you, Google "saponification.")

In other news....

Tomorrow's much hyped KNOLLSTOCK (Employees & Knollers picnic) which this year, as the title suggests, has a 60s theme, complete with bellbottoms, long hair and tie-died shirts (although I suspect other more, shall we say, psychotropic aromas shall be regrettably eschewed) HAS BEEN POSTPONED TILL NEXT THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29th, due to the aforementioned heavy rains. This is particularly ironic, since the original Woodstock was, in fact, held in the pouring rain with everything and everyone covered in mud.

Then again, maybe the 60s theme is simply acknowledging that we aging hippies are now in our 60s.

You know what they say about the 1960s: if you can remember them, you weren't there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Where's Alice? (or yet another Moment of Zen)

One trip down the rabbit hole I failed to mention last week in all the hullabaloo, was the Primary election that wasn't.

Since we are our own election precinct (so as not to unduly influence local elections with our preponderance of registered Democrats), the equipment was set up in our Spellman Room last Tuesday to allow for voting.

Several awkwardnesses arose. First, the funeral of Br. Jude Conniff took place that day, necessitating the rolling out of his coffin right through the polling place. (Wait till the Board of Elections hears about that!)

Second, it turns out one had to be a REGISTERED Independent to vote, since no other parties' candidates were contested. Upon inquiry I learned there are a grand total of six registered Independents here, as opposed to about 30 Republicans and 123 Democrats. (I understand the Right to Life party died.)

Third, they apparently sent the wrong ballots here, so for the first several hours no one could vote because we had the ballots from the town of Cortlandt.

Lastly, at the end of the day, I asked the four poll monitors how many of the six had actually voted. Ready? Zero!

Well, all was not a complete waste of time as these civic-minded citizens got to read ALL of our literature and pamphlets while waiting for Godot to vote.


Monday, September 19, 2011


Granted I was only back to the Knoll by suppertime Monday, but the reactions from the troops to the prayer petition to petition (the General Council on behalf of Fr.Roy Bourgeois) during the closing Mass on Saturday were as follows:

"Totally inappropriate."


"Disrespectful in the extreme."

"A pageant of Narcissists."

"Why didn't he (Episcipalian priest, Fr. Frank Alagna) do this at any other time during the weekend?"

At least one Maryknoller walked out during the incident.

To be fair, several Maryknollers surely must have agreed or otherwise approved this action (The petition during Mass). If there are, they have yet to inform me of their support.

And to be honest, not all the negative reactions came from just the elderly and the conservatives among us. One guy way younger than I (by almost 20 years) and at least as liberal, was incensed.

If I could gauge the rage, it seemed more at the fact that this took place during the Eucharist, and was led by someone no longer in Maryknoll, that seemed to fry people's rice most.

In the coming meals I shall make a concerted effort to find supporters of the petition, if not its timing, so you may have a more balanced reaction. Assuming there is one.

One older Maryknoller took it all with a grain of salt and put the onus on Superior General Ed Dougherty for interminably drawing out this process. "Get on with it, already," he said.

Another member added, "We didn't abandon Roy; he abandoned us." He's contemplating writing a letter to the highest authority with the greatest influence (No, not the Vatican; the National Catholic Reporter) petitioning Roy to publicly apologize for what he's doing to Maryknoll.

Happy Centennary!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mass hi-jacked?

Word reached me from multiple sources even down in Queens that there was an incident during the closing liturgy for the Maryknoll Alumni weekend.

The first sign that something was up was when the prayers of the faithful went on longer than the homily. Among them was one asking Maryknoll to "do the right thing" in regards to Fr. Bourgeois and not dismiss him from the Society.

But things really got interesting post Communion, when, instead of the normal announcements one would hear at a parish Mass about upcoming rummage sales and pot-luck suppers, former Maryknoller and now Episcopalian priest, Father Frank Alagna stood up and announced a signature drive to petition the General Council on behalf of Roy. He invited people to sign after Mass during supper.

Fr. Leo Shea, the main celebrant, took this in stride and even used the opportunity to read a letter to the assembly he had received from Roy, expressing his regrets for not being able to attend. Roy also asked all not to forget the lessons they all learned at Maryknoll and that at times like these, it is necessary to break the silence and raise one's voice on behalf of justice.

