“Trailblazers in Habits” Viewing at Society

trailblazers in habits4_1_0_0“Trailblazers in Habits”, a 90-minute film documenting the pioneer work of Maryknoll Sisters, the first U.S.-based congregation of Catholic women religious dedicated to foreign mission, will be shown Friday, March 27, 2015, at 7 p.m. in the Asia Room at Maryknoll Society Mission Center, 55 Ryder Road, Ossining, NY.   Sisters featured in the film will be on hand to greet attenders and will answer questions following the showing.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free. Light refreshments will be served.

“Trailblazers in Habits” tells the story, in the Sisters’ own words, of the congregation’s work in education, healthcare, and the cause of social justice. A moving and absorbing chronicle that spans 100 years and several continents, the film celebrates the intelligence and tenacity, the love, compassion and generosity of these early feminists. The premiere coincides with the Maryknoll Sisters’ Centennial year.

Production of the film was almost entirely funded by donations from the thousands who attended Maryknoll schools around the world. Maryknollers wanted a way to tell the full story of the Sisters’ contributions to their communities, from the building of schools and hospitals around the world to helping lay the foundation of Hong Kong’s social welfare system.

By turns tragic and joyous, yet always inspirational, this insightful documentary by award-winning director Nancy Tong, is a revealing portrait of these courageous women and a timely testimony to the Sisters’ lifelong dedication to helping the disenfranchised.

For more information, please contact Sue Palmer, Communications Manager, at 914-941-7575, ext. 5687 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Friday, March 27, 2015

He Loves Just the Same

catarinasantos2Two months after her son was born, Catarina Julian ran into Sister Barbara after Sunday Mass at San Andres Apostle Church.

Santos has a cleft lip, which means the two sides of his upper lip physically split at birth. Catarina talked with Sister Barbara about her son, and right then and there in rural Guatemala, Santos’ life was about to change.

Some people turn their heads at the sight of a child with a cleft lip. “Clefted” kids have trouble speaking and eating. Many are told not to come to school or play with other children because of their disfigured faces. They are lovable just the same.

Who would sustain a growing baby if not his own mom? For Santos, it’s been a long road to recovery. He’s not even 2, and he’s had five trips to the hospital to correct his cleft lip.

Santos is not alone. More children are born with cleft lips in developing countries. In places like Guatemala, indigenous women often lack proper nutrients during pregnancy.

“Through education, their diet improves somewhat,” Sister Barbara said, “but is limited because of a lack of availability and poverty.”

San Andres Apostle parish has been especially hard hit. When the church pastor baptized several children with cleft lips, all within only a few months, Sister Barbara knew that something had to be done.

The good news is that cleft lips and other birth defects can be prevented. In basic education classes for rural women here, Sister Barbara suggests the best foods to eat when a baby is on the way. She recommends foods high in folic acid: leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and asparagus.

In a place like Guatemala where nearly everyone struggles to have enough food to eat, we can make a difference.


‘There is So Much Needed Here’

grenoughclassIt’s often said that a problem can’t be really solved unless it’s brought to God. Well, you’re helping us bring to God Myanmar’s “unacknowledged reality.”

Your support could prevent a further spike in HIV/AIDS cases here.

AIDS is a problem Myanmar’s churches have been late to take up because of a “lack of information, high stigma and discrimination,” says Sister Mary Grenough. Myanmar is among the top five Asian countries with the most severe AIDs epidemics.

It’s not just her, though. In Catholic parishes throughout Myanmar, Sister Mary is giving her AIDS prevention workshops to anyone who will listen. In the past, people here have been quiet on the topic. Now, churches and other groups here are realizing that compassion is what’s needed when someone close is dying of AIDS.

“Would you believe that in some places here, people who die of AIDS are still denied burial in a Christian cemetery,” she said, “and some priests are afraid to visit them to offer spiritual assistance for fear of contracting the virus?”

sistermaryandfriendSo far, Sister Mary has given workshops in Myitkyina, Mandalay, Yangon, Mawlamyine, Mindat, southern Chin state, and Lashio. That’s on top of the five dioceses that were reached last year.

AIDS patients also need wellness tools for self-healing, so Sister Mary also got together some AIDS caregivers in Myanmar for a workshop with Maryknoll Sister Eileen Brady. In East Timor, Sister Eileen teaches the Timorese how to heal from their own scars, endured during the country’s independence movement.

