See ‘Trailblazers in Habits’ Live in Chicago

Tanzania_B401_F03_P047_0Trailblazers in Habits, a new documentary about the pioneer work of Maryknoll Sisters, the first U.S.-based congregation of Catholic women religious dedicated to foreign mission, will be shown on Friday, October 3, 2014, at 7 p.m. at Catholic Theological Union Academic and Conference Center, 5416 S. Cornell Avenue, Chicago, IL 60615.

The film, which is being shown free of charge, 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.

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 call 866-662-9900 or visit www.maryknollsisters.org

Three Sisters to Make Final Vows

Maryknoll, NY – Sisters Abby Avelino, Anastasia Lee and Julia Shideler will make their final vows as Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic at a Mass on Sunday, September 28, 2014, at Annunciation Chapel, Maryknoll Sisters Center. Watch the liturgy live beginning at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

Avelino, Abby_0A Filipina from the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Sister Abby was born in Tanauan City, Philippines. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Calamba, Philippines. She also received training as a Quality Assurance Auditor in Manila. She immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 and worked for JTL Precision Machining and Waltco Engineering, both in  Gardena, CA.

Sister Abby entered the Maryknoll Sisters in NY in August 2006 from St. Philomena parish in Carson, CA, attracted, she said, by their down-to-earth, humble attitude of service in mission in many countries all over the world.

Prior to her choosing religious missionary life, Sister Abby was a member of the Los Angeles Maryknoll Affiliate chapter. She visited the Maryknoll Sisters retirement house in Monrovia, CA getting to know the Sisters with their rich experiences in mission.

Following her first vows in 2008, Sister Abby was sent to Japan where she has worked with migrant families from the Philippines for the past six years.

Lee, Anastasia (YunJoo)_0Born in Seoul, Korea, Sister Anastasia was attracted to Africa from an early age and dreamed of being a missionary there. After graduating from University, she taught English for 10 years.  In 1999, she became a Catholic and began thinking of combining religious life with that of a missionary. While searching the internet for missionary groups, she came upon the Maryknoll Sisters website.  The importance they placed on living in community, combined with the types of work they did and their openness to receiving women from many different nations into their congregation, stirred her to apply.

Sister Anastasia joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 2005 at Maryknoll, NY. After being trained in Chicago, she took her first vows at Maryknoll, August 12, 2007, and was sent to join the Maryknoll Sisters Peacebuilding Team in Kenya, in East Africa, where she has served for the past seven years.

Julia Shideler 2012_0Born in Oakland, CA, Sister Julia entered Maryknoll Sisters on August 14, 2005, from Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Bellingham, WA, and has spent the last six years of her life serving the economically poor in East Timor, a half-island nation just north of Darwin, Australia.

Baptized Catholic at the Newman Center in Berkeley, she spent her early years at St. Augustine’s Parish in Spokane. When she was in second grade, her parents left the Catholic Church and joined the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Spokane.  She received Unitarian Religious Education throughout high school and integrated Unitarian values and a commitment to spirituality and justice.

Moving to Orcas Island, WA, in 1997, Julia began searching for deeper understanding and a more personal relationship with God. She went for a cultural “work-exchange” in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she gave English and French lessons in a private school and lived with a family. Her three-month live-in with a devoted Catholic family prompted her to reflect on her faith and the personal meaning of her baptism. It also gave her a greater desire for cross-cultural work.

In college, Julia realized she was not satisfied with the Unitarian Fellowship she had joined in Bellingham. At Western Washington University, she began exploring her Catholic roots. She attended some Campus Ministry masses at the Shalom Center that touched her deeply.

Within a year she decided to return to the Catholic Church and joined St. Anne’s Parish in Spokane in 2000. It was there she began to hear a call to Religious life. Sr. Alice Ann Byrne O.P., a Sister at the parish, was the only one she could talk to about her sense of calling. At the time she was preparing for a trip to Cote d’Ivoire with Whatcom College. The local parish she joined in Grand Bassam for three months gave her a wider sense of the universal Church and nurtured her desire for mission.

Graduating from WWU in 2002 with a degree in Spanish, she moved back to Orcas Island to continue discerning her call to Religious life. She joined St. Francis Church of the San Juan Islands. This grace-filled time helped her clarify the Spirit’s guidance of her life and she chose to join Maryknoll.

