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

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.

The Wheel of Mission

By Mary Ellen Manz, M.M.

From Maryknoll Magazine: When Susan Wanzagi took her first vows as a Maryknoll Sister last August, her vocation journey came full circle—back to her baptism in Tanzania. Presiding at the Mass for Sister Wanzagi’s profession was the very same priest who baptized her 30 years earlier: Father Edward Dougherty, superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers for the last six years.

 

S.WanzagJEncaladavows2While neither remembers the exact celebration of the sacrament, their entwining paths seem like, … well, providence.

Recently in Africa for a meeting of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers serving there, Father Dougherty learned that two young Tanzanians had expressed interest in joining the Maryknoll Sisters. “The missioners were excited, exclaiming that ‘two of our girls’ from Musoma are going to be Maryknoll missioners,” says Father Dougherty, who served in the Musoma Diocese of Tanzania from 1976 to 1986.

A short time later, when he was visiting Chicago, he met another future Maryknoll Sister from Tanzania, Susan Wanzagi, who comes from the Zanaki parish where he had served. She was in her canonical year—the last stage of preparation before taking her first vows as a Sister.

Dougherty2_TanzaniaAs they greeted each other, Sister Wanzagi surprised Father Dougherty with the news that he had baptized her when she was 4 years old!

Both had to admit they didn’t remember each other. Father Dougherty says he and the four other Maryknoll missioners then working in Zanaki spent most of their time visiting mission stations in the African bush, where they ministered to thousands of people.

“It was my first parish after ordination. I loved that mission,” says Father Dougherty. “It was huge, taking in at least 50 villages. That area was later divided into four or five parishes.”

It was Sister Wanzagi’s mother, Joyce, who had remembered him.

Sister Wanzagi says she owes her faith and vocation to her mother’s desire to provide her nine children with a solid religious upbringing. Peter Wanzagi, the new Sister’s late father, was a Catholic and her mother was a member of the Anglican Church. But Maryknoll Sisters had taught both of Sister Wanzagi’s parents and her mother decided to become a Catholic so the family could worship together. Susan’s mother was received into the Catholic Church and four of her children were baptized in the Zanaki parish in 1984.

Years later, when Susan announced to her family that she wanted to be a Maryknoll Sister, her mother told her of her baptism in the Maryknoll parish by none other than Father Edward Dougherty. 

“When I was young, I felt that I would like to be a religious Sister,” Sister Wanzagi says. “But then I was busy studying in schools away from home and the thought left me for a while.” One day in 1999, Maryknoll Sister Connie Krautkremer visited Susan’s high school and spoke about the missionary work of the Maryknoll Sisters. She invited the students to think about their own lives and what God might be calling them to do. “It was then that I decided to be a Maryknoll Sister,” Sister Wanzagi says.

After finishing secondary school, she went to the University of Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, earned a bachelor’s degree in education and taught high school while she discerned her calling.

On Jan. 6, 2012—the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Maryknoll Sisters—Susan was welcomed by the Sisters in Tanzania to begin her journey with the congregation by experiencing its prayer life and various ministries, sharing in the household duties and getting to know the Sisters and herself a little better. As she learned about the history and missions of the Maryknoll Sisters throughout the world, she says, “I was very moved to see the suffering of people and it helped to make my choice to be a Maryknoll Sister very strong.”

On Aug. 10 of this year, the spiritual relationship begun 30 years ago at baptism marked a milestone as Father Dougherty presided over the eucharistic celebration at which Susan Wanzagi pronounced her vows in the Maryknoll Sisters Chapel at Maryknoll, N.Y.

“It’s really exciting the way things develop,” Father Dougherty says, alluding to how the Holy Spirit has worked not only in Sister Susan’s life but also in the entire Wanzagi family. Sister Susan’s brother John is a priest for the Musoma Diocese and studying in Rome, and her sister Felista is following in Susan’s footsteps. Felista is in her first year of orientation with the Maryknoll Sisters in Tanzania.

“Mission is continuing through Susan, her brother and her sister and so many others where we served in mission years ago,” Father Dougherty says. “Truly, what goes around comes around and we are privileged to be a part of it.”

Jesus Was A Refugee, Too

Border_FallonOne journalist wrote a headline: “Minors arriving at our borders to escape poverty and violence need love, reassurance and compassionate treatment.” Not the kind of headline one sees these days. She gives the reason for this headline: “During several trips to Guatemala over the last few years, I saw firsthand the reality of children living in poverty and fear of violence. The situation has only worsened this year, forcing more than 50,000 children to flee their Central American countries. The United Nations refugee agency on July 8 called on regional authorities to treat the migrants, who are fleeing extortion and gang violence, as refugees.”