The steering committee seemed as blind-sided by this as others were. So far, the reactions I heard went from shock to outrage, but like I said, I will have to wait till I get back to the salad bar on Monday to gauge the real reactions.

Thus, the elephant did not even have to be in the room to dominate the discussion and have the last word.

Who knows? Maybe more people will want to start attending Mass at Marykmoll. You never know what might happen.

Mass at last

Since I am away from Mother Knoll most weekends from Friday evening till Monday morning, I rely on other sources for important info that might transpire in my absence. To that end, I am grateful to Fr. Ed Szendrey for pointing out that the very successful Alumni weekend will culminate with a liturgy, i.e. Mass in Queen of Apostles Chapel.

It was good to see so many friends from years past, and greater still to have our halls bristling with life, laughter and enthusiasm. Kudos to Mr. Dave Brown and all his committee for all their time, dedication and hard work in putting this weekend together.

It is extremely edifying to be reminded that the Maryknoll spirit is not confined to these walls and continues long after men are no longer in Maryknoll. This is about as smooth a segue as I can muster for another posting on "The Situation."

I was among five people cc-ed a cancellation from a local college who had reserved space here as in years past for their annual youth ministry workshop. They cited that after prayerful consideration, they could not condone Maryknoll's "abuse of Fr. Roy." This has been the only group to cancel because of L'Affaire Bourgeois.

Meanwhile, Fr. Pete. Ruggere sent me the following letter to be posted on this blog:

Sent: 8/25/2011 6:34:31 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subj: Fwd: Roy you are in good company
Hello Joe,
Could this be put on the Knollnews blog? Thanks.
Pete Ruggere

To: info@soaw.or
Sent: 8/25/2011 6:29:58 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subj: Roy you are in good company
Hello Roy,
In this  very difficult time for you I hope this will be a consolation.
When St. Thomas More was on trial for his life, he had to chose between publicly recanting his beliefs or death by beheading, he said:
 " things touching conscience, every true and good subject is more bound to have respect for his said conscience and to his soul than to any other thing in all the world beside." 
(source:  Ackroyd, Peter   The Life of Thomas More, Doubleday, 1998)
Pete Ruggere MM



Friday, September 16, 2011

Ecumenical and interreligeous vespers

In lieu of a Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy, (a.k.a. Mass) which one person was overheard as considering "too Christocentic" (?!), the Maryknoll Alumni gathered this afternoon for a prayer service in remembrance of all deceased classmates.

The service will include Protestant, Buddhist, Sufi and Jewish, and Native American elements, among others. This may strike some as odd until you remember 1) This is taking place at Maryknoll, NY; 2) Many former Maryknollers have not only left the priesthood and brotherhood, they have left the Catholic Church and 3) Many have continued ministry in other Churches, notably Lutheran, United Church of Christ and Episcopalian.

The singing of "Dona nobis pacem" gave this a certain "Requiem for the 1960s" feel.

In that light, there is something about this prayer service that is quintessentially Maryknoll.

Sic transit gloria Maryknoll

The outdoor tennis and basketball courts have seen better decades.

Where AYSO and IBM once played, the soccer field, though not decrepit and overgrown, stands idle due to over-vigilant lawyers and insurers.

Twenty-five years ago, instead of renovating our indoor pool to bring it up to code so elderly missioners might use it, it was converted into a half gym which no Maryknollers now use.

The Walsh Building transition to the new HQ of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in exchange for the Bethany property has been put in unexplained abeyance.

Some members see increased security measures as further limitations on freedom.

We have much to mourn.

Sent from my most excellent

Art exhibit

Artist Monique Cerundolo

The artist speaks with Fr. Jim Madden, vocations director, former MKer Bill Gilligan, former MLM Bob Short. Fr. Ken Thesing is in the foreground.

A meditation on grief & hope

Dedicated to the memory of deceased Maryknoll alumni, especially Fr.Steve DeMott, "faithful friend," artist and chaplain Monique Cerundolo, of Boston, tells a gathering of alumni how important it is to acknowledge and celebrate our losses. These may be in the form of closing of institutions, schools and other apostolates where we may have spent important parts of our life.

We in Maryknoll have much to mourn. And only in healthy mourning will we pass safely over to a future of hope.

Orbis power houses

Mr. Robert Ellsberg, Orbis executive director, chats with Ambassador Diaz prior to the presentation.