To further discern her call to Mission and to Maryknoll, Julia went to live in Korea. She taught English for a year in Suwon and got to know the Maryknoll Sisters community. In 2004, she spent four months with a Maryknoll Community in Majuro, Marshall Islands Republic (in the Pacific) for a live-in experience. Julia entered the Maryknoll Sisters in 2005, spending her Orientation Program in Chicago with a multicultural community. Her experience of prayer, community life and ministry during her novitiate was a powerful and transformative experience, which prepared her to live as a Sister in service to God’s mission.

‘Trailblazers in Habits’ to Air on ABC

trailblazers in habits4_0Trailblazers in Habits, a new documentary about the pioneer work of Maryknoll Sisters, the first U.S.-based congregation of Catholic women religious dedicated to foreign mission, will air on ABC-TV affiliates across the nation, beginning Sunday, September 28, 2014.

The program, which is available to stations for broadcast through Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2014, tells the story, in the Sisters’ own words, of the congregation’s work in education, health care, 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.

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.

Congregation Elects New Leadership Team

new CLTMaryknoll, NY – Four members of Maryknoll Sisters were elected as new leaders of the congregation at its General Assembly, held September 7-21, 2014, in Woodcliff, NJ.

Convened once every six years to discuss key issues related to congregational life and fulfilling their calling as missioners as well as elect new leadership, the Assembly drew together 147 Maryknoll Sisters from 18 different nations. These Sisters served as representatives of the 458-member congregation in nominating and voting on new leadership, as well as reaching decisions on key issues about their mission and congregational life.

The new members of the Congregational Leadership Team, who will begin their six-year term of service in January 2015, include:

Sister Antoinette Gutzler, President. Sister Antoinette is a 2001 graduate of Fordham University, Bronx, NY, with a Ph.D. in systematic theology.  She also holds a Masters of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Fordham received in 1997; an M.A. in Systematic Theology from Fordham, earned in 1995; a B.A. in theology from Mundelein College, Chicago, IL, earned in 1971, and an A.A. degree in education from Mary Rogers College, Maryknoll, NY, earned in 1968.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Sister Antoinette entered Maryknoll in 1964 at its Topsfield, MA, novitiate from St. Gabriel’s Parish, Queens, NY. Following her formation years, she worked briefly in the Purchasing Department at Maryknoll Sisters Center, Ossining, NY.  Then she received her first overseas assignment to Tanzania, East Africa, in 1971.

After studying Swahili in Musoma, she was assigned to Mwanza where, from 1972-1974, she taught religion to secondary school students and helped begin a center for high school students.  She made her final vows there on March 10, 1973.

Sister Antoinette then returned to the United States, working first as a secretary in the congregation’s Education department from January – November 1975, followed by two years speaking about the congregation on behalf of its Development Department at local churches and schools in the New England area.

Sister Antoinette was then assigned to Taiwan in 1978.  She studied both Mandarin and Taiwanese and worked as director of the Solidarity Young Workers Center from 1979-1988.

Following four years as Director of Personnel at Maryknoll Sisters Center and six years earning her graduate degrees at Fordham, Sister Antoinette returned to Taiwan in 2001, where she began teaching at the School of Theology at Fu Jen University, while also doing research and responding to invitations to present lectures throughout Taiwan and other Asian countries.   She was elected President of Maryknoll Sisters at the congregation’s General Assembly in September 2014.

Sister Antoinette’s recent publications include: “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi: ‘Women Matters’ as an Asian Theological Concern” (2011); “Am I My Sister’s Keeper?” The “Internalization and Globalization of Women’s Homelessness: A Taiwan Perspective” (2010); “Navigating the Tradition: A Christian Feminist Perspective on the Power of Creedal Language to Shape the Lives of Women” (2008); “Entering the Silence: A Christmas Meditation” (2008) and “Shadow Lives/Public Faces: Women, Marriage and Family Life in Taiwan” (2008).

She is a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), The American Academy of Religion (AAR), consultant to the Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA), and a Standing Committee member of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Association of Major Religious Superior in Taiwan.

Sister Numeriana Mojado, Vice-President. Sister Numeriana is a 1998 graduate of Fordham University, Bronx, NY, with an M.S. in Religious Studies and received her R.N. from Far Eastern University, Manila, Philippines, in 1968.  She also holds a certificate in clinical pastoral education from the Department of Pastoral Care, Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn, NY, and studied pastoral counseling and spiritual direction at Fordham and theology at Maryknoll Seminary.

