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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NCR Heads-Up

Last week Mr. Dennis Coday of NCR (National Catholic Reporter) Online contacted me about doing a first-person account of the conversation with Fr. Roy Bourgeois during our U.S. Regional Assembly. I ran the proposal passed Fr. Dougherty and he gave me the go ahead. He also approved the final draft that was submitted just now.

Except for Roy's, Doc's, Mike Duggan's and my name, no one else will be identified. It is my hope to show Maryknollers grappling with this serious matter in a spirit of honesty and compassion.

Monday, May 30, 2011

With thanks to Fr. Dennis Moorman

On behalf of Maryknoll, Regional Superior Father Mike Duggan gives an abrazo to Fr. Dennis Moorman in gratitude for his two terms as head of our Vocation office.

Cultivating a "culture of vocations"

Mr. Sam Alzheimer (yes, he's related to the Dr. Alzheimer) of Vianny Vocations, helps diocese and religious groups attract vocations. During the U.S. Regional Assembly, he was invited to describe today's seminarians and their understanding of church and what we might do to attract more men to Maryknoll.

Since 1965 the number of priests and Brothers has dropped from 59,000 to 43,000 today. Meanwhile, the Catholic population has gone from 45 million in 1965 to 65 million today.

By 2022 Maryknoll will have 81 members under 70 years of age; in 2032 we will have just 32. Alzheimer says we can triple the ordination rate by accepting five men a year, allowing for 40 percent attrition rate. That's the best case scenario.

If Maryknoll can be at peace with being a small Society (different than being fatalistic or resigned to our ultimate demise) yet maintain a sense of urgency, we can turn this situation around and attract young men to our mission vocation.

Here's what he says NOT to do: give up.

"Seek the type of men joining seminary and give them a mission experience," he said. "Become the kind of Society they seek."

Contemporary Candidates' Worldview and Ecclesiology (according to CARA):

+ Strong social conscience (huge opportunity for Maryknoll)
+ Theological orthodoxy (whoops!)
+ Loyalty to the Holy Father (more than people realize)
+ Intense devotion to the Eucharist
+ Strong Marian devotion
+ Fully support priestly celibacy
+ A visible priestly identity (Our lapel pins alone just won't cut it, Alzheimer insists.)
+ Reverence for the sacred, especially in liturgy

Do these guys want to turn back th e clock on Vatican II? NO!

Yet the traditional orders are thriving, while liberal ones are dying.

What would impress a prospect visiting Maryknoll? Our history, especially Bishop James E. Walsh's story, and the idea of giving one's life to spread the gospel of Christ overseas.

What would discourage prospects? Our mission museum looks like a "tribute to multiculturalism"; it lacks Catholic identity; (In its defense, I would say it's SUPPOSED to look multicultural, because that is our mission reality. If guys want a Roman experience, they should go to Rome, IMHO, but I digress.) anither turn-off for prospects: Maryknoll priests usually do not wear clerical garb; and with few exceptions we don't make it a habit of being called Father.

Quoting noted Catholic author, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, "There is a rift between Catholics who place a strong emphasis on social justice and those with traditional morality and piety."

We need a holistic spirituality that emphasizes both. Can Maryknoll bridge this gap?

Young Catholics want to help the poor and marginalized. But they are reluctant to do this under the banner of social justice, which they equate with disloyalty to the Church.

Younger candidates, he pointed out, however, are not so polarized or militant.

Maryknoll has a serious reputation problem. Example: National Catholic Register rejected advertising from Maryknoll as not being a "good fit" for their readership. Some diocesan priests would not refer prospects to us.

The language of mission does not resonate as much with people outside our Society.

Our vocation website looks and sounds good: men on fire with mission.

One recommendation: get more young men into an overseas mission experience.

Personal promotion: transform church dates, own some college mission trips.

Digital promotion: drive men to our websites. Survey recent Maryknoll candidates to find out how they learned about us. "Called By Name" email campaign, which his company runs, asks people for the names of young men they know who may have a Maryknoll vocation, and then follow up with a personal invitation.

Maryknoll is at a supreme disadvantage at not being able to recruit directly from the overseas communities where we serve. Our church dates here in the States must have a transparent vocation focus and overt invitation to young men to go on short-term mission. These are the main opportunities for us to encounter potential prospects in a church setting.

He recommends Maryknoll sponsor college mission trips by having a sustained presence on a few select Catholic campuses. Creative financing: Alzheimer suggested Maryknoll pay for these initial exposure trips provided the students agree to speak about their experiences when they return and raise funds for the next student to go overseas.

Cast a wide net to include guys who may not be interested in a lifelong commitment.

We need to become men on fire for vocations if we want young men to be on fire for mission.

Some Maryknollers at the Assembly responded: Do we need to change our identity to attract such vocations? And would that discourage the vocations we have already attracted?

Maryknoll already has a unique identity because we have a worldwide presence.

