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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Stormy weather

Whoa. A tornado touched down in White Plains and the concurrent thunderstorm over our heads knocked down trees and telephone poles and left most of Ossining in the dark last night. Except for us. Our generator kept this "city in a hill" well lit.

Thus, the Summer Vocation Encounter ended its first full day. We also had a mini miracle of the multiplication of men interested in checking out the Society. We had three officially registered from among the 30 checking out the lay missioners and the Sisters. Then lo and behold, three more guys showed up! Now, I'm not suggesting cause and effect, but yesterday was also the anniversary of the death of Bishop James E. Walsh and during our morning prayer, his intercession and blessing were invoked on the gathering. Then BAM--the number doubles.

On the other side of the street, I hear one woman decided to return home after attending evening prayer at the Sisters'. In a flash of revelation she concluded she didn't want to be a missioner after all. Well, better to realize this before rather than after.

It is nice having the building bustling, albeit briefly, with young Catholics interested in mission through Maryknoll. I commend our guys for their patience yesterday as we delayed starting our community Mass for about six minutes to allow the participants to assemble And for some reason the air conditioning wouldn't kick in. And various breakdowns in communication all helped replicate the frustrations of mission!

Luckily, the joys and satisfaction of mission carried the day. Tornado? We're Maryknollers. We're used to chaos.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The future of Maryknoll

Vocation Encounter

Thirty youngish people are expected at Maryknoll today to participate in the annual Mission Vocation Encounter weekend. This brings together young people from around the country who want to check out the four types of vocation Maryknoll offers: priest, Brother, Sister or lay missioner.

What makes this encounter unique is that all interested people gather together on the same weekend, so they can hear each others' stories as well as hear from representatives of each entity. Thus, a young man who is not sure if he is better suited to be a lay missioner, Brother or Father can hear from each group and ask questions. Likewise, a woman can check out both the lay Missioners and the Sisters.

And no, a woman cannot apply to both lay missioners and priests...and be accepted. (Yet.)Letters of protest calling for change can be sent to the proper office: the Vatican.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The other "Mock-Up"

Times of the signs

This sign is one of two "mock-ups" in front of our main building to check what people think of the idea. Originally the plan called for two identical signs, one on each side of the same driveway; one facing north on Ryder Road and the other, south.

Since I was asked for my opinion, allow me to mock them up.

I hate the shape. It looks like faux Oriental or something. Why not replicate the very tastefully constructed directional signs already on the property indicating where each building is?

And why have both signs at the very same entrance? If someone has gotten that far and doesn't know what that ginormous seven-story Oriental-looking building is right in front of them, perhaps they've come to the wrong place. Actually, at this site, these would make THREE signs if you count the original bronze one for the CFMSA. ¿Como se dice "overkill" in Kiswahili?"

Why not put one at the southern boundary of our property and the other between here and St. T's?

The main entrance at the top of Brookside really doesn't need further explanation, does it?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rainy days and Mondays

Our prayerful condolences go out to our superior general, Father Ed Dougherty, on the death of his brother Gregory who passed away today at the age of 56. A memorial service will be held at a later date.


Prayers for a speedy recovery to Fr. Dennis Moorman, visiting home in Indiana when he suffered an outbreak of shingles. Lest you think this is violating his privacy, he posted this himself on his Facebook page, which many here at the Knoll STILL cannot access.


Today brought much needed relief from the stifling heat wave of 100+ degrees we've suffered over the past few days. Today was overcast, rainy and cool, but the heat and humidity is expected to rise by week's end.


The stump of the now defunct English elm was removed today. Plans are to plant another tree in the fall, but NOT another elm, according to a second-hand source quoting Fr. Richard Callahan, our arborologist. Apparently whatever killed off our 86-year-old tree is still lurking in the vast subterranean roots that remain buried. This would most likely infest any new elm before it even had a chance.

More's the pity, because there had been talk of transplanting one of the three remaining elms first planted by then seminarian John Barth back in the 1980s. One elm still graces the roadway leading down to the dump from the upper cemetery. This will now remain undisturbed as a new species is sought.