Born in San Isidro, Lilio, Laguna Philippines, Sister Numeriana is a Canadian citizen and entered Maryknoll Sisters from St. Patrick’s Parish, Montreal, Quebec, in 1976. She then served as a psychiatric nurse at St. John of God Psychiatric Clinic, Kwangju, Korea, from 1979-1982.

Following studies at Methodist Hospital, she returned to Korea where she worked among the urban poor and provided spiritual direction at a worker apostolate in Songnam City from 1984-1988. She then worked with the urban poor in Chulsandong from 1988-1990.  From 1990-1994 she served as Admission Director for the Congregation

Following completion of her master’s degree at Fordham, she returned to Korea, working in private counseling, spiritual direction and vocation ministry in Seoul from 1998-2007. During that time, she also worked with Filipino migrant workers, led retreats at Hwa Dong House, served on the Board of Magdalena House, a residence for women escaping prostitution, and on the Advisory Committee for Wellspring of Peace, a counseling center for sexual  abuse.

From 2007-2011, Sister Numeriana served as Personnel Director of Sisters for the congregation, was active in planning and preparation of several events for Maryknoll Sisters’ centennial year in 2012, and joined the congregation’s contemplative community in 2013.

Sister Anastasia Lott, Member. Sister Anastasia is a 1997 graduate of the Maryknoll Institute for African Studies, Nairobi, East Africa, with an M.A. in African Studies (a program under St. Mary’s University of Minnesota) and a 1979 graduate of the University of San Diego in California with a B.A. in Chemistry.  She is also a 1975 graduate of Bishop Amat Memorial High School, La Puente, CA, and a 1971 graduate of Blessed Sacrament School, Westminster, CA.  She was also a student at Mater Dei High School, Santa Ana, CA, from 1971-1973.

Born in Landstuhl, Germany, while her father was stationed there with the U.S. Air Force, Sister Anastasia was the first of nine children born to Vernon and Shirley Lott, presently of Springdale, AR.  She first expressed an interest in religious life while a student at Mater Dei.

While a student at the University of San Diego, she worked as a research assistant in its Environmental Studies Lab and Chemistry Department and as a resident assistant. Following graduation, she served as a Jesuit Volunteer working as a parish outreach worker for Catholic Social Services of Utica, NY, for two years. There she provided services to local parish and community groups, meeting with committees, making home visits, doing crisis intervention, project administration,  and initial case work.

Sister Anastasia’s journey with Maryknoll began as a lay missioner in August 1981. After a period of preparation at the Maryknoll Lay Missioners office, Maryknoll, NY, and six months of intensive Spanish language study in Cochabamba, Bolivia, she was sent to Barinas, Venezuela, where she served for the next four years. Her work included community organizing and pastoral ministry in urban areas, as well as assuming administrative and formation responsibilities on the local and diocesan levels and within the Maryknoll Region.

On September 7, 1986, Sister Anastasia entered Maryknoll Sisters at their motherhouse in Maryknoll, NY.  Following completion of the congregation’s candidate orientation program, she made her First Vows on November 1, 1987 at the motherhouse.

She was then sent to East Africa where, after a period of language study in Tanzania, she was involved in pastoral and medical work, as well as youth ministry in Bura-Tana, a rural village about 300 miles east of Nairobi in Kenya from 1988-1996.  She then moved to Nairobi and was active as a community development consultant, especially with local religious communities and the Jesuit Refugee Service.

In 1997 Sister Anastasia went to Namibia where she was involved with pastoral and leadership training for the Diocese of Rundu from 1997-2002. During this time, she also volunteered at the Rundu Branch office of the National Red Cross Society.  During 2002 and 2003, she served as Human Resource Development Officer for Catholic Health services and was a volunteer trainer for Criminals Return into Society (CRIS), teaching small business management and computer skills to ex-inmates.

In 2003, Sister Anastasia was appointed Director of Planned Giving for Maryknoll Sisters, a position she held until 2010, when she was named director of the congregation’s Development Department.  She was elected to serve on the Congregational Leadership Team at Maryknoll Sisters’ General Assembly in September 2014.

Sister Teruko Ito, Member.  Sister Teruko is a 1995 graduate of Fordham University, Bronx, NY, with an M.A. in Religion and Religious Education. She also holds a masters degree in religious studies from Maryknoll Seminary, Maryknoll, NY, and B.A.in Mathematics from Maryknoll College, Philippines.