This situation has become a very clarifying one… it speaks loudly about ourselves as a people. What have we become?  What have we done?  For one thing, the U.S. trade agreements we have in our name have been a major player in the situations that have driven the frantic parents of most of these children to set their children on a dangerous journey into an unknown future.

For any who are parents, this is the key to understanding why these children are arriving at our back door. Families cannot feed themselves nor their children. Doesn’t this bring you back to the times of our dust bowl?  In case you have never had that page in your history books, History.com describes it as follows:  “The Dust Bowl was the name given to the Great Plains region devastated by drought in 1930s depression-ridden America. The 150,000-square-mile area, encompassing the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and neighboring sections of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico, has little rainfall, light soil, and high winds, a potentially destructive combination. When drought struck from 1934 to 1937, the soil lacked the stronger root system of grass as an anchor, so the winds easily picked up the loose topsoil and swirled it into dense dust clouds, called ‘black blizzards.’ Recurrent dust storms wreaked havoc, choking cattle and pasture lands and driving 60 percent of the population from the region.”

How I remember it was the degrading name of “Oakies,” given to the sixty percent, as if they were responsible for the Dust Bowl itself. They were derided and not welcomed in the places to which they were forced to flee….by the “good” people in the West.

Have we once again lost our humanity? Have our lives become so centered totally on ourselves? U.S. “selfies,” one and all?

No, we are better than this. Remember the Vietnamese “boat people” who came to our shores, either directly off boats or from refugee staging areas in Asia? This was a time when good people responded quickly as fellow human beings who initiated and organized settlement through the Churches in our country. It was the ordinary people who opened their hearts and homes to welcome families, care for them during their transition into life in America, and learned from and about one another. Most of these families have become an important part of America….and we Maryknoll Sisters have been lucky enough to have two of them as important members of our Community.

Coming back to the situation at the border which is heartbreaking: groups on the ground tell us these tens of thousands of young children, fleeing horrific violence in their native countries, are being crammed into overcrowded Border Patrol jails and held for long periods with no access to family or to legal representation.

At a moment like this, it is helpful to remember that Jesus himself fled violence in his home country as a child — without documentation. He became a refugee in Egypt. Pope Francis has called the situation a “humanitarian emergency” requiring that these children be “welcomed and protected.”

In the name of our shared humanity, we can do more than we are to bring this about. We can clarify our thinking about these children. We can start with seeing ourselves as part of the human family. We can act to promote life for these youngsters; we can promote a refugee status for these children. We, who have been so very gifted by our Creator who has created this earth for all, have more than enough to share.

All of us come from an immigrant background. ALL of us! As humans and Christians we cannot sit idly by while these innocents are sent back to be killed or forcefully recruited into violent street gangs. We agree that it is time to show our leaders just how many of us are outraged at this profound lack of basic human decency. We can do this and more.

Remembering what we did for the Vietnamese refugees, we can think and act creatively and humanely….today.

— Sister Jean Fallon, MM

 

Teens Inspire Teacher’s ‘Nun Run’

By Steve Lalli

Shideler_TimorGraduation day will be held in November for seniors at St. Paul Catholic High School (Colégio São Paulo). As they receive their prized diplomas, the newly graduated members of the Class of 2014 in Aileu, East Timor, will have plenty of memories of lessons learned in the classroom. A Maryknoll Sister, though, will never forget what her students taught her.

“They led me out of the classroom and into villages, beaches, boats, marketplaces, kitchens, and mountain trails in the name of ‘teaching,’”Sister Julia Shideler said of the students who have risen from the poverty of their country to graduate.

“They taught me that a teacher is first of all a person who cares, gives of herself, practices what she teaches, models behavior rather than preaches it, has infinite patience, and offers all that she’s learned in life as living wisdom for a new generation.” Since arriving in East Timor six year ago, Sister Julia has taught subjects as diverse as geology, human origins, and English. Lately, she’s had lots of time to think about the students she said goodbye to for several months this year as she discerned professing Final Vows in September.

 

Shideler2_SnohomishIn addition to her preparation for Final Vows, Sister Julia, 36, has spent the last five months training to run a half-marathon race near Seattle. For each mile she completed in the Snohomish River Run on October 26, supporters are pledging to donate to the scholarship fund she created for her students back in East Timor. The teens’ fervent desire is to graduate from college, a dream that most of their families cannot afford.