We shouldn't expect a prospect to be fully formed before he even applies for admission. Our mission experience transforms us. The overseas experience and people overseas will evangelize and form the candidates as they do the Missioners.

We must meet prospects where they are, just like we meet people on the missions where they are. We don't just bring people into the church, but we also educate them theologically. That should remain our policy with candidates. One first-year seminarian said the presentation by Sam Alzheimer described him to a T, but he added, "It's not about Roman collars" but about letting young people know who we are: "Men dedicating their lives to the spread of the gospel among people overseas." That will attract vocations, he insisted.

The Mission of Jesus remains Maryknoll's mission: to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart, to give sight to the blind and set prisoners free.

We should face the future as if it were mission territory: "The future is like another country; we do things differently there."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Prayer before taking Oath

Fr. Ed Dougherty, Maryknoll superior general, leads concelebrants in prayer for seminarians Daniel Kim and Shaun Crumb before taking their Temporary Oath to the Society.

The Mass and Oath Ceremony ended Day Three of the U.S. Regional Assembly, where Maryknollers discussed issues pertaining to mission and life here at Maryknoll.

Daniel will take summer courses in Nairobi, Kenya, and Shaun begins his Overseas Training Program in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

State of the Society

2011 U.S. Regional Assembly (Day Three)

We took time this morning to read and evaluate EIGHT PAGES of suggestions, recommendations and areas of interest culled from the previous days discussions. We were asked to mark the ones we thought should go to ELB (Extended Leadership Board), to the Regional Council, or to department heads and which we didn't consider necessary to discuss. Then we were asked to put a star next to two or three items we feel most important. All sharp instruments and access to the tower were wisely locked up.

After a mandatory Emergency Response Drill (appropriate, no?), Fr. Ed Dougherty, superior general, addressed our assembly.

He spoke first on vocations, admissions and formation. He introduced and welcomed Fr. Jim Madden, Fr. Steve Booth, Fr. Dave LaBuda and Deacon Steve DeMartino. He thanked Fr. Dennis Moorman who has finished his term as vocation director and who hopes to be returning to mission in Brazil after a sabbatical.

Doc welcomed Fr. John Eybel and Br. Joe Bruener, our formators, as well as our candidates who are attending the Assembly. All Society members are cordially invited to visit our Formation house in Chicago.

Fr. Ed McGovern, General Council member, became the interim Admissions director after Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick stepped down. Fr. Emile Dumas, Br. Brendon Corkery and Fr. Ray Nobilleti also serve on the board that has accepted three men into formation this year.

He next mentioned the Council's recent visit to Hong Kong and China (our first missions), and Navarre, France (where the heart of our Co-Founder, Fr. Thomas Price, is buried at the tomb of St. Bernadette).

Doc then recapped all the various Centennial activities around the country. (These are all listed in earlier posts on this blog.)

He also met with many bishops and spoke about our Centennial.

Maryknoll Donor Services and Creative Services were acknowledged for their work. Fr. Dave Smith is our new CFO, replacing retiring Fr. Dick Callahan.

Regarding Regions and Departments, all council member have tried to visit all regions and members, especially in the Africa and Asia areas. Philippines and Korea were spared. Latin America received fewer visits. Seminarian Dae Kim will return from the Overseas Training Program in Cochabamba, Bolivia and Sem. Shaun Crumb will be going there on OTP this summer.

Our retirement houses and staffs at Los Altos and St. Theresa's were feted.

Ed again congratulated Br. Conrad Fleisch, who turned 100 this month, the only Society member to reach this mark.

Here at the Center, Ed is looking to name a local superior but six men have declined the "honor" so far. ELB will consider what things are necessary to determine the future uses of this house. He mentioned that no Paris Foreign Mission Society retirees are allowed to live at the headquarters. Something to consider?

Doc gave kudos to Fr. Bob Jalbert and all the men working in MEPD. Bob mentioned the closing and merging of parishes, and the growing number of overseas groups coming here to make appeals have contributed to the decline church dates and contributions. Often parishes we can get into do not allow the distributions of envelopes or magazines.

Regarding the sense of renewal from the last Chapter, Doc promises we will hear more on this in days to come.

Br. Wayne Fitzpatrick has done a wonderful job helping guys get on-going life formation.

While "internationalization" remains an energizing (and controversial) topic for discussion, "the door is slightly open" to investigating this possibility for men overseas to be considered on a case-by case basis. That being said, Doc says there hasn't been any great number of men seeking to join Maryknoll from overseas.

The clergy sex-abuse scandal and the bishops' mishandling of it continue to have a detrimental effect on clergy morale.

It seems to me Doc got a bit verklempt talking about the Oath, and what it means to the individual member and to the Society as a whole. More on that below.

The resistance of Missioners to return to the States, either to do Stateside service or to call it a life and retire, remains a concern for our leadership.

Doc is not sure where the proposed swap of the Walsh building for Bethany (former lay missioner headquarters) is, since the town of Ossining raised objections.