Born in Kyoto, Japan, Sister Teruko entered Maryknoll Sisters in 1968 in Quezon City, Philippines.   Following completion of the congregation’s orientation program, she was sent to Tanzania, where she taught mathematics at Jargwan Secondary School in Dar Es Salaam in 1970, and at Kilakala Secondary School, Morogoro, from 1971-1973.

Returning to Maryknoll, NY, in 1974, Sister Teruko worked in the congregation’s Development Department from 1975 to 1977, and in 1978, was sent to her native country of Japan. There she did social work for alcoholism-related programs, first in Tokyo from 1978-1980, then in Kyoto at Hope House from 1980-1982.

She then returned to Tokyo, where she worked at Maryknoll Alcohol Center from 1982-1988, until she was appointed Co-Director of Orientation for the congregation, a position she held until 1993.  She was then sent to Guatemala where she was involved in the Ministry of the Promotion of Women for the Diocese of San Marcos from 1995-2004.

Sister Teruko then returned to Japan, where she has been in family ministry since 2009.  She was elected to the Congregational Leadership Team at Maryknoll Sisters’ General Assembly in September 2014.

Pictured above, from left to right, is Maryknoll Sisters’ new Congregational Leadership Team: Sisters Numeriana Mojado, Vice President; Anastasia Lott, Member; Teruko Ito, Member; and Antoinette Gutzler, President.

Altiplano Indigenous Finding Justice Thanks to Work of Maryknoll Sister

Farmers take a moment to pray beside their cattle on the Altiplano in the Andes Mountains
Farmers take a moment to pray beside their cattle on the Altiplano in the Andes Mountains

In the high, hardscrabble plains of Peru’s Altiplano, the Aymara people are struggling to make a living.  Despite poor soil and a harsh climate, they have persevered, growing potatoes, quinoa, corn, beans, barley wheat and a number of other vegetables native to the region, and raising llamas and sheep on the coarse grass and the waters of the Condoraque River.

Their lives became endangered some years ago, however, when it was found that a mining company located along the river was contaminating the waters and thereby causing many of the poor Aymaras’ livestock to die. Their whole way of living was being severely threatened.

One of the people who wasn’t about to let the Aymaras suffer was Maryknoll Sister Pat Ryan. Since 1971, Sister Pat Ryan has been serving the poor of Peru, and defending the rights of the indigenous people whom she loves so dearly.

The Condoraque River, poisoned by chemicals from a local mining plant, and the main tributary from which Altiplano herds drink.  Maryknoll Sisters are working to turn the tide on this ecological disaster and win rights for indigenous farmers and their animals for whom the river is critical for their livelihoods.
The Condoraque River, poisoned by chemicals from a local mining plant, and the main tributary from which Altiplano herds drink. Maryknoll Sisters are working to turn the tide on this ecological disaster and win rights for indigenous farmers and their animals for whom the river is critical for their livelihoods.

Sister Pat is president of Human Rights and Environment of Puno, Peru, an organization which, in just the past three years alone, has helped equip indigenous people with understanding and skills to defend their human rights, successfully spoken out for those rights and seen mining companies back away from plans that would have continued to damage the lands and water so vital to the Aymaras’ livelihood, and legally represented these poor people against large corporations, resulting in decisions that will require the mines to remediate the environmental damages that have already been caused in the region, create programs to benefit the indigenous peoples of the area, as well as allow them to benefit financially from the proceeds such corporations may obtain through use of the land.

None of this would have been possible, Sister Pat says, without the generosity of the people who support her and Maryknoll Sisters, enabling them to fund the costs that are helping the poor of the Altiplano learn about their rights, as well as how to defend them in a non-violent manner, preserve their livelihood, and work with them toward public recognition of the Aymara people by the Peruvian as a distinct ethnic group with specific rights that must be protected.

Maryknoll Sister Pat Ryan receives medal from Quilcapunco District Mayor Marino Catacora Ticona in thanks and recognition for the advancements they have made possible on behalf of the rights of the indigenous people in his region.
Maryknoll Sister Pat Ryan receives medal from Quilcapunco District Mayor Marino Catacora Ticona in thanks and recognition for the advancements they have made possible on behalf of the rights of the indigenous people in his region.