Being diagnosed with AIDS can be just as devastating. That’s why Sister Mary is heading the Myanmar Catholic HIV/AIDS Network, which helps separate AIDS fact from fiction. The group is preparing AIDS health care guidebooks that will help churches and other caregivers in Myanmar save lives.

After her AIDS pamphlets are translated into Burmese, Sister Mary hopes people here will finally be able to welcome those who are HIV-positive, not forsake them.

Opening a Window to a Silent World

Deaf Catholics connect with our ministry in China.

It can seem like a prison, a world filled with faces where lips move without sound. Now, multiply that by a lifetime and you start to sense the world of the hearing-impaired. At a church in China, we’re helping deaf people really become part of the community as Catholics.

It’s all happening at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Macau, where the assistant pastor and some parishioners volunteered to learn sign language with Maryknoll Sister Arlene Trant. It took them four weeks. Their devotion is lasting far longer.

“From that time on, there have been about a dozen people with normal hearing who sit with our deaf group and sign the Mass prayers together with us,” Sister Arlene said.

Every week at Mass, she joins about 20 deaf people who use sign language to say the prayers. Lectors who are deaf “read” the Scripture readings with special hand gestures, which make up a language that more and more in the parish can understand

arlenetrant1Students at St. Teresa”s School in Macau, China, practice their English with Sr. Arlene, who is a teacher there.

“It continually amazes me how warmly our deaf Catholic group has been welcomed into the parish,” said Sister Arlene, who began a Sunday school class for deaf people this year. In addition, the church holds a monthly Mass for the deaf on Saturday night. Sister Arlene is hoping to attract more young Catholics who are deaf.

A “special honor” took place on May 1, when deaf people helped celebrate the parish’s feast day for St. Joseph the Worker. At the Mass, the pastor invited a small group of deaf Catholics to stand at the altar and pray the Lord’s Prayer in sign language.

Macau Bishop José Lai Hung-Seng and more than 10 priests celebrated the anniversary Mass at the church. Only around five percent of the population here are Catholic.

This year’s feast came on the day the parish was founded 11 years ago in a working-class area of Macau, an island territory in the South China Sea. Among those attending was Sister Anastasia Lindawati, a Maryknoll missioner serving her first assignment in nearby Hong Kong.

“I was moved when the four deaf persons prayed the Our Father in sign language in front of the altar,” said Sister Anastasia.

Mollie Speaks To Us Today

On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we as Maryknoll Sisters continued in prayer to observe the 100th anniversary of our founder Mother Mary Joseph Rogers’ resolve to give herself to this work of Catholic mission.

In celebrating this resolve of Mollie’s, we enter into our pre-centennial times. We can imagine all that was going on among Maryknoll’s key people in these days a hundred years ago. Five days before Mollie’s resolve on September 15, 1910, Fathers Walsh and Price had met in Montreal and made their own commitments to this work of mission.

Joy spreads through the heritage of Mother Mary Joseph.

Joy spreads through the heritage of Mother Mary Joseph
Joy spreads through the heritage of Mother Mary Joseph

We often talk, however, of how very different times are today from the days when Maryknoll was being founded. For one thing, we imagine things back then as having more clarity. In our troubled world and Church of today we often feel confused and frustrated, needing to seek our way anew.

Yet there is something about Mollie Rogers in our lives that does not change. As we saw during the vigil last evening, Mollie maintains a power to convoke us and bond us in an extraordinary way. We in turn invoke her presence among us, symbolized by the chair of leadership.

Hopefully, we will all spend some time with Mollie in the coming days, perhaps placing our cares and concerns in her hands in the basket beside her chair.

Several things came together in prayer this week. Wednesday is the day when many Maryknoll Sisters spend time in adoration here in the chapel. It is also the opening day of the 100 days of prayer for community decisions suggested by Sister Rose Corde McCormick.

Future Doctor Serves as Role Model in Tanzania

Linda Simon was only 14 when one morning, three people knocked on the door of her family home near Arusha, Tanzania.

“I was told to get prepared for the journey to Arusha town, as they are going to take me to a nun who will take me to school. It was a miracle I wished to happen.”