Twenty men gathered around the Founders' Tomb for the weekly rosary for vocations---an all-time record! Joining the 16 members in prayer were two Maryknoll seminarians and two Vietnamese seminarians with us for the summer from the archdiocese of Hanoi who are studying at the SVD seminary in Epworth, Iowa.


The search continues for a music and choir director to succeed (no one can ever replace!) Ms. Lucille Naughton who plans to retire at the end of September (but will assist at the Centenary Mass at St. Patrick's cathedral on October 30.)


A new policy has been put into place by which Society members wishing to avail themselves of gasoline at our garage will find the pump locked during lunch hour and whenever Mr. Ivan Reyes, our mechanic, is away. But not to fret! A phone in the box next to the garage door will automatically ring Security to come and unlock the pump for you. I will not divulge just why such a policy is necessary, but suffice it to say this mystery is filed along with the Case of the Diasappearing Purificators, Vestments, Holy Water Bucket and Aspergellum, National Catholic Reporter, AMERICA and Magnificat publications, not to mention the two HUGE Chinese vases.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On life supports?

Fr. Jim Noonan, former superior general, addressed a gathering of 32 Maryknoll Brothers, Fathers and promoters last night in the Founders Room, reporting on the recent meeting of the American Catholic Council in Detroit in June.

In the first hour, Jim went through the two documents that came out of the Council: Soundings of the Faithful and Catholic Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

More than 4,000 people attended the Conference from 38 States and several Canadian Provinces. Participants discussed what makes them happy about being Catholic (Why People Love the Church) and why are they still a Catholic? They also discussed the desire to have a Church that better witnesses to Gospel values as well as what they find disturbing or disappointing about the Church today.

The results of the survey were interesting but hardly surprising, and many Maryknollers might agree with them.

Fr. Marty Lowery expressed his hope that we here at the Center might do something to surface our own opinions of the issues facing the Church. Mr. Greg Darr, promoter from Chicago, expressed some disappointment of the demographics of both the conference and the survey: fully 96 percent were 45 years of age and older, with 63 percent being more than 65 years, Caucasian and college educated.(Coincidentally, this mirrors Maryknoll magazine readership.)

After an hour, Jim gave us a small break and invited any who wanted to remain for informal discussion of what we can do to safeguard the seemingly fading spirit of Vatican II. Surprisingly, 29 guys stayed for what I feel was one of the most spirited and energetic discussions we've had in ages.

I offered that in the Korean parish where I help out, these areas of concern (married priests, women priests, non-communicative and authoritarian bishops, lack of accountability, lack of lay participation and in-put) do not seem to be high priorities. Plus, the growing populations of the Church in the United States (Hispanic, Vietnamese, Korean and Haitian) don't seem to share our concerns. Are these immigrant parishes keeping the Church here on life supports? My hometown (Amsterdam, N.Y.) once had seven parishes; it now has three. Brooklyn is in the process of closing or combining 40+ parishes.

Several men reported that younger relatives or parishioners they know share our concerns that the present structure of the Church is seriously flawed, a fact made painfully obvious in the continued bungling of the scandals around the world.

What came out was a desire to keep our conversation going, perhaps in preparation for the meeting of all Society members in 2013. To that end, our next session here at the Center will be August 10 at 7:30.

Huffington Post: ROBERT ELLSBERG: Remembering Dorothy Day

While I prepare a blog post on yesterday's discussion
of the community with former superior, Father Jim Noonan on the American Catholic Conference, here is some edifying reading:

ROBERT ELLSBERG: Remembering Dorothy Day
Dorothy was truly a saint of "common ground" -- someone who held in tension a great love for the church along with deep sufferings over its sins and failings.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just for us

If you haven't had your fill of Centennial celebrations (more than one person observed that this year feels like it's lasting a century), today at Mother Knoll is billed as a day of festivities "Just for us."

That being said, today resembles most other days, with Mass at 11:30, followed by "rest" (read: nap!). Then, according to the flier, the afternoon will offer (ready?) games, volleyball, softball and touch football (!). The flier wryly points out that ambulances will be in waiting. (Our challenge to the men at St. T's has gone unanswered.)