This past December 17, 2014, Sister Pat and the Human Rights and Environment Office of Puno, the organization she currently serves as president, were among those honored for their efforts and achievements on behalf of the indigenous people of the Altiplano by Mayor Marino Catacora Ticona of the Quilcapunco District of Peru, just north of Lake Titicaca.

Sister Pat and her team are grateful for the progress they have made so far, but they know that securing human rights firmly for the indigenous people of the Altiplano are far from over.  Legal cases brought against indigenous people, sometimes simply for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly, continue, as does the work the Human Rights and Environment Offices  does in providing free information, orientation and consultation services to the general public, especially Aymara and Quechua peoples with limited financial resources. Training programs for indigenous peoples must continue, as must workshops for people in decentralized areas, and seminars with judges, public prosecutors and lawyers to familiarize them with basic documents related to the rights of indigenous people.

Our thanks go to all our supporters who are helping Sister Pat and her team train the people of the Altiplano to know and speak out for their own rights, and to bring awareness and change to the Peruvian government, so that all people, in particular the indigenous poor, might live with dignity and the earth, from which we each derive our livelihoods, might be restored and protected.

Leading the Way for Peace

esalmon380x240How many of us can remain true to deeply-held principles when the forces lined up against you include your country, church and family? Sister Elizabeth Salmon saw firsthand what opposing a world war did to her father, Ben.

Ben Salmon was subjected to torture, forced feeding after a hunger strike, hard labor, and prison time for refusing to fight during World War I. Sister Elizabeth has just returned from Austria for the war’s 100th anniversary in August 2014, where she shared how her father’s example can bring peace to today’s global conflicts.

“Long before Mahatma Gandhi, Franz Jagerstatter, Dorothy Day, Dr. King or Thomas Merton,” wrote peace activist John Dear, a columnist at National Catholic Reporter. Ben Salmon “stood and said that because of Jesus, he would not be a soldier. Right here in the United States.”

Salmon was a Catholic conscientious objector from Denver who was arrested and sentenced to death (which was eventually reduced to 25 years of hard labor). Believing that killing is immoral, Salmon, who died in 1932, claimed that no Christian should carry a gun. Because of that stand and a lifetime of Christian acts, a Catholic group is now advocating Sister Elizabeth’s father for beatification.

“Yes, our dad did leave an example of mighty courage and of stick-to-it-ive-ness and, as well, an adherence to the letter of God’s Word in the Ten Commandments, ‘Thou shalt not kill,'” Sister Elizabeth said. “He also stuck to his own principles with no deviation, as chaplains of five or six different prisons found out.”

To take that kind of stand when the nation was at war was considered criminal. The U.S. entered World War I in 1917, and by then the war already had been raging for three years. Ben Salmon’s example as one of the first Catholic conscientious objectors in a time of war stood in contrast to a Church that was late in adopting that stance. “The Germans are my brothers. I will not kill them!” Sister Elizabeth said her father once said.

Pope Francis, who would have a say on Ben Salmon’s possible beatification, heard arguments in favor of the proposal earlier this year, according to Sister Elizabeth. Supporters said they have no idea what the Pope will do but vowed to continue to write to Pope Francis and the Vatican about Ben Salmon’s courage as a soldier in the army of peace.

Later, during World War II, another Catholic, Franz Jagerstatter, would stand by his moral principles, too, and refuse his mandated duty to kill as a soldier in the German Army.

On August 9, 1943, Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian, was put to death by the Nazis for refusing to serve. In 2007, the martyr for nonviolence was beatified by Pope Benedict. This August, Sister Elizabeth also attended Blessed Franz’s death anniversary in Austria.

“I certainly want to be involved in anyway possible for whatever would promote no more wars,” said Sister Elizabeth.

A Global Cyber Missioner

ElizabethRoach_CyberBy Mary Ellen Manz, M.M.

From Maryknoll Magazine:  In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says, “Throughout the world, let us be in a permanent state of mission.” Maryknoll Sister Elizabeth Roach creatively puts those words into practice. Combining her experience as a teacher in Latin America with her passion for writing children’s stories, she brings God’s love to children worldwide through modern technology.

After a 50-year mission career that included teaching children in Bolivia and Peru, working with street children in Hawai,i and doing pastoral work in Panama, the Maryknoll Sister from Pittsburgh, Pa., was not ready to retire in 2002. She took a correspondence course in writing books for children.