Ambassador Miguel Diaz speaks

His Excellency, Miguel Humberto Diaz, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, (and 4X Orbis author) addressed the alumni gathering. Ms. Marie Dennis, head of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns introduced Tom Quigley, long-time advisor to the U.S. bishops conference on justice issues and Latin America, who introduced Ambassador Diaz.

A summary of Diaz's remarks:

On behalf of President Barack Obama, he congratulated the Maryknoll Society on our Centennary.

It surprises many people that a U.S. Ambassador speaks so many languages. This is just one example of change we can believe in.

Maryknollers are agents of such change. Just as Our Lady of Guatalupe appeared on a hill in Mexico that the good news might go out to all in Latin America, so too from Mary's Knoll, 50 kilometers north of NYC, the message of Jesus goes forth to the poor and marginalized around the world.

But oneness is not to be confused with sameness, and we should take care not to further isolate already marginalized people.

America's motto: E pluribus, unum. Out of many one. Issues of justice and peace often confront problems that arise from our perceived differences. We all work for the common good, that celebrates diversity. The pursuit of the common good cannot be separated from work on behalf of justice.

The on-going displacement of people's (more than 200,000,000 by U.N. estimates) shows the urgent need to overcome our differences. In the catholicity of the Church, we have witnessed E Pluribus, Unum.

President Obama underscores that America is a rich tapestry of diversity, with mutual interdependent and diverse parts. Policies and practices should not force undividuals to exist on islands of isolation.

If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation, to the benefit and service of the common good. We need a new way of seeing to recognize differences and still celebrate diversity.

We must acknowledge that people can experience multiple belongings: ethnic, cultural, racial and religious. Our desire to be One must not be at the cost of exclusion of others.

Fear of others and their otherness has been a pathology that has infected humans for millennia. Otherness is constitutive of unity, not a consequence of unity.

The Christian notion of the unity of the human race takes its inspiration from the Trinity. The Maryknoll family is familiar with contemporary understandings of the human person. You responsibly embrace the differences in others. We are, by nature and by faith, missionary beings, oriented toward reaching out to others different than ourselves precisely to realize the underlying unity of the human race.

Being American and Catholic has enabled Maryknoll to respect human differences as you live out the best of our world, our nation and our church.

Diplomats and religious leaders need each other to help translate our message of peace and justice and mutuality into understandable terms that people different than ourselves can understand.

This was the miracle of Guadalupe; this is the mission of Maryknoll.

I invite all of you here, all Maryknollers, and myself into translating the message of peace into all the diverse languages and symbols of all the cultures of the world.

Maryknollers have committed their lives to this vision. Your ability to live and work in all cultures around the world often exceeds our government's ability to reach the poorest and most in need.

God bless Maryknoll; God bless the United States of America.

Gene Kennedy speaks

"We happy few, we band of brothers...." With these words from Henry V, Gene saluted Maryknoll as more a family than an institution. A sampling of his comments:

More seminaries were built in the 1960s than in all previous decades in the United States. Now most and closed, empty or sorely underused. Priest postpone retirement, although they aren't going anywhere to do anything.

The future is spread all about us, just like the Kingdom of God. We don't wait for Godot; we are living in the future. The origins of the word "future" are related to the verbs "to be" and "to build." It signifies to grow. The future invites us to build a neighborhood in which all can can dwell.

We have lived through the "End of the World", not some cosmic incineration or Rapture, but in the mystical and sacramental sense. The world ends every day. The old world with its limitations has ended. The new world of limitless communications and technology is upon us and in this world we must live.

Old institutions, including the Church, are under attack. They no longer hold their energy or meaning for many. These developments were prophesied, in a way, by poets such as Yates ("Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.") And artists such a Picasso, where time itself seems to melt.

The future may seem strange, even alien. Maryknoll trained us to let go of the present and past, and cross into this future. Even as we speak, a robot continues to trudge across the surface of Mars, sampling and sending signals back to Earth. Two weeks ago, a rocket launched a probe called Juno to Jupitor. The oldest planet, it contains more material than all other planets combined. It is the Rosetta Stone of our solar system. And scientists rightly call this a "mission to Jupitor."

Pope John XXIII challenged the church to end its self-imposed exile and move out into the world. "Providence is drawing us into a new order of relationships of high expectation," the pope said. Soon after, the first pictures of Earth seen from the moon confirmed the vision of the Second Vatican Council: one fragile and beautiful world in which we must all live together. The Earth was not separated from the heavens, as had been believed for millennia; It was in the heavens. Gone, the concept of a hierarchical universe.