We continue to collaborate with the Sisters and Lay Missioners, especially on Centennial celebrations.

Investigating alternative energy sources and making environmentally friendly adjustments are expensive but necessary, in Doc's opinion.

ELB will consider ways Maryknollers can be more visionary in our thinking and policy making.

To date, Doc has meant just once with the Middle Management group (which in my opinion, undercuts the very purpose of the group and underscores the problem that gave rise to it.)

Doc has imposed another hiring freeze and there has been a realignment of duties.

The Harassment Committee will be disbanded as not being the best use of employees' and members' time. Instead, the Ethics Point firm will be hired to investigate complaints.

ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM was finally addressed. A Conciliatory Group that met with the superior general in Chicago was helpful, Doc said, but wasn't able to resolve this issue. The Assembly listened. Among the responses (without repeating those mentioned at the previous gathering):

What can we (individually, as an Assembly and as a Society) do to walk this back from the brink? How can we find an acceptable solution?

There are some things we NEED to talk about in the church and it is healthy and necessary to do so, even when they (officials in the church) declare certain issues not be discussed.

This controversy is distracting from Maryknoll's primary dedication to overseas mission.

Over the past several months, this controversy has prompted some to reflect on the meaning of the oath and this has underscored its sacredness.

We must trust our leadership to do the right thing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Explosive canon

Former Maryknoll superior general, Father John Sivalon, maintains that according to canon law, dismissal from the Society requires the unanimous vote of the General Council plus one more Member, presumably the regional superior of the area to which the missioner belongs. No such vote was taken, and absent the requisite votes, the First Canonical Warning Letter to Fr. Roy Bourgeois may have been premature, if not moot.

This further muddies the murky waters in which Maryknoll finds itself. We are on record as threatening Roy with dismissal unless he recant. And if you know Roy, you know he can't recant. Our reputation for justice, let alone fairness, has taken a major hit already, no matter what happens.

Today's first reading at Mass proved providential. Acts 15:1-6 speaks of "no little dissension and debate" between Paul and the Judaizers regarding circumcision being necessary for Gentile converts. Paul and Barnabas were sent by the church to Jerusalem, and the church there received them with joy, despite their bringing a controversial issue for discussion.

Fr. John Eybel, who was main celebrant, brought this up as a model for how we, gathered in assembly, might approach our own current controversy.

Can we break out of the atmosphere of fear and receive one another with joy in the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fr. Roy Bourgeois speaks

Roy addressed the community gathered for the U.S. Regional Assembly.

A group discussion with Father Roy Bourgeois, M.M.

Father Roy Bourgeois addressed an impromptu gathering of Maryknollers this evening, following the opening day of the U.S. Regional Assembly. About 38 members attended.

He started with some background as to how he got involved in the issue of women's ordination in the Roman Catholic church. He linked this with his own process of discernment of his priestly vocation.

Next he reviewed his work with closing the School of the Americas (SOA-Watch) in Fort Benning, GA.

In the last ten years in going around the country talking about injustices in Central America, he became more aware of injustice in the Church, namely devout Catholic women who feel called to priesthood but who are denied their vocation.

Until the 1960s, racial segregation was an accepted tradition in this country, especially in the South, until it was rightly challenged and overturned. Similarly, Roy feels, the exclusion of women from the Catholic priesthood is an unacceptable and unjust tradition. "Who are we (men), to say our call is authentic and valid but yours (women's) is not?"

He felt in his heart and conscience he could no longer keep silent on this issue.

"The hammer came down swiftly," he said, in the letter from Rome demanding he recant or face excommunication. In discerning a response, Roy said, "My biggest concern was my family."

His family, included his elderly father, expressed their support and blessing.

He continued his work with SOA Watch until the letter came from Maryknoll leadership asking him to recant or face dismissal from the Society. This letter was more devastating to him than the threat of excommunication, he said.

He expressed sadness because now, "I am in big trouble."

In closing he said he is finding broad support around the country for women's ordination and to be told we cannot even talk about this is highly offensive. He is hoping more people step forward to participate in this important conversation. For Roy this is a matter of justice and a matter of conscience.

Roy invited questions and comments.

Father Dennis Moorman said that Roy's actions also impacted Maryknoll and he asked what consideration Roy gave to this before speaking or acting in this regard.

Roy's response was rambling and vague, IMHO, about how he did development work and people expected Maryknoll to be involved in peace and justice issues. He mused what would it be like if all the priests, and especially Maryknollers, who supported women's ordination were to come forward, speak out, perhaps sign a petition. "But the atmosphere is one of fear."

Father Phil Erbland mentioned a show on TV where a priest left the priesthood in order to push for an overall over-haul of the very structure of the Roman Catholic Church. "Our discussion should be wider (than women's ordinations)," he said.

Roy responded that many, many Catholics are leaving the Church out of anger, especially for its discrimination against women, gays and lesbians. He says the pope and some bishops are trying to undo the progress of Vatican II.