Three of her books have been published in paperback and on Kindle. If I Am Worthy tells the story of Maryknoll Father William Kruegler, who gave his life to protect children in Bolivia. Secret Melody, she says, “is a gripping story about child immigrants.” Seven Stories is a collection of tales to be read to children ages 2 to 8.

“My stories are about children, animals and history,” says Sister Roach. “They are written to entertain children. Characters, of course, practice Christian values.”

As soon as Facebook and Twitter appeared, she saw them as other means to reach out with her stories to children whose parents cannot afford to buy books. Sister Roach considers it vital for children to have good stories in a world where so many children suffer. “Stories can lift them out of that suffering even for a short time and show them love and goodness and let them know that somebody cares,” she says. “That is Good News.”

She now has a blog called My Story Hour, where, she says, “I can tell stories to children all over the world because people are accessing the blog in so many places. I’ve had over 11,000 views since I started to put stories on my blog. Some weeks I have Iran, Latvia and Beijing. They can bring stories up in their own language and the translation can be made in about 80 different languages.” (

Sister Roach’s latest discovery is “Skype in the Classroom.” Again she had to learn the technology, but nothing daunts this missionary, who has been a Maryknoll Sister since 1946. “Skype in the Classroom” is a global classroom that has more than 78,000 teachers signed on to it.

With this program, she talks to a class of students who see her and she sees them. She shares her stories with the students and helps them develop skills to write their own stories as they ask her questions.

“In Catholic schools, grades K–2, I add a finger play about how Jesus teaches us to love everyone,” she says. “In public schools I cannot speak of God, but I believe the Gospel is proclaimed by reaching out to everyone in loving ways.” She cites as examples Pope Francis sending chocolate eggs to children with cancer and phone cards to street people. “Those are ways to make God’s love visible in our world,” she says.

She has given three storytelling sessions to kindergartners and first-graders in Ohio and New Jersey and lessons on “The Wonderful World of Writing” to fifth- and sixth-graders in Washington, Alabama and Iowa as well as New Zealand and Canada. She proudly shows thank you notes and drawings she received from one fifth-grade class. She marvels at the brightness of the questions of many and chuckles at the frankness of the remarks of others. One boy wrote, “Thank you for ‘skyping’ us. You sound like a good writer, but I have not heard of you.”

Sister Roach sees technology as a great means of extending mission to the farthest ends of the earth, and the wonderful thing about it, she says, is we can do it from home.

“I always want to be in mission,” she says. “I enjoyed showing children how God loves them during all my years in Bolivia, Peru, Panama and the United States. So, when I discovered cyber-ministry, I knew I could reach even more children as a global cyber missioner.”

 

The Assumption: Mary’s Feast And Ours

Assumption1By Betty Ann Maheu, MM

From Maryknoll Magazine: Every year on August 15 thousands of Catholics in China make their way up the steep hill in the village of Donglu in Hebei Province to the country’s most popular Marian shrine there. They are remembering the day in 1900 during the anti-Christian Boxer Rebellion when the Virgin Mary and St. Michael the Archangel reportedly appeared in the sky as soldiers were attacking the village and attempting to kill its Christian residents. In fear of the apparition, the soldiers fled and the Christians were saved. The victory was reported on August 15, feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is not surprising that years before Pius XII in 1950 proclaimed the dogma of Mary’s Assumption, Chinese Catholics celebrated the feast.

The declaration of the dogma of Mary’s Assumption into heaven did not surprise most Catholics around the world. It was not a matter for debate, but a moment for rejoicing. For the Catholics at Donglu, the declaration was a confirmation of what they already held dear. Mary, their mother, was very much alive in body and soul. Had she not saved them from the swords of the Boxers? Had they not triumphed repeatedly over those who would destroy their shrine and forbid them from celebrating her feast? Yearly they gathered at her shrine to say “thank you.”

Leaders in the Universal Church were aware that the declaration of the dogma was a teachable moment. It was important for the laity everywhere to understand the meaning of Mary’s Assumption. The declaration was a confirmation of a long held belief that Mary had been taken body and soul into heaven, where she shared in the glory of her son’s resurrection. It was the fulfillment and culmination of her immaculate conception, and what her “yes” to the angel Gabriel could mean for everyone. To the faithful pilgrims of Donglu, who would never forget what she had done for them, she well deserved to be assumed into heaven! No privilege the Church accorded to Mary would ever suffice.