There will be (yet another) BBQ this evening with wine & beer, though I doubt this will be sufficient to lure the faithful from the sacrosanct Happy Hour on the Third Floor. Throughout the day various vintage DVDs of mission work in years past will be shown in the corresponding rooms: Asia, Africa, South America and Central Ameeica.

Finally, Of God's & Men will be shown in the Asia Room at 7:30. Then we will be free of all Centenary celebrations, at least until the reunion gathering in September of 1,000+ former and members featuring Eugene Kennedy et al.

In other news: Superior General Fr. Ed Dougherty successfully hid out all day yesterday under the mistaken notion that if no one sings Happy Birthday to him he won't get older.

Fr. Dennis Moorman returned yesterday from the Explore My Mission trip to Taiwan and Korea with this year's winners, Ms. Danielle Alio and Mr. Joseph Houde. You can read about their Asian adventures at

Dennis said that of all the many Maryknoll regions he has visited over the years with great hospitality everywhere, the reception they received at the Seoul House was memorable in that the welcome was tangible from all the men as a group.(Nice going. Now our secret is out!)

And today is not only Dennis' birthday, but Fr. Ed Szendrey's as well! Yikes, we're aging by the minute!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some were really steamed

Brothers clam up

Just prior to their final day of meetings, the Maryknoll Brothers hosted a clam bake (or actually a clam steam) for the residents here at the Center, guests and some former Brothers.

Former MMs included Jim (Br.José) Mansman, Mr. and Mrs. Leo (Br. Sergio) DePinto, Jim Fahey, Victor Pagan, Carlos Aguilar, Mr. and Mrs. John (Br. Dennis) Madigan and John (Br.Ephream) McCullen.

Yesterday, Br. Frank ten Hoopen gave a moving tribute to the life and witness of the late Br. John Mullan, with whom he lived and worked in Musoma, Tanzania. John passed away last year at age 58.

Mullan, a registered nurse, taught nursing to Tanzanians and was active in the Pro-Life movement in East Africa. (Although, truth be told, in speaking with Africa missioners I learned Africans are instinctively pro-baby and pro-life. Indeed, Africans view celibacy as innately anti-life and selfish, as it denies future generations the chance to be born. Africans also are way more respectful of the elderly as well as mindful of their ancestors than are we in the States.)

Meanwhile back at the barricades, Super G Fr. Ed Dougherty returned from Rome, ostensibly (and officially) to introduce himself to our new boss over at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Archbishop Joao Braz de Aviz, formerly of Brasilia, Brazil.

At least that's what Fr. John Barth said Vicar G Fr. José Arámburu told him, so I have no reason to doubt this, although if true, it represents a departure from the usual way things are done in Rome.

I can't think of any other reason for "Doc" to go all the way to Rome to see our boss, can you?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Errata (and other annoyances)

OK, so the Brothers have had at least FIVE gatherings over the years, so sue me. Of more import, Brother Mark Huntington came in from his mission in Mwanza, Tanzania, not Namibia.

(FYI and to the best of my knowledge, there has never been an assembly exclusively for Maryknoll priests. But let's let sleeping dogs lie and not upset the hornets' nest, as it were.)

Yester-evening Br. Kevin Dargan showed a slide presentation he had prepared on the history of the Maryknoll Brothers. About half the Brothers and I, as token presbyter, attended.

Today, they heard from Br. Herman Johnson, O.P., president of the Religious Brothers Conference of the United States.

Not being a Brother, I am not privy to their deliberations, but I shall linger longer around the salad bar later and see what the buzz is.

Speaking of buzz, I hear Father General is in Rome even as we speak. On what business I do not know but I (and others) can guess. *sigh*

Also, the unsolved Case of the Missing Purificators took a bizarre twist yesterday when they all suddenly mysteriously reappeared---in the soiled linen drawer in the sacristy! And the whole drawer of clean purificators is now missing. And a soiled alb was hung in the closet. Clearly some misguided sacerdotal type is using us as his personal laundry service.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A gathering of Brothers

Maryknoll Brothers from around the world, the country and the building have gathered here at the Center for the first-ever assembly of Brothers in our 100-year-history.

