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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.

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