“I was not a trained teacher when I left for East Timor, but what I learned about teaching came from my experiences with these beloved ones,” Sister Julia said of the teens, who have become more than ordinary students. Throughout the half-marathon, held in Snohomish, WA, the young people were on her on mind with each sprint she exerted. Sister Julia was happy with her success in the 13.5-mile race–she crossed the finish line with a time of one hour, 59 minutes and 17 seconds. That translates to about 9 minutes per mile! To all of her students back in East Timor, she says, “Thank you.”

Sister Julia is one of four Maryknoll Sisters who serve the economically poor in the island nation of 1,201,542 people (CIA World Factbook) just north of Darwin, Australia, with Indonesia as its neighbor. Education remains a challenge following years of war as the nation struggled for independence. Over 70 percent of children leave school before reaching the ninth year, according to the country’s Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. In 2004, when a comprehensive census was completed, less than one in two people graduated from high school.

Celina Saldanha is among the lucky ones. A young woman in high school, Celina has eight young siblings and a single mother who suffers from back injuries. Celina was sent to Aileu to live with an uncle, Sister Julia said, but he can’t afford the school fees. ”I agreed to pay her tuition at the Catholic high school until she graduates. Otherwise, she may be forced to drop out.”

Francisco Martins also has a dream. Francisco was orphaned at a young age, losing both parents during the Indonesian occupation. Raised by an uncle, he was left alone after finishing high school. “I knew he was bright and capable,” Sister Julia said, “so with our support, he enrolled in mathematics with the dream of becoming a math teacher.”

 

Shideler1_Timor“This ministry is ongoing,” she said, “as I try to follow up and stay in touch with the students.”  During these months serving in the United States, while visiting family in the state of Washington, Sister Julia is preparing to return to East Timor with news of the scholarships she will be offering, raised in part from her half-marathon in October.

With all she has on her plate, Sister Julia gets inspiration from the young people who relied on her. One of the first students Sister Julia sent to college is now an English teacher; Pinto Pereira began college in 2008 with Sister Julia’s mentoring and financial help. “Through him, I have learned so much about life and families in the most remote villages of East Timor–and the challenges they face to overcome hurdles on their path to education. Tears still come to my eyes when I remember all the conversations we had on our front porch, in the sitting room, and the hours of stories I have listened to.”

In giving educational scholarships to more young people in Aileu District, including deserving members of the Class of 2014 at St. Paul’s, Sister Julia is hoping they learn a fundamental message of mission—and of life: “I want them to feel like God is there for them, working through other people, and that God will use them in the future to help other people.”

An Archbishop Says ‘Thank You’

bisp_china2_At ten a.m. on September 16, 2014, Francis Lu Xinping, Archbishop of Nanjing Archdiocese in China, and seven companions arrived at the Maryknoll Sisters Center.  Archbishop Francis was on a ten-day visit to the United States.  His journey included Dayton University in Ohio, Caritas in Washington, D.C., and Maryknoll in New York.  In an earlier letter, Archbishop Francis stated that the purpose of his visit was to personally thank the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation and Maryknoll Society for the many services we had generously given to the Archdiocese of Nanjing.

It was a thrilling experience to once again meet Archbishop Francis Lu, Sister Maria Zheng  and Fr. Anthony Guo,  all of whom I worked closely with during the four and a half years that I lived in Nanjing. During that time, Sister Maria Zheng and Father Thomas Goa were granted scholarships through Maryknoll Society’s China Project  to study in the United States.  Also during that time, Father Larry Lewis volunteered to give a retreat to the clergy in Nanjing Archdiocese.

With the gracious assistance of Sister Betty Ann Maheu, we welcomed Archbishop Francis and his entourage with refreshments in Molly’s Suite.  After introductions and a presentation of gifts by Archbishop Francis to the Community, Sister Betty Ann gave the group a tour of the Heritage Museum, especially stressing our beginnings in China.  We prayed together for world peace in the Main Chapel, after which we wended our way to Maryknoll Sisters’ Residential Chapel on the fourth floor where Archbishop Francis, Father Anthony Guo and Father Joseph Gu concelebrated the Eucharist in Chinese.  After Mass both Archbishop Francis and the Sisters in wheelchairs could not get enough of each other. While shaking his hand, they all wanted to tell him where and how long they were in mission, especially the old China hands.

Finally, we were able to enter the elevator and descend to the first-floor main dining room, where Sister Betty Ann and Laura had lovingly decorated two tables with white tablecloths, flowers, place marks and gifts.  The group was in awe of the size and beauty of the dining room with its side views of flowering shrubs both in the courtyard and street side.  It was probably a first for the seven men to pick up their plates and food on the serving line, but for the three women it was not too unusual.  During the meal, the Maryknoll Fathers Superior General Edward Dougherty and Father Timothy Kilkelly, director of the Maryknoll China Project, joined the group for dinner.  There was a small reunion, as a few of the Sisters in the dining room recognized Sister Maria Zheng from the time she was at the Center studying English.