Thirty-four of our 47 Brothers attended, a pretty good turn-out. Whilst distance, age, discomfort or disease prevented some from attending, this did not stop Br. Ed Redmund coming from Hong Kong, Br. John Beeching from Thailand, Brothers Mark Huntington and Mark Gruenke from Namibia, Br. Loren Beaudry from Tanzania and Brothers Kevin Dargan and Tom Hickey from here at the Center. Apparently the trek from the Fourth Floor C-Wing was too much for some, even though travel expenses are provided.

Two Brother Candidates are also in attendance, Br. Glen D'Angelo from Georgia and newly accepted Brother Ryan from Toronto.

Noted author and retreat director Br.Joel Giallanza, C.S.C., addressed the assembly today with challenges facing Brothers in the 21st century. This afternoon at 4 p.m. the group with gather at the upper cemetery to bless the new headstone marking the new grave of the first Maryknoll Brother Tom McCann, recently translated from California.

More news to come!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Maryknoll's rabbinical propensities

So if canon law is Torah for Catholics, than the New Commentary on Canon Law by John P. Beal et al must be the Talmud. What the law allows and what the law means is open to interpretation and discussion, if not debate.

Thus, Rabbi Jonah ben Sivalon of Scranton quotes above mentioned Commentary (which was ordered for our library today) in insisting that, absent a requisite four-member council to adjudicate a dismissal, the Commentary interprets the law to mean the missing member would normally be the regional superior of the man in question.

Canon 172 (of Catholic Torah) states such a vote "must be secret, certain, absolute and determinate." But, Rabbi Jonah posits, "What does certain, absolute, determinate mean?"

Notably "absolute." Does that require a minimum of four out of five (including the super G's vote) if not a unanimous vote as Sivalon maintains, or is it merely three out of five, as Rabbi Shlomo Don't-Use-My-Name-in-Your-Blog insists?

Again according to Sivalon, Fr. Roy Bourgeois has secured the services of noted (albeit controversial) canon lawyer Fr. Thomas Doyle. Thus, I can only hope the spotlight should soon shift away from our Maryknoll general council to the Vatican dicastery where the final verdict will be issued.

Until further developments appear in the NCR, I shall refrain from any more attempted arbitration between these dueling rabbis.

Letter of the Law

An expert in canonical matters informed me over the salad bar that I, and by extension former superior general Fr John Sivalon, are mistaken as to what vote by the council is required. Sivalon used the term "unanimous" but the expert contended it only need be "decisive."

He then "invited" me to look it up for myself, which till now I had been loathe to do as this blog was originally created to report on what guys were saying rather than fact-checking their groundless rumors.

Since this issue is serious enough, I took said expert up on his suggestion and looked it up on Google under "Dismissal from Apostolic Life." That being said, I reread this three times and could not find the word "decisive" nor, for that matter, any reference to involuntary laicization as a punishment. (It's a good thing Our Lord vacated his grave, or else he'd be spinning in it.)

Here, then, is the crux of the matter, with salient parts highlighted:

Art. 3.


Can. 694 §1. A member must be held as ipso facto dismissed from an institute who:

1/ has defected notoriously from the Catholic faith;

2/ has contracted marriage or attempted it, even only civilly.

§2. In these cases, after the proofs have been collected, the major superior with the council is to issue without any delay a declaration of fact so that the dismissal is established juridically.

Can. 695 §1. A member must be dismissed for the delicts mentioned in cann. ⇒ 1397, ⇒ 1398, and ⇒ 1395, unless in the delicts mentioned in ⇒ can. 1395, §2, the superior decides that dismissal is not completely necessary and that correction of the member, restitution of justice, and reparation of scandal can be resolved sufficiently in another way.

§2. In these cases, after the proofs regarding the facts and imputability have been collected, the major superior is to make known the accusation and proofs to the member to be dismissed, giving the member the opportunity for self-defense. All the acts, signed by the major superior and a notary, together with the responses of the member, put in writing and signed by that member, are to be transmitted to the supreme moderator.