I expressed being conflicted vis-a-vis Roy's situation. I support and agree with his position on women's ordination but cannot understand how he can ignore a direct order of our superior, given our oath of obedience.

Roy answered that his conscience compels him to continue to speak out and ask basic questions, much like people did during the Vietnam war. The debate or discussion will not stop, Roy maintains, just like opposition to the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage could not stop these movements. "We (Maryknoll) are on the wrong side of history on this issue," he said. "Unless we change, we are going to die."

Father Dave LaBuda says he honestly believes in and respects Roy's conscience but he (Roy) also publicly represents the Maryknoll community and there has never been a discussion of his position with the wider membership or any consultation with us. Dave used the analogy of a man deciding on his own to move to another country and expecting his family to go with him, without consultation.

"In the wider world church, is this even an issue?" David asks. "The church in the U.S. is different than the one we knew when we first went oversees. The reality is very different." Dave wants to know how Roy jives his conscience with the (Maryknoll) community, and how does he jive his message with the younger generation of Catholics which tends to be more accepting of the institutional church?

Roy says his experience has been different (than Dave's) because he sees signs of hope and enthusiasm among the young people he speaks with.

Dave tried valiantly to get back to the issue of Roy jiving his personal conscience and subsequent actions with that of the larger Maryknoll community. Again, Roy gave an impassioned reply about sexism and power but did not answer the question, IMO.

Father Larry Murphy sees a larger issue as a problem of authority in the Church, of which the ordination of women is just one area that we might be in disagreement with current Church leadership. "How do we, with what little power we have, influence the Church and not leave it over just one issue?"

Former superior general, Father John Sivalon, says there had been some consultation between Roy and the previous administration.

Father Steve Taluja asks why we here at Maryknoll haven't gotten together to discuss just where we stand on this topic. He says it's not fair to lay all the blame on Roy.

Father John Felago said he suspects he is part of a silent majority, in Maryknoll if not in the Church, who supports Roy's position. He invoked Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and the Freedom Riders whose actions lead to the fall of the walls of prejudice and discrimination. Perhaps this issue would precipitate the changes we are desiring.

Brother John Blazo says there is also the question of power and money that the current structure supports and will vigorously defend. Maybe the ordination of women is something just for this country to address and does not necessarily have to apply to other countries or cultures.

Father Tom Marty said patriarchy and the abuse of power in the Church must be dealt with. But, he said, he disagrees with Roy's tactics, especially participating in the (illicit) ordination of a woman. Plus, ordination is not a right, like a human right, Tom said. "One can feel called to priesthood but one does not have an automatic right to ordination."

Brother Ray Tetrault first encountered justice issues following his return from Japan. This issue of women's ordination has provoked new feelings and challenges about where he stands on this. "Maybe we should be imitating the Acts of the Apostles," he said, when they relied on the Holy Spirit to address important issues with faith and love.

Fr. Bill Donnelly says, "If the Church (eventually) says it wants to ordain women, great." He says Roy has now made his point, especially with Rome, and there is nothing to be gained by continuing to speak out. Roy's battle is going nowhere. Bill said he would hate to see Roy dismissed from Maryknoll, which would solve nothing.

Fr. Mike Bassano said he is saddened by how the institutional church is treating Roy and our General Council not being more compassionate but rather threatening dismissal.

Fr. John Barth said he wished this discussion could be a part of agenda of the Regional Assembly, instead of just an impromptu gathering.

I (Fr. Joseph Veneroso) asked where Roy now stood vis-a-vis Maryknoll and the dismissal process.

Roy said he learned there would not be a lot of discussion with the Council. The Second Letter has not yet arrived, but it may arrive any time. Many Maryknoll Sisters and Society members have appealed on Roy's behalf. He got a whole stack of support letters and a relative few calling for him to be burned at the stake. He is hoping that we at Maryknoll might still have this important discussion.

Former superior general, Father Jim Noonan, said this evening has been a real grace. The one thing he found himself doing is praying for both Fr. Ed Dougherty, superior general, as well as for Roy. "Ed is in a very, very difficult position."

Jim asked, "How can we continue to live in harmony as brothers and sisters in Maryknoll?"


Praesidium 3.0

The afternoon session of the Assembly was dedicated to the mandatory participation of men in ministry in the Praesidium program. This was developed by the Jesuits following the USCMA's response to the US Bishops's Dallas Charter in 2002 which, in turn, was a response to the ever-growing child-abuse scandals.

Maryknollers in ministry in the States must participate in the Praesidium program every three years. For the New York archdiocese, this takes the place of the Virtus program and is necessary to continue Maryknoll's accreditation.

I am happy to report that, unlike previous Praesidium programs, this one was informative and encouraging. In other years, the presentations were so graphic and chilling that the overall effect was extremely depressing.

