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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.