Linda Simon (far l) calls our Emusoi Center "a miracle." Now she plans to go to medical school.
Linda Simon (far l) calls our Emusoi Center “a miracle.” Now she plans to go to medical school.

Linda Simon (far l) calls our Emusoi Center “a miracle.” Now she plans to go to medical school.

It could have been different. Many Maasai girls dread that knock on their front door. By Maasai custom, it’s the first time a girl learns of her future husband. An arranged marriage means potential income for the father. But to his daughter, an unfamiliar groom can generate fear and family discord.

Fortunately, Linda was spared the horrors of being married so young. Instead, that day Linda met Maryknoll Sister Mary Vertucci.

Sister Mary coordinates the Emusoi Center, a school she helped found in Arusha, Tanzania. Young Maasai girls like Linda go to Emusoi to get a basic education–and to become young women prepared to study for careers they can use back home. Linda said Emusoi has given her “confidence, happiness and courage.”

“At Emusoi, I met with Maasai girls with different dreams,” Linda said. “Mine has always been that one day, I want to be among the best medical doctors and surgeons in the world.”

Students see Sr. Mary Vertucci (r) as a mentor. Early marriage forces many Maasai girls to forego school.

Students see Sr. Mary Vertucci (r) as a mentor. Early marriage forces many Maasai girls to forego school.
Students see Sr. Mary Vertucci (r) as a mentor. Early marriage forces many Maasai girls to forego school.

Linda sees a need for physicians in the Maasai culture and in Tanzania. Unfortunately, however, Linda was the only student in her ward to pass the final exams that led her to where she is today. Having finished advanced studies in physics, chemistry and biology, Linda has her eyes on entering medical school this fall.

According to the United Nations, an estimated 113 million children around the world are prevented from going to school, and 60 percent of them are girls. The reality for many girls is that they’ll be married before they’re 18. In Tanzania, Sister Mary said, no more than 20 percent of primary school graduates continue with their education. The need for education in this part of the world is so great, she said, that more resources are needed.

“At this point, we have more requests from student applicants than we can handle, and we have to send girls away because we have no room or finances to take care of them.”

Before Emusoi, Linda worried that her family couldn’t afford to send her to school. She comes from an “economically poor family,” she said, and Tanzania is among the world’s poorest countries. In 1999, education spending here was under 5 percent of GDP.

“I decided to spend my holiday teaching my young (Maasai) sisters at Emusoi because I know the environment they were brought up in and the challenges they face that some can even complete their primary education without the basic reading and writing skills,” Linda said.

“I believe that my presence will make a difference in their life.”

AIDS: Hopes to eliminate disease by 2020

Much of the following article was published by the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) on June 13.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS (UNGASS), which took place in New York June 8-10, concluded with the adoption of a declaration that by 2015 seeks to double the number of people on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to 15 million, end mother-to-child transmission of HIV, halve tuberculosis-related deaths in people living with HIV, and increase preventive measures for the “most vulnerable populations.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a global commitment to eliminate AIDS by 2020. “That is our goal – zero new infections, zero stigma and zero AIDS-related deaths,” he said.

The three-day event, attended by heads of state, civil society groups, AIDS organizations and activists from more than 30 countries, coincided with the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS and was dominated by discussions on the importance of increasing access to treatment.

“This Declaration is strong, the targets are time-bound and set a clear and workable roadmap, not only for the next five years, but beyond,” said Joseph Deiss, president of the General Assembly in a statement. “UN member states have recognized that HIV is one of the most formidable challenges of our time and have demonstrated true leadership through this Declaration in their commitments to work towards a world without AIDS.”

The money to achieve these aims is still a major issue, but the document is vague on where it will come from – about US$10 billion is spent each year, and UNAIDS says another $6 billion will be required. Countries agreed to increase AIDS-related spending to reach between $22 billion and $24 billion in low- and middle-income countries by 2015.

During his talk at a session to launch the global plan to eliminate new HIV infections in babies, former U.S. President Bill Clinton discussed the importance of coordination among governmental agencies and other bodies, and the overhead costs in assisting HIV-positive people. He noted that many UN conferences have failed to achieve the goals they set for themselves, but hoped this time would be different.