Can. 696 §1. A member can also be dismissed for other causes provided that they are grave, external, imputable, and juridically proven such as: habitual neglect of the obligations of consecrated life; repeated violations of the sacred bonds; stubborn disobedience to the legitimate prescripts of superiors in a grave matter; grave scandal arising from the culpable behavior of the member; stubborn upholding or diffusion of doctrines condemned by the magisterium of the Church; public adherence to ideologies infected by materialism or atheism; the illegitimate absence mentioned in ⇒ can. 665, §2, lasting six months; other causes of similar gravity which the proper law of the institute may determine.

§2. For the dismissal of a member in temporary vows, even causes of lesser gravity established in proper law are sufficient.

Can. 697 In the cases mentioned in ⇒ can. 696, if the major superior, after having heard the council, has decided that a process of dismissal must be begun:

1/ the major superior is to collect or complete the proofs;

2/ the major superior is to warn the member in writing or before two witnesses with an explicit threat of subsequent dismissal unless the member reforms, with the cause for dismissal clearly indicated and full opportunity for self-defense given to the member; if the warning occurs in vain, however, the superior is to proceed to another warning after an intervening space of at least fifteen days;

3/ if this warning also occurs in vain and the major superior with the council decides that incorrigibility is sufficiently evident and that the defenses of the member are insufficient, after fifteen days have elapsed from the last warning without effect, the major superior is to transmit to the supreme moderator all the acts, signed personally and by a notary, along with the signed responses of the member.

Can. 698 In all the cases mentioned in cann. ⇒ 695 and ⇒ 696, the right of the member to communicate with and to offer defenses directly to the supreme moderator always remains intact.

Can. 699 §1. The supreme moderator with the council, which must consist of at least four members for validity, is to proceed collegially to the accurate consideration of the proofs, arguments, and defenses; if it has been decided through secret ballot, the supreme moderator is to issue a decree of dismissal with the reasons in law and in fact expressed at least summarily for validity.

§2. In the autonomous monasteries mentioned in ⇒ can. 615, it belongs to the diocesan bishop, to whom the superior is to submit the acts examined by the council, to decide on dismissal.

Can. 700 A decree of dismissal does not have effect unless it has been confirmed by the Holy See, to which the decree and all the acts must be transmitted; if it concerns an institute of diocesan right, confirmation belongs to the bishop of the diocese where the house to which the religious has been attached is situated. To be valid, however, the decree must indicate the right which the dismissed possesses to make recourse to the competent authority within ten days from receiving notification. The recourse has suspensive effect.

Can. 701 By legitimate dismissal, vows as well as the rights and obligations deriving from profession cease ipso facto.

Nevertheless, if the member is a cleric, he cannot exercise sacred orders until he finds a bishop who receives him into the diocese after an appropriate probation according to the norm of ⇒ can. 693 or at least permits him to exercise sacred orders.

Can. 702 §1. Those who depart from a religious institute legitimately or have been dismissed from it legitimately can request nothing from the institute for any work done in it.

§2. Nevertheless, the institute is to observe equity and the charity of the gospel toward a member who is separated from it.

Can. 703 In the case of grave external scandal or of most grave imminent harm to the institute, a member can be expelled immediately from a religious house by the major superior or, if there is danger in delay, by the local superior with the consent of the council. If it is necessary, the major superior is to take care to begin a process of dismissal according to the norm of law or is to refer the matter to the Apostolic See.

Can. 704 In the report referred to in ⇒ can. 592, §1, which is to be sent to the Apostolic See, mention is to be made of members who have been separated from the institute in any way.

Winners of "Explore My Mission" video contest Asia bound

As top winners of this year's "Explore My Mission" video contest, Joseph Houde, from Topsham, Maine, and Danielle Alio from North Wales, Penn., will leave for Taiwan and Korea tomorrow, July 7, to visit our missions in those two countries.

Joseph is a junior at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where he majors in business and communications. His video showed his
commitment to gospel service during a spring break trip he made to Ecuador with Missions for Peace.