By declaring the dogma of Mary’s Assumption, the Church was making an implicit statement: the human body is holy; it is not only for time but for all eternity. The Assumption signifies that Mary was assumed body and soul into God’s wholeness. Mary has already received what is true for all believers. We, too, will live with God forever. We have it on Jesus’ word: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

God entered the world of human beings through a human mother, Mary. By virtue of her life-long openness to all that God asked of her, it was inconceivable to the Church Fathers that her body should be corrupted in the grave. They believed that Mary’s body must already have the eternal quality of the complete human being, that is, one who has achieved full stature in Christ (Ephesians 4:13).

It was not just by coincidence that the pope declared the dogma of Mary’s Assumption on the feast of All Saints. On this feast we celebrate the millions of unknown nameless friends of God, among them surely hundreds who once climbed the steep hill to Donglu to celebrate Our Lady’s feast. Like Mary, they too have “reached their full stature in Christ.” The dogma of the Assumption confirms our hope that death does not end in corruption but in a transformed existence, the likes of which we cannot imagine. Paul told us as much: “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered the human heart to know what God has prepared for those who love him” (1Corinthians 2:9).

The feast of the Assumption is a missionary feast, a feast of Christian hope, a hope that heralds good news to the poor and to all who live peaceably in our global village believing in the promise that Mary’s Assumption is for all people, for all eternity.

 

Saving Lives in Myanmar

MyanmarBoyBy Mary Grenough, MM

The other day, I heard a new “horror story.” A woman in the northeast of the country (Chin State, near the India border) was hemorrhaging and needed a blood transfusion. Fourteen men in her village offered to be donors. Their blood was screened and 12 of the 14 were positive for HIV. The next needed task will be to get a group to go to that village, check the blood of the wives and partners of these positive men – and that of their children. Then to get those who are HIV-positive to get check-ups and treatment.

Most of the people in that village are migrant workers and it seems they went to a jade mine where they picked up the habit of shooting drugs and using the same needle. They came back addicted and still do not use clean syringes and needles There are only four places in the country for drug rehabitation, and it is a big problem here – plus alcoholism.

It’s a common story in Myanmar, where villages are separated from medical care by mountain ranges and long distances – and poverty. My life here interacts with the people – mostly those from the villages and different ethnic groups – whom I have met during almost eight years of presence here. My three main areas of mission have been trying to improve awareness, prevention and care for people with HIV/AIDS, improving education about and access to basic health care for pregnant women and others, and assisting students to continue their education beyond village-level possibilities. These activities keep me busy and very fulfilled. We are often called on to act quickly in emergency situations, too.

SavingLives2_0For example, during a single week in May, we received two requests for emergency help. The first was for a mother in her first pregnancy who had been in labor for more than 24 hours and couldn’t deliver her baby. She had traveled for hours from their village to reach the nearest government hospital. With our help, she had a caesarian section and safely had her 8½-pound baby.

In the same hospital and almost at the same time, another mother having her first baby arrived – having had to borrow $250 to hire a riverboat to bring her to the hospital. She, too, had been in labor for more than 24 hours. She had a caesarian section and delivered twins weighing more than seven pounds each.

Without an immediate donation from a very generous supporter, these surgeries ($100 for the doctor and about $100 for anesthesia, supplies, and medicine) would not have been done. Those mothers, and probably their babies, would most likely have died, leaving two young widowed husbands feeling great guilt over the death of their wives and babies.

Neither of these mothers had any prenatal care – or even basic education. They had never traveled very far outside their village before this. I do have a dream connected with this and which I think could start a much-needed program here. It would be to hire a community organizer and a nurse midwife who would start a community-based healthy family program in a very poor industrial zone of Yangon (formerly Rangoon).

The program would involve developing people’s basic understanding of health, including human sexuality, identifying the women who are pregnant, and helping them to access needed services for good pre-natal and post-natal care – including testing for anemia, HIV, hepatitis, malaria and more, and getting treatment for these diseases which afflict so many here.

It would also include developing better community awareness and responsibility, providing needed education to parents, children, youth and spouses and partners concerning human sexuality, gender awareness and equality, and responsible relationships. We would also want to assure that the newborn babies get adequate nutrition, immunizations, and more, at least until they are two years old. As the program develops, I would hope that some of the mothers or others could be helped to develop income-generating programs and even to start small savings cooperatives.

When our staff accompanies sick people to consult in the hospitals or with the doctors, they are shown attention and respect. On their own, they wouldn’t dare to approach the doctors or hospitals – first because they have no money and, if they borrow, the interest rate is 20 percent a month.