Our membership was divided into two groups, names beginning A-K in the Asia room, and M-Z in the Founders' room. The men in my group were very forthcoming in their observations and questions as we examined the causes and possible solutions to inappropriate behaviors and internet addictions. Accountability and pastoral approaches surfaced as important areas, as well as peer support groups.

Morning Session Part One

U.S. Assembly, Second Session, Tuesday Morning

Tuesday Morning Session Part Two

Fathers Gerry Kelly, Bill Boteler and Dave LaBuda, inspired by the 2008 Chapter and the encouragement of Pope Benedict, formed a special committee to animate local dioceses to become more mission-oriented, both overseas and domestically.

These men went to the USCMA in Albuquerque, NM, last October to connect with other groups involved in mission. There they met up with Mr. Mike Gable, who heads the mission board of Cincinnati and who used to head Maryknoll's Justice & Peace department, and Mr. Mike Haasl, from the St. Paul-Minneapolis mission office.

Both men saw the need for a central mission office to empower and send Missioners abroad as well as to do home mission. Sending emersion groups from between 5-15 people for exposure trips of up to a week is becoming popular.

The challenge is to get bishops and dioceses to commit resources and energy to promoting mission.

A mission congress is scheduled here at Maryknoll in 2012. This proposal is currently with the MEPD (Mission Education and Promotion Department). They will address what kinds of programs are desired, what countries are available and which Maryknoll areas would be open to facilitate such exposure trips. They hope to have a director and board named to oversee this.

As an example of Short Term (a year or less) Volunteer programs Father Scott Harris described his China Teachers Program that started 14 years ago, which had been assigning people from the United States to teach English in mainland universities.

To date, 370 participants have taken part, many were college graduates, Affiliates, teachers on sabbatical and members of other religious groups have participated. One Maryknoll seminarian, Sean Crumb, who will be taking his First Oath on Thursday, is a product of the China Teachers Project.

Ms. Megan McKenna skillfully directed the short term volunteer programs for many years and has recently retired. A new director is being sought.

For many of the volunteers who successfully completed their service, their experience with Maryknoll ranked higher even than their time in China for helping them understand their faith and the spirit of mission. Many volunteers learn about this and apply via Internet.

Scott is concerned that, on college campuses where Maryknoll still has great name-recognition and respect, that the "fires not be allowed to go out". He says our relationships to the various colleges must be actively cultivated.

Maryknoll Vocations Director, Father Jim Madden, spoke about mission in the future involved partnering with other mission-minded organizations. Regarding the China Teachers Program, two new policies from Hong Kong are that in the future, all volunteers must be Christian and all must be in some proximity to Maryknollers. All volunteers need not have a Maryknoll formation, but all must be affiliated to some Christian group that offer some preparation for mission. Scott clarified that from the beginning all volunteers were Christian. Not all Maryknollers in China wanted volunteers. A spiritual life was always considered essential because the China Teachers Project is not just a placement service. This is necessary, Scott maintains, to appreciate lay vocations in their own right and not as some round-about way to foster vocations to the priesthood and Brotherhood.

Jim sees this as an excellent opportunity for Maryknoll to participate in this growing area of short-term volunteer mission.

A question arose as to whether there was any follow-up with the volunteers after they got back. Jerry said about 10 percent continue in some sort of reflection or on-going involvement.

Dave LaBuda also said that the Dallas-Fort Worth Affiliate group is organizing "Webinars" to help priests who participated in the Pilgrimage to Central America to process and integrate what they experienced.

Many parishes, such as St. Paul Cheong Ha-Sang Korean Catholic church in Queens, NY, have been sending young people on short-term mission trips for years, first to Oaxaca, Mexico and now to Santa Cruz, Bolivia. They raise their own funds and do their own organizing and planning. But they do not do spiritual preparation or gather to reflect on their experiences. Here is where a Mission Center could be of assistance.

Dave emphasized all this was to "get U.S. Bishops to take responsibility for mission."

The seminarians were asked for their thoughts about this emphasis on short-term ministry to involve young people in mission.

Several candidates had participated in some sort of short-term or mission exposure program and saw this as key to their vocation.

2011 U.S. Regional Assembly

2011 U.S. Regional Assembly (Tuesday Morning Session)

After Morning Prayer, Regional Superior Father Mike Duggan greeted the members. He asked the seminarians and Brother candidates from Chicago who are attending the Assembly to introduce themselves. Father Paul Masson from the general council shared a word of welcome and said our Centenary is more a time for humility and gratitude, rather than triumphalism.

Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick introduced our facilitator: Mr. Larry LeNoir, originally from the diocese of Raleigh, N.C. He was the director of spiritual formation in Irvine, TX. He is currently the department chair of pastoral studies at Catholic University.

After a review of the week's schedule, Mike Duggan gave his state of the Region address. Mike underscored the uniqueness of the U.S. Region: it is the largest region of Maryknoll and its members come with experiences from all over the Maryknoll world. Sixty-two of the 70 men in the Region are attending.