The human person can no longer be understood hierarchically, as a soul, spirit and body at war with itself. Human sexuality was tolerated at best, clothed with wedding garments so as to continue repoducing children. Earthrise as seen from the moon demanded an integrated view of the human person as much as of the Earth. In space there are no ups, downs or even center.

G.K. Chesterson said the ordinary progressive position is that the universe is good, although it may get worse. Chesterton maintained the universe is good, even if it gets worse.

Asked why he had convened the Second Vatican Council, Pope John said, "So that people's journey on Earth may be less sad."

Harrison Salisbury, NY Times correspondent in the 1960s attended Midnight Mass one Christmas Eve at St. Peter's in Rome. Although a Protesrant, he declared it the center of the spiritual energy of the world.

We are gathered in the place Maryknoll calls the Center. It's where many live and from which many go out.

The Church can neither stave off nor avoid the space information age, as it struggles to remain the Center of a world that no longer exists. The new world has no center.

The priest abuse scandal was not a byproduct of the sexual revelution, but of the hierarchical model of power, preference and privilege that was the raw material of clericalism, the latter becoming the breeding ground for the sexual abuse of those younger and weaker.

The problem cannot be cured by a hierarchical system, since the bishops exempted themselves from the reforms. The scandals arose, not because of bad priests or bad bishops, but because of an ineffectively managed hierarchical system. The majority of good bishops today certainly cannot reinvigorate and reimpose the hierarchical model of church, no matter how many parishes reintroduce Perpetual Adoration. The center has not shifted, it has evaporated.

If any group is ready to face life in the information age, it's Maryknoll. Maryknollers are ready to make a journey at a moment's notice. The vision of Vatican II resonates in these halls.

This gathering at Maryknoll this weekend shows the spirit of Maryknoll, the spirit of Vatican II, extends far beyond Maryknoll's walls and members. Discovering the unity of the universe and of ourselves can only be realized if we have a sacramental vision proclaiming not how we are all different, but how we are all essentially and fundamentally the same, despite our diversity and distinctions.

Dr. Bob Clark introduces Gene Kennedy

Professor Clark, Maryknoll alum, has had many illustrious students including several supreme court justice and current POTUS, Barack Obama.

A packed house (of God)

Maryknoll alumni and members gather this morning in Queen of Apostles Chapel to hear the keynote address by former Maryknoll priest, Eugene Kennedy.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Holy visitors

We have been blessed this past week with a visit by two "real nuns." Sister Marie André and Sr. Marie St. Paul, Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, made a pilgrimage here from Our Lady of Solitude Monastery in Arizona.

They are also blood sisters, whose father passed on to them a great devotion to Maryknoll and especially to our Founders. Knowing all kinds of arcane facts about Maryknoll, they can even put our resident Maryknoll historian, Br. Kevin Dargan, to shame (not an easy task.)

Kevin, who works in our library, has corresponded with the Sisters for many years and has sent books to their library. He invited them to visit Maryknoll.

The Sisters are very delightful to be around and talk with, on any variety of topics.

The Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration were founded on December 8, 1854 by Fr. Bonaventure Heurlaut and Mother Marie St. Claire to "adore Our Eucharistic King" and spiritually support priests.

Their present superior is Mother Mary Angelica.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NCR strikes again!

Seriously folks, if you want good second-hand and more up-to-date info on the on-going saga of Fr. Roy Bourgeois, you'd do well to check more frequently the website for the National Catholic Reporter. I thank Fr. Dave LaBuda for forwarding me the following link:

Meanwhile, I once again direct the attention of Maryknoll Society members to the Bulletin Board on our in-house website. There you will read things that are REALLY going on here!

Here, some Maryknoll eagles have already begun gathering for what promises to be a memorable gathering of current and former Maryknollers this weekend.

Bourgeois a no-show?

According to an anonymous source (who bears an uncanny resembence to Fr. Dave La Buda), Fr. Roy Bourgeois will NOT be at the Maryknoll Centennial Alumni Weekend here starting tomorrow, despite his name being on the participants list.