That Paing Oo is an orphan who lives with his grandfather. He was born with a prominent cleft lip and cleft palate, and the grandfather, having no money, just felt sorry for him. He didn’t know what else to do. When the community health volunteer knew about him, he was referred, and with minimal costs for the surgery, his lip has already been repaired and he is beginning speech therapy. Surgery for his cleft palate will be done after six months.

Before his surgery, he could not be understood when he tried to speak. After his lip healed, he smiled broadly and kept saying, “I’m happy now!”

When he returned home to his 78-year-old grandfather, who was unable to leave the house – but in whose care the boy is – the grandfather and boy hugged each other repeatedly, and the grandfather said, “Now I can die in peace.”

– See more at: https://www.maryknollsisters.org/articles/saving-lives-myanmar#sthash.q3QXvJVN.dpuf

My Health Care Ministry

FarmworkersBy Mary Lee Englerth, MM

“The Greatest Gift Is Compassion”

This past year has been a busy year and also a challenging one. We were able to extend access to health care into five new counties located in northwestern Pennsylvania near Erie County.  We now have five sites serving the migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families in 30 counties in Pennsylvania and a few camps we visit in Maryland. This is an increase of 11 counties during these past 4 years. We have also been able to establish working contracts with additional federally qualified health centers – one in Erie and one in Lancaster, giving us a total of 12 clinics that provide health care to our migrant and seasonal workers. Besides clinic visits, the staff in these various sites during the picking season, also attends patients in the migrant camps 3 evenings a week during the months of June through mid-November.

Last year, over 2,600 patients were seen during the farm season–with over 3,550 visits. These include clinic visits seeing patients who work at orchards, produce farms, vineyards, dairy farms, poultry farms, nurseries, packing houses, mushroom farms, and Christmas tree farms.

The U.S. Bureau of Primary Health Care has many requirements regarding the operation of this program, and due to this, I must travel a good bit around Pennsylvania seeing that all of these requirements are in place. Many times during these trips, though, I do have the opportunity of going out with our local staff to visit the workers in the camps, and I have gotten to know workers from many areas of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Haiti. We have had also an influx of refugees from Bhutan and Nepal recently.

However, the best part of my health care ministry is when I have the time and the opportunity to go out in the evenings to our local Adams County migrant camps with our team of nurses and interpreters to see patients. These men and women are not accustomed to have health care workers come to them and, above all, to have someone actually sit down and listen to them. I believe this is the greatest gift we can give to them – showing compassionate listening, besides providing treatment. Believe me, this gift also is reciprocal.

Recently, I went up to the five northwestern Pennsylvania counties surrounding Erie to conduct health screens on the workers in the dairy farms. We went with a staff member from the local Migrant Education staff. As you know, Erie is in a snow belt. The week we were up there it was very cold, a mixture of rain and snow, and as we were literally sloshing through the mud to get into these places, I really felt at home. It was so much like the paths in Peru and Guatemala. The amazing part for me is that in each of these dairy farms, all of the workers were men and women from Guatemala. Many were from aldeas in which I had worked, so you can imagine the great conversations we all had. I even had to get some of the men to translate for me into Mam for some of the workers. This was the local language of the people where I had worked in Guatemala.

I laughingly asked the women where their beautiful huipils (blouses) and lovely woven cortes (skirts) were. They all laughed and some of the women said that they wear their local dresses in the house. It was strange to see these Guatemalan women dressed in sweatshirts and jeans. They were carrying heavy pails, lifting hay, and leading the cows in from the fields. It was a great week.

Every year in October we have the East Coast Migrant Stream meeting. Each year it is held in a different city along the East Coast. At this meeting, much time is spent on the Affordable Care Act and the need to enroll legal workers in the new health care insurance plans. This is presenting a great challenge to us. Many of our workers are legal residents and now by law they must be enrolled in one of the health care plans. The challenge for us is how to make them aware that they must comply with this new rule, and how and where to go to enter into the enrollment process for their insurance.

We also do many health screens with parents’ groups who have children enrolled in the Migrant Headstart program. We work especially with the women who come together for classes in English as a Second Language. They’re employed in the packing houses during the day. It affords us an opportunity to be able to sit down and also talk with the women, and needless to say they are grateful to have some of us who speak Spanish to answer their many and varied questions.