After the meal, just as we were beginning to say our goodbyes and turn the group over to Father Tim for a tour of the Maryknoll Society Seminary, Archbishop Francis asked to see the statues of Mother Mary!  Since they had already seen the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Maryknoll in the front foyer, I had to think which other statues had he in mind.  Then, I remember he probably wanted to see the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.  Almost every Catholic Church in China has a grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes outside the Church.  Immediately on arriving at the grotto, Archbishop Francis gathered the group around him to pray.

Next we moved to the Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery.  Everyone was enthralled with the grounds and the graves, reading the tombstones!  Finally one member of the group asked why one grave was still open.  I told them we were preparing to bury Sister Helen Gleason, who just died.  She would be in the same grave as Sister Marge Kulage, who recently passed away at 107 years of age.  They were utterly astounded, since earlier I had told them their host, Sister Betty Ann, was 91 years old.  After praying to Our Lady of the Thorn Crowned Head at Mother Mary Joseph’s grave, the group was ready to head over to the Seminary.  I said goodbye to Archbishop Francis Lu, Sister Maria Zheng  and Father Anthony Guo and the other members of the group, thanking them for coming to express their gratitude for Maryknoll’s service to China, especially Nanjing Archdiocese.   We then turned the group over to Father Timothy Kilkelly who would give them a tour of the Seminary.

– See more at: https://www.maryknollsisters.org/articles/archbishop-says-thank-you#sthash.CgjYdyIH.dpuf

Following God’s Lead

new_clt280x230By Mary Ellen Manz, M.M.

From Maryknoll Magazine: I believe religious life has a prophetic voice for the world and that we need to proclaim this from the heart of who we are,” says Sister Antoinette (Nonie) Gutzler, the newly elected president of the Maryknoll Sisters.
She  and a three-member team of Sisters will for the next six years lead their Congregation to continue to proclaim God’s love to the world. This, says Sister Gutzler, means discerning where the greatest needs are and how God is calling the Sisters to respond. The new leadership team brings to this task vast experience in mission overseas and in the United States.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sister Gutzler entered the Congregation in 1964. She took education courses at the Maryknoll Sisters Rogers College and earned a bachelor’s degree in theology from Mundelein College in Chicago in 1971.

gutzler300x250That year she also received her first overseas assignment, to Tanzania, where she taught religion and helped establish a Christian center for high school students.
In 1975 she returned to the States to do mission education in the New England area. In 1978 she was assigned to Taiwan. For the next 10 years she was director of the Sodality of Young Workers Center, founded by the Maryknoll Sisters for factory workers to find support and learn leadership skills.

Called back to Maryknoll, N.Y., in 1989, Sister Gutzler became director of the Sisters personnel office, which, she says, gave her the opportunity to meet many Sisters she didn’t know. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D., both in systematic theology, from Fordham University

and returned to Taiwan in 2001. Since then, she has been teaching in the theologate at Fu Jen University and giving lectures in theology throughout Asia.

mojado300x250Sister Gutzler says she remains inspired by her Taiwanese sisters and brothers. “Many,” she says, “live their faith in the midst of a multi-religious family, where they are the only Catholic.”

As for her Congregation, she says, “I hope we continue to grow in our contemplative awareness of what is happening in our world, with an ever deepening passion for Christ’s mission by being witnesses of God’s loving presence in all of creation and in all people.”

Sister Numeriana (Norie) Mojado, vice president, was born in the Philippines. After graduating as a nurse from the Marian School of Nursing in Manila, she worked in emergency rooms for 13 years in the Philippines, the United States and Canada. “However,” she says, “I needed something more. That’s when I saw Maryknoll magazine and applied to join the Sisters.”

She studied theology at the Maryknoll School of Theology and became certified in clinical pastoral education. In 1976, she received her first mission assignment: South Korea, to work in a psychiatric clinic in Seoul.
Sister Mojado was part of an integrated community of Maryknoll priests, lay missioners and Korean religious and laity, offering pastoral counseling and spiritual direction among the urban poor. Maryknoll Father Russell Feldmeier was also on the team.
Back in the States, Sister Mojado earned a master’s degree in religious education, with concentrations in pastoral counseling and spiritual direction, at Fordham University. She then returned to Seoul and ministered to women involved in prostitution and migrant workers.
She has served her Congregation as admissions co-director and personnel director. In 2013 she was assigned to the Maryknoll Sisters contemplative community.