Danielle, a junior majoring in communications at Cabrini College in Radnor, Penn., presented a video focusing on the plight of the poor in Haiti, Sudan, Swaziland as well as immigrants yo the United States.

They will be accompanied to Asia by Father Dennis Moorman as well as
our videographers Mr. Francisco Suarez and Ms. Karen Cooper.

Fr. Joyalito Tajonera will host them around Taipei and Fr. Alfonso Kim will show them around Korea, including a visit to the DMZ with North Korea.

You can follow their adventures by logging onto

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Fr. Dennis Moorman, Mr. Joseph Houde and Ms. Danielle Alio

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

R.I.P. English Elm 1941-2011

The stately English elm, planted in our quadrangle by Fr. Tom Walsh seventy years ago, finally gave up the ghost during the heat spell last week.

On more than one occasion in recent years the tree was given up for dead, only to be carefully nursed back to the land of the living, if not to health, by our grounds crew and arborologist-in-residence Fr. Richard Callahan. For several years the county even administered I.V.s to both trees to bolster their immune systems--no joke.

Cause of death is still unknown, but arboricide has been ruled out. The two elms--the now defunct English elm and its more symmetrical cousin, the American elm--have survived outbreaks of Dutch elm disease, sap-sucking aphids and plagues of jubilee tents over the years.

Our Centennial celebration last week proved to be the final nail in the proverbial coffin, as it were, although it's more likely the tree will provide the actual wood.

Final arrangements have not been announced. My guess is the poor thing will be left standing until the prospect of a falling limb hitting someone with the idea of a lawsuit inspires an impromptu lumberectomy.

There are no relatives, but a few saplings look suspiciously familiar.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Society for the Abolition of Toothpicks.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I stand corrected...sort of

A phone call today from a concerned and well-informed Maryknoller convinced me my contention that L'Affair Bourgeois is all about our oath of obedience and not women's ordination is not quite accurate. Or may not be accurate at all.

He deftly laid out the case that MANY Maryknollers over the years have disobeyed orders from superiors and then went on to enjoy blissfully undisturbed lives sans threat of dismissal. He also mentioned that those few Maryknollers (four, by my count) who were dismissed in recent years had other issues and extenuating circumstances.

He contended that had the Super G actually ordered Roy either to return to the Center or take an overseas assignment and then had Roy refused, the disobedience card might have been more convincingly played. What removes the disobedience fig leaf (my words, not his) from the argument is the double whammy of dismissal AND laicization. Other guys who were dismissed were not laicized, even though most did not join another diocese or order. This lays to rest the apparently false notion that a dismissed priest must be laicized because you can't have priests freelancing, as it were.

My caller insists it's all about Rome equating ordination of women with child molestation as equally offensive to the Church and wanting to make an example of him by putting the screws to Maryknoll (again, I am paraphrasing).

OK, so it's not about obedience. But the anger remains among some Maryknollers (I never took a poll) who resent Roy's consistently dragging Maryknoll's name into his crusades, from his disappearing act in El Salvador in the 1980's to his inviting a woman to concelebrate Mass in Minneapolis to the more widely publicized actions of recent years.

They point to Father Miguel D'Escoto's equally impressive actions on behalf of justice with nary a mention of Maryknoll's name and wonder why Roy didn't or couldn't do that.

Then we have the canonical conundrum that the unanimous votes for dismissal might not even be there. Perhaps that's the strategy. Father General could then tell his superiors in Rome that he did all that canon law requires and if they want to be rid of this "meddlesome priest" (a la Thomas Becket) they might have to do the deed themselves.

Granted the Fourth of July is a slow news cycle, but the drama contues.

Huffington Post: ROBERT ELLSBERG: Editing Henri Nouwen

Mr. Robert Ellsberg, executive director of Orbis books, reflected on his experience working with one of Orbis's most successful authors: Henri Nouwen. Ellsberg's article may be read by clicking the link below.

ROBERT ELLSBERG: Editing Henri Nouwen
Henri Nouwen worked with many editors in his life. As it turned out, I was the last. I would not have foreseen this.

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