From his room at St. Theresa's, Vicar General Father José Arámburu has asked for continued prayers and visits as he facing his life-threatening illness.

Mike addressed the "elephant in the room" because "It is correct to mention Roy's decision to follow his conscience, since it profoundly affected the Region and certainly the morale of the men in the house." Mike said Roy's situation is still under discussion and has not yet been resolved. Mike said the main Assembly session wasn't the proper place to discuss Roy and his actions, but the members were free to raise this as a topic for group discussion later in the day or throughout the week.

Mike reviewed the various events for the Centenary. He explained the background to the Missa ad Gentes, by Michael Joncas (Blogger's note: four tracts are viewable on YouTube. Search: Maryknoll Mass.)

On July 17th there will be a celebration at the Center just for Society members. All Fathers & Brothers are invited.

A Middle Management group of some 14 members has come together to assist the General Council in its discussion-making process, by giving as much input from the. Offices and departments as possible. This came up, in part, from a general perception that we need to "take back the decision-making power" (ostensibly from lay employees to whom Maryknoll has willingly or not ceded authority.)

At this point, Roy's situation again surfaced as a prime example of a major decision being made without any consultation, either with the Council or with the membership.

Another member suggested that when we discuss our identity as a Region, we might widen it to include our identity in a Church that is moving away from the spirit of Vatican II.


Monday, May 23, 2011

ManuOB1 sent you a video: "Catholic songs- "Glory to God" from Maryknoll"

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ManuOB1 has shared a video with you on YouTube: Check out my latest video meditation. This is based on the Glory to God from the Missa ad Gentes by Michael Joncas for our Centenary. Enjoy!

Africa is mother to the human race. The rhythms and harmonies of the "Glory To God," reminiscent of Gospel music, have deep roots in the African continent. The peoples of Africa have taught Missioners how to enjoy life and praise God even in the midst of hardship and suffering. The images and videos illustrating this section of the "Missa ad Gentes" (Mass to the Peoples) by J. Michael Joncas to commemorate Maryknoll's Centennial in 2011, start off in Africa then lift our hearts up literally to the highest heavens before bringing us back to Earth and people of good will.

By the way, did you know you can rent movies from YouTube? Check it out now:

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Back at Mother Knoll (to find an elephant in the room!)

I arrived Saturday night in time for two Sunday Masses and afternoon Confirmation at St. Paul's, with retired Bishop Thomas Daily officiating. He had kind words for Maryknoll and his old classmate, Maryknoll Father Tom (Fish) Foley.

Now here I lie wide awake at 3:45 a.m. in the throes of full-blown jet-lag.

I go to replace my Precioussss after breakfast.

The U.S. Regional Assembly begins with a social later today.

Ah, but here's where Sherlock Veneroso kicks in. Whilst Father Jim Gilligan, our cannon lawyer, deigned not to clarify the current status of Father Roy Bourgeois vis-a-vis Maryknoll, a simple phone call to the receptionist at the front desk revealed this intriguing tidbit: Father Roy has a room reserved from today on. Whilst I tend not to use titles after first reference, in this case it's germane.

Father Roy is certainly entitled to participate in the U.S. Regional Assembly as long as he is still a member of the region, which he can only be if he is still a member of Maryknoll, which he can only be if he is still a priest.

The more intriguing question is how will Roy's presence effect the discussions and agenda? Will we proceed apace and tackle such explosive issues as "Six Months Till We Revisit the Ambo" or "Why the New Roman Missal is the Last Nail in the Coffin of Vatican II Reform" or will we bite the bullet and acknowledge the immense elephant in the room?

If both Superior General Ed Dougherty and Roy address the assembly and allow questions and discussion, this could be the most exciting, interesting, controversial and provocative Assembly in Maryknoll's 100 years. How this is handled will determine the kind of Society we are, going forward.

Unfortunately, you might not read about it here. No, I doubt I'd be silenced (way too ironic in this case, no?) but rather because the second half of my jet lag would be kicking in about that time.

Till then, following is a link to an article about the Dutch Salesians whose superior is balking at expelling (whoops! DISMISSING) one of their members for publicly advocating pedophilia. The most telling quote: "Removing someone from the order is something you would only do in the case of grave moral transgression, such as rape. There was never any question of that."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Homeward bound

Greetigs once again from the Free Internet Service at Hong Kong airport. In a few hours I shall be in the air, but my guess is it will be the Cathay Pacific flight to JFK and not the expected Rapture.

Many thanks to all the men in the Korea area for their hospitality during my visit.
Local area superior Father Gerry (or is that with a "J"?) Hammond returned from a meeting in Hong Kong yesterday in time to meet and greet me with all kinds of pictures and publications and info about his important work up North. I should be able to work these into an updated Magazine article on his important ministry.

Everyone continues to be concerned and praying for a return to health for our Vicar General, Father Jose Aramburu. If ever we could use an intercessry miracle from one of our Founders, this is it.