Dave directed my attention to the women's ordination website where, he said (I'm too lazy to look it up myself), Roy is scheduled to be in Chicago this weekend to accept an award from an impressive array of religious groups for his work on behalf of justice. He is also scheduled to be at yet another screening of "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" in the Windy City.

So unless Roy has learned the fine art of bi-location, I don't think he'll be here tomorrow. Of course, he could put in a cameo appearance and then wing his way westward in time for the other festivities. Will he or won't he? A blogger's dream to keep people intrigued and interested enough to check in frequently.

I just hope Roy doesn't inadvertently demonstrate the philosophy of the ultimate Chicken Hawk, former V.P. Dick Cheney who, when asked why he didn't go to Vietnam as a young man, replied, "I had other priorities."


On this Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, Ms. Teresa Rodriguez, our sacristan, Fr. Ed Szendrey and I schlepped the HUMONGOUS reliquary containing the documented relic of the True Cross, from its implausible place smack in the middle of our sacristy, to a more fitting and proper (albeit temporary) place of honor in the Lady Chapel, to the right of the Pietà. A vigil light honors this day.

Where we eventually put it depends on what we think it is. If we wish to venerate it as the relic it purports to be, then it should be enshrined in a place of worship. If we deem it a
mere curious artifact, than it can go back out into the Spellman Room among other objects d'art.


It's an understandable mistake. For several months now, our Sodexo staff, at the behest of the All-Important Food Committee, has offered a specialty coffee each breakfast and lunch time along with the standard brews. French Roast is one popular choice. Another is labeled "Columbian" (sic). It's not as if we are a foreign mission Society with global interests and international sensitivities with a high concentration of guys who come from or worked in Latin America. I mean, who understands Spanish around here anyway?

Hey, for all I know, the spelling might be correct. Who wants to drink coffee from Harvard?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Letter from Limbo

I and several others received a copy of a handwritten letter from Fr. Roy Bourgeois, M.M., to our Superior General Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., dated August 25, 2011.

In it Roy expresses hope that a solution may be worked out. He mentions trying to phone Doc without success. Apparently Doc was/is away. (In Rome, I hear.) In any event, who didn't accept the latest call from whom remains unresolved.

The more interesting point is that in the interest of transparency, Roy suggests all future communications be done in person, with his lawyer, Thomas Doyle, present. In language that, to this blogger at least, seems to mirror the stern tone of the canonical warnings, Roy says he hopes meeting in person will underscore the serious nature of the current situation.

Roy is on the list of the 420 people registered for the up-coming Alumni Weekend starting this Thursday. Formers and current member are attending, so Roy can hobnob with both groups with equal ease and authority.

Following is the schedule of events for Alumni Weekend:

On Thursday Sept. 15, at 7:00 pm Welcoming remarks by Fr. Paul Masson and Centennial Planning Committee Chairman David Brown will be streamed live from the Asia Room on the in-house Channel 15 to rooms here in the Center as well as to St. Teresa's Residence.
On Friday Sept. 16th, the first major speaker, Eugene Kennedy, Ph.D. will air live on Channel 15 at 9:00am. Dr. Kennedy is a Professor Emeritus at Loyola University of Chicago.  Dr. Kennedy has written over 50 books on psychology, the Catholic Church, and the psychology of religion
At 11:00 am, also on Friday the United States Ambassador to the Vatican, Miguel Diaz, Ph.D. will air live on Channel 15.  Dr. Diaz is a Professor of Trinitarian Theology at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville Minnesota.
At 4:00 pm on Friday an Ecumenical / Interfaith Vespers service honoring deceased Society Members and Alumni will be aired live from the Quadrangle.
On Saturday Sept. 17th, at 11:00am Philip Jenkins, Ph.D. will air live and speak on "The Keys of the Kingdom, The Global Church 1911 - 2011 and Beyond."   Dr. Jenkins is a Professor in the Department of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.
At 4:00 pm on Saturday, the Centennial Celebration Mass will be aired live
At 6:00 pm on Saturday a Banquet honoring Society Educators / Formators will be aired live from the Quadrangle, with remarks by Peter Spain and Dudley Conneely.
At 8:00 pm on Saturday a presentation of Special Honors will air live from the Quadrangle.  Remarks by Fr. Dick Callahan, Bill Murphy, and Mary Darcy

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tears for Br. Jude

The wake for Br. Jude tonight was exceptional only in that it is so rare we Maryknollers shed tears for our brothers. Besides coming so quickly and unexpectedly, Jude's death left a void in our community. There are few who can match his gentleness, optimism, hospitality, humor, and love for Maryknoll. When Fr. Frank McGourn got up to share some personal reflections, the several times he choked up and held back tears spoke as eloquently of the effect Jude had on his life than any wonderful words of tribute. The funeral is tomorrow at 11:00 a.m.