Some nongovernmental organizations participating in the debate are skeptical. They see barriers to the level of appropriations for HIV and AIDS-related programs, given the budget deficit debate in the U.S. and other countries. They are also concerned about the impact of trade agreements now being negotiated between, for example, the European Union and India, on access to generics medicines and to newer cheaper medicines by millions of people dependent on them for survival. Furthermore, opposition to women- and girl-centered responses to HIV and AIDS and to even discussing the impact of AIDS on sex workers and other highly vulnerable populations leaves gaping holes in any strategy to get the AIDS pandemic under control.

Others were more optimistic. In its June 18 issue, the highly respected medical journal The Lancet wrote, “Last week saw the conclusion of a landmark event in the recent history of AIDS. The two turning points took place in New York. The visible one was a high-level meeting on AIDS, which brought 3,000 participants to the UN to review progress in defeating an epidemic 30 years into its devastating course. Ambitious new targets were agreed. Countries committed themselves to, by 2015: halving sexual transmission of HIV; halving HIV transmission among people who inject drugs; ensuring that no child will be born with HIV; getting 15 million people onto treatment; and halving deaths from tuberculosis among people living with AIDS.

“But the invisible turning point was the realization that simply strengthening the vertical program that is AIDS has to end. The new opportunity is integration. As one senior UNAIDS scientist put it: AIDS is not an exceptional disease; it is an exceptional opportunity. Part of the reason for a change in strategy is a matter of brutal reality. Investment in AIDS is in decline relative to other spheres of global health. But the incredible success of the AIDS movement also means that it is in a strong position to embrace—warmly and generously—other sectors of global health. AIDS can be the engine that broadens a front to defeat the diseases of poverty.”

Faith in action:

Contact your member of Congress to urge the highest possible appropriations for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Response (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund in FY 2012.

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Remember When We Were One With Nature

Our ecological center is acting so a city in the Philippines has a future.

Fresh clean water to drink. Healthy clear air to breathe. Some things in life we take for granted. In the northern Philippines, people can’t be so sure.

The northern region of this island chain has the third-largest concentration of tribal peoples in the Philippines. It also has some of the dirtiest air. People in Baguio City, for example, complain of barren mountain ranges that used to be green with pine trees. The air is not the same, either. It’s filled with smog from the construction vehicles you can see all around.

Land developers here are building multitudes of new homes where the indigenous have made do for years.

ritualpic4a“I feel quite sad and disappointed that this area…could come to this sorry state,” said Sister Cathy, who grew up in the Philippines. She said the breathtaking vistas are mostly gone. She wonders if people have forgotten “their oneness with the land.”

In the face of this crisis, our ecological sanctuary is a big help. Recently, while cutting down some older trees to rebuild huts at our sanctuary damaged last year by Typhoon Juan, we saved a tree that has been living on our grounds for almost a century. We decided that the ailing environment needs the tree’s natural beauty and other benefits. It’s among the oldest trees in Baguio.


grabbingdirt2What’s more, the sanctuary will plant more trees this year than we did in previous years, says Sister Cathy, who directs the ecological center. She teaches Filipinos about ways they can save their environment. Schoolchildren go on field trips at the center, and adults take workshops on earth-friendly planting methods.

Before the sanctuary was about to cut down its older trees, “we held a ritual to honor the spirits in the life of the trees. It was solemn, truly respectful of the indwelling of the spirit and a profound recognition of God as the source of all.”

Centennial Garden of Gratitude and Promise

Our new Centennial Garden is a sight to see! It’s finally ready to be dedicated on the property of our misson center in New York. You’re invited to watch a webcast of the the dedication ceremony live at 3 p.m. on June 2.

centennialgardenThe garden celebrates the people everywhere around the world who have made our mission work possible.

The design of the garden recognizess our presence and efforts in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific Islands, and North America.

The garden consists of a series of meditation areas and other features. One area is wheelchair-accessible.

DSC00039A key element of the garden is an ancient stone found on our land many years ago.  It has been placed in the garden to mark the memory of one hundred years of Maryknoll Sisters going to the world in mission, and as a symbol of Christ’s promise of fullness of life for the entire Earth community, for which Maryknoll Sisters, together with our partners in mission, stand ready to serve as the future unfurls.

Our partners in mission include all those with whom we have worked to bring Good News to the poor:  the people with whom we have worked, the benefactors who have held us in prayer and granted us generous financial support, our family and friends.

We have not journeyed alone.