Father Dennis Cleary was kind enough to download my Masan pix onto a flash drive, so there maybe another article in the making.

Fr. Jim Gilligan, our diplomatic (read: "tight-lipped") canon lawyer, visiting Korea for a month, would neither confirm nor deny nor comment on whether the much-dreaded Second Letter and Third Letter have been issued. His advise was simply to "Ask Father Doherty." I shall do just that upon my return to the Knoll this Monday. Or you can just look on the NCR website for yourselves.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Seoulnews 2 (via Masan)

After a hiatus of 13 years, I was able to revisit the parish I started and built in 1981in Hwoi Weon Dong in the southern port cirty of Masan. I was overwhelmed!

When I left Masan to work on the magazine in 1985, Hwoi Weon Dong parish had 375 parishioners. I thought that an admirable increase from the 150 we'd started with. Today the parish boasts 3,000+.

While the basic structure of the rectory/church complex remains, they have magnificently refurbished the entire building. Granite now covers the stucco facade on the outside; marble flooring in the sanctuary replaced the "Tokitashi" (faux marble) and the inside walls are now covered with hard wood. On the rooftop, a huge,larger-than-life statue of Christ blesses and invites people in. Below his feet, a large rose window of the Holy Spirit, made of real stained glass, adds that touch of solemnity Korean Catholics love so much.

The ramp for people with handicaps was moved closer to the rectory to allow for a new parking lot. (Cars? When I was pastor, we didn't even have roads!) A new, Korean Madonna and Child stands in the Oriental garden in front of an ornamental wall.

Wooden benches and a patio maintain, and vastly improve on my concept of the courtyard being a place for people to gather, sit, rest and chat. But they did me one better! The parish now also offers an inside lounge with tables, chairs, magazines, water and coffee machines as a gathering place.

Most impressive is the Legion of Mary at Hwoi Weon Dong. which now boasts 36 (count 'em!) Praesidia and two Curiae! BTW, the Legion of Mary is the largest apostolic group of Catholic laity in the Catholic Church, according to Wikipedia. And, not suprisingly, South Korea has the largest number of Legion members!

On short notice, word went out that Founding Pastor had returned and they filled the church for an impromptu Mass on Wednesday evening. For me it was all very surreal and dreamlike. And it was immensely gratifying to see the parish not only survived but prospered.

I spent the evening at the apartment of my old office man, Mr. Yun Do Sang, and his wife and son. His first son started seminary in Busan last March. This year, 10 new seminarians came from Busan and 12 from Masan. There are 120 seminarians in Busan, one of seven seminaries in Korea. I was also proud to learn my old parish has produced four priests so far.

Since the Busan seminary is also where Maryknoll Father Rich Agustin works as Spiritual Director for the seminarians and staff, I was thrilled when Do Sang offered to drive me to Busan (about an hour away) to meet him.

As Providence would have it, Rich was there and graciously received us over coffee. A fortuitous end-of-class bell rang, and who should walk by but Do Sang's son! I got some great pictures which I hope to use in an article for a future issue of Maryknoll Magazine, providing, of course, that the camera doesn't suffer the same fate as my iPhone, (my Preciousss!) which was "liberated" by three aggressive pickpockets in Guilin, China.

The camera I took to Masan was on loan from Father Dennis Cleary, who although not understanding Korean, has become really adept at navigating the impressive and vast Seoul subway and bus systems. Dennis teaches English to seminarians at the Korean Foreign Mission Society.

Would that I had talked with Dennis BEFORE visiting China. He said that he'd learned in Venezuela never to put anything in any pockets, but rather to tuck valuables into his socks. (I hope this trade secret doesn't jeopardize our men in Latin America. They may have to hide their valuables closer to their valuables.)

Tomorrow begins the long haul back to the USA and New York, God willing in time for Sunday Masses at St. Paul's and Confirmations later Sunday afternoon. Of course, if the world ends tomorrow as some predict, all bets are off. (I wonder if I can blog from the Other Side?)

Monday, May 16, 2011


Greetings from Seoul, Korea, the last leg of a far-too adventurous trip to Asia.

Father Dave Pfeiffer, ever the gracious host, welcomed me warmly to the Seoul House yesterday after I took the red-eye from Hong Kong. It was good to see Dave and the faithful remnant of Maryknollers here.

Father Jerry O'Connor was the next Maryknoller I saw. He hasn't changed since the time I did my OTP at his parish in Hwa Su Dong in Incheon back in 1976! I suspect there may be a special portrait of Jerry aging up in the attic.

Father Phil Mares, who did his OTP at my parish in Masan in 1984, showed up next. He's a perfect example of the student far outpacing the teacher, as his Korean (complete with Kyungsangdo accent) is better even than most Koreans'! He does great work giving retreats and spiritual direction to Korean Sisters and seminarians, infusing a mission spirit into ther vocations.