Yesterday was the communal memorial for 9/11. Although I wasn't there and heard it was great, it's heard to imagine it more moving than the one last Friday. About 60 people attended on Friday (roughly half Maryknollers and half employees) but everything (miraculously) came all together at literally the last moment.

We tolled the bells at 11:10 a.m. for four minutes and the Mass began at 11:15. Fr. Mike Duggan's homily struck just the right note of hope and remembrance. "This is my Song" (to the tune of Finlandia) is a favorite, as it blends authentic love of country with a prayer for God to bless all nations, whose people love them as much as we love ours.

After communion, as Ms.Lucille Naughton played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" softly in the background, I read my reflection from the September 2011 MARYKNOLL magazine: The legacy of 9/11. At the end we all joined in the chorus: "Glory, glory, halleluia. His truth is marching on."

The long silence afterwards was both unintentional and totally appropriate. Given we had to throw this together in less than 24 hours, maybe this is a sign we need FEWER meetings and less planning.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pre-emptive 9-11 Memorial Service

"Who's responsible for this?"

"Where did this come from?"

"What's going to happen next?"

No, these are not recollected utterances from 10 years ago as the Twin Towers fell. These questions flew fast and furious yesterday and today in the chapel and sacristy since it was announced that, in addition to a community 9-11 memorial on the actual date this Sunday, there would be a rather impromptu service at the Mass today.

Gotta say, this breakdown in communication, confusion and panic certainly recaptured what we did in 2001 as Fr. Ray Finch, the superior general, agreed to my suggestion to toll our bells and gather Maryknollers and employees for prayer. We had about 20 minutes to throw something together.

That being said, Ms. Lucille Naughton as music director, Fr. Mike Duggan as celebrant and Fr. Ed Szendrey as cantor certainly rose to the occasion and today's service, scheduled to begin at 11:15 in the main chapel, promises indeed to be memorable.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cultivating a culture of vocations in a spirit of renewal of the spirit of VaticanII

Two meetings in the last days neatly captures what's the buzz in the dining room. A meeting of about six men with Fr. Jim Madden (Happy Belated Birthday, btw!) brought us up-to-date (if not up-to-speed) on recent developments in the vocation department.

Of note: after three years with the "Explore My Mission" video contest that sent first-place winners to Brazil, Tanzania and Hong Kong/Korea respectively, the vocation team has decided to discontinue this effort. Whether we will follow through on a recommendation by Mr. Sam Alzheimer, president of Vianney Vocations, to facilitate sending young people overseas on mission, who return to help other young people raise their own mission funds, remains to be seen.

Similarly we have seen our last Mission Encounter here at the end of July, when men and women interested in the three Maryknoll entities come together for discussion and prayer. In it's place, there will be various gatherings around the country to make it easier for people in the South, Midwest, and west coast to attend. Thus, there will still be something here, but it probably won't draw 40+ people, or if it does, they will be coming from local states.

We all admitted to a bit of techno-whiplash as we learned that for many young people today, even websites as being sooo last millennium. Forget email. They Tweet. And they're on Facebook. And Tumblr. Of course, these are just modern developments of media. For our part, we have to make sure we have a compelling message.

And to that end, the fourth meeting of Common Table brought together 18 members to discuss our vision for mission today and in the future. I found the energy level continues to be high and similar themes arose from the smaller groups: a need for on-going personal renewal through prayer and spirituality; a recognition that "retired" is almost as meaningless as "former" since mission is a state of heart as well as mind, and that the spirit of Vatican II must begin in us if it is to continue in our church. Perhaps our mission may be to span the generational, cultural or theological divide separating us from our fellow Maryknollers.

The sudden death of Br. Jude Conniff earlier today certainly took us all by surprise. He was a gentle, optimistic, hospitable and kind missioner. His wake will be held here next Monday night, and funeral on Tuesday morning. Would that he can from his place among the saints, stir up many young men like him to join our mission efforts and our Society!