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.