Father Jim Sinnot was especially happy to see me so he could decompress some of his thoughts and emotions about all the Roy Bourgeois developments. "Loose cannon?" Jim says with disbelief and contempt, "If anything, he's a straight arrow."

Jim has had his own episode in the lime-light back in the 1970s after he was expelled from the ROK for "meddling" in their politics by coming to the aid of widows whose husbands had been illegally executed by the Park Chung Hee regime. Jim's actions on behalf of justice were vindicated by a later democratic Korean government that invited him back and paid his way so he could enjoy his retirement in the new Korea he had helped to create.

Fr. Bob (Black) Lilly remained discretely silent during Jim's defense of Roy. Bob, for his part, mentioned how somehow Magnificat magazine comes to him despite an erroneous address showing him living in the North. When he pointed out the error, Magnificat starting sending him two copies. Fr. Dick Rolewicz reports the same problem with Maryknoll magazine. I told him to use the other issue as an evangelization tool. Who knows, maybe if he too had an address in the North, he'd get four copies.

Fr. Hank Benenati and I shared memories of our time down in the Masan area when he lived in the neighboring town of Changwan.

Fr. Russ Feldmeier, who generously allowed me use of his computer so I might blog and ccheck email, is as perapatetic as ever. After a brief time talking together, he was off to do more of his work with collaboration and retreats. Russ and I go WAAAAY back to when he and I served in the Peace Corps together at Kungbuk University in Daegu back in the early 1970s.

Both Father Jerry Farrell and Father Joe Slaby keep active by continuing their interest in the Charismatic renewal.

Fr. Carl Costa came to the Seoul House on Tuesday, as is his custom, to do the bookkeeping. Carl continues to minister at a local old folks home.

Local superior Father Jerry Hammond and I apparently crossed paths in midair last Monday as he flew off to a meeting in Hong Kong.

Tomorrow I catch the Bullet Train to Masan, my old stomping grounds. Wish me well. The newly constructed train has been plagued with breakdowns in recent months.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Parishioners greet Fr. Ron Saucci and me after Mass.

Lord's Prayer

More than 1,200 people attend each of nine Masses.

Mass at St. Joseph's in Hong Kong

Knollnews East?

A Saturday supper at Maryknoll's Stanley House gave me the opportunity to schmooze with some of the residents. Br. Sebastian Schwartz never seems to age. Hong Kong's veteran illustrator and cartoonist remains active at an age when lesser mortals would have settled for a well-earned retirement of leisure. Fr. Ed Phillips prospers and seems the most upbeat of the Maryknollers I saw here.

Stanley House hosted a group of 50+ men on an Emmaus Walk weekend. Next week they will welcome 90+ women for the same program. Years ago, Maryknollers here wisely divided Stanley into Maryknollers' and guests' sections to accommodate large groups and get maximum use of the facility. We back at the Knoll would do well to learn from them.

It was good to see Br. Ed Redmund up and about and looking healthier than ever. He is an inspiration to all who have to confront life-threatening illnesses. Last year he celebrated ten years of survival. On that subject, he has much to share with Fr. Ron Saucci who, despite everything, looks and sounds amazingly well. Indeed, were it not for having to depend on a cane to get around, you'd be hard pressed to suspect anything amiss.

Speaking of survival, this morning I also ran into Fr. Jim McAuley at St. Joseph's church where he and Ron and several others minister to the huge Philppine community here. His years in the Philippines more than prepared him to work among Hong Kong's migrant population.

Tomorrow I head to Guangzhou where I hope to meet and interview Maryknoll Sr. Anastasia Lindawati, herself a fellow blogger. I will update Knollnews whenever Wi-Fi allows.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hong Kong & Points East

Just before heading to JFK airport to catch a red-eye to Hong Kong, I got a news alert on my most excellent iPhone: Bin Ladin Dead.

Talk about conflicting emotions. As an American, I confess to being overjoyed that the man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people had at last been found and killed. And it was U.S. Troops that found and killed him.

As a Christian, I couldn't help but feel shame for the above sentiment and sadness, especially for the death of an apparently unrepentant sinner. More sadness, perhaps, for the begrudging reality that violence begets violence and, aside from the visceral gratification and momentary bump in U.S. prestige, this solves nothing.

I felt some concern, not quite fear, that there might be retaliation (And here I was catching an international flight). I felt anger that the now dead man had profoundly and negatively impacted life in the U.S. as well people's lives around the world.

At the airport only a few people (and these were security guards) gathered around each of the many TV monitors broadcasting CNN. Most, like me, went through the security routine with silent resignation and removed our shoes and belts and watches and submitted to pat downs and full-body scans: Bin Ladin's lasting legacy.

As time and Wi-Fi allow in the three weeks I'll be away, I'll attempt to post some random thoughts from Asia. If you want to find out what's the buzz around the Maryknoll salad bar, you'll just have to wait to read it in NCR.