Regarding her new work on the Sisters leadership team, she says, “I believe it was all those experiences I’ve had that prepared me to accept this new ministry.”

lott3000x250Sister Anastasia Lott, team member, was born in Landstuhl, Germany, where her father was stationed as a member of the U.S. Air Force. The oldest of nine children, Sister Lott expressed a desire to be a Maryknoll missioner while still in high school in Santa Ana, Calif., but her parents encouraged her to finish her education first. She graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
She spent two years with the Jesuit Volunteers Corps and then joined the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Assigned to Venezuela, she did community organizing and pastoral ministry in urban areas.

In 1986 she joined the Maryknoll Sisters and was assigned to Bura-Tana, a rural area in northeastern Kenya, for eight years. Then she worked in the capital of Nairobi as a community consultant with Jesuit Relief Services. She later moved to Namibia and did pastoral and leadership training for the Rundu Vicariate. During her last year in Namibia, Sister Lott served as human resource development officer for Catholic Health Services and volunteered with Criminals Return Into Society, teaching business management and computer skills to former inmates.

In 2003, she was called back to Maryknoll, N.Y., to be director of Planned Giving and later, the Development Department. “I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to serve my community,” she says, “and to work with and know our donors, who are really the bedrock of our work.”

Now, she says, “I plan to do the best I can on the leadership team to work together to serve the mission of God.”

 

Teruko300x250Sister Teruko Ito, team member, was born in Kyoto, Japan. Seeing the Maryknoll Sisters in mission there inspired her. She decided to join them in 1968 after she graduated from Maryknoll College in the Philippines with a degree in math. Her first assignment took her to Tanzania, where she taught math in secondary school.

Returning to New York, she worked in the Congregation’s Development Department while earning a master’s degree in religious studies at Maryknoll School of Theology. In 1978 she was assigned to Japan, where for almost 10 years she assisted a Maryknoll priest in establishing and expanding the Alcoholics Anonymous program. “I was there not as a therapist, but as a friend for whoever wished to have a conversation with me to deepen their understanding about a Higher Power,” Sister Ito says. By the time she left, there were 10 AA centers throughout Japan.

In 1989 Sister Ito was assigned as co-director of the Sisters’ orientation house for new members. She remained there for five years and after studying pastoral counseling at Fordham University, she went to Guatemala to work with indigenous Mayan women, assisting them with potable water projects, medical aid and building self-esteem. “Now they are in charge of various projects and have become proud of who they are,” says Sister Ito.

As a member of the Sisters’ leadership team, she says, “I hope to be able to share my experiences, where I witnessed miracles happening in the lives of others because they surrendered themselves to a Higher Power.”

People Are The Heart of Mission

FirstVows_blogIt is a very special weekend, beginning with Sr. Marie Patrice Kehoe’s entrance into her new life (in heaven) on August 9 to Mara Rutten’s entrance into canonical year yesterday evening, and now this celebration of Juana Encalada and Susan Wanzagi’s First Vows commitment. We are grateful for all these events that speak of new life – as do today’s readings that were chosen by Juana and Susan.

The first reading from Jeremiah is an apt description of their call – and ours as well.  Even before they were born, we are told, they were set apart and appointed as prophets, as messengers, to the nations.

Yes, Susan and Juana surely fit this description. Their lives and the connections with Maryknoll could be a homily in itself.  Sister Bitrina has already named some of these connections in her introduction. I will name a few more because we know that relationships are at the heart of mission.

Both of Susan’s parents were taught by Maryknoll Sisters in Tanzania. (These include Srs. Josephine Lucker, Noreen McCarthy, Pat Hafey, Ann Klaus and Marion Hughes.)  Her family of 13 belonged to a Maryknoll parish (Zanaki).  Susan was baptized by a Maryknoll priest – none other than our celebrant today, Fr. Ed Dougherty!  When Sr. Connie Krautkremer spoke at her high school in Mwanza, Susan felt called to join us. How could she ignore all those connections to Maryknoll and to global mission!

Truly, God has been with you, Susan, preparing you for this moment, nurturing and strengthening the vocation that was planted in you even before you were born.

Juana also received the call long before she was born. Her ancestors from generations past were among the early converts to Catholicism in Peru. Her parents nurtured the faith in Juana and her nine brothers and sisters. Juana also grew up in a Maryknoll parish (Arequipa) and was taught by Maryknoll Sisters, among them Srs. Jeremy Crowley, Louise Notaro and Teresita Perez.  Sister Helen Phillips was the principal of the secondary school that she attended. Juana joined a lay mission group founded by Maryknollers (none other than our very own Sr. Peg Hennessey and Fr. Tom Garrity, our Sr. Rosemary’s brother).  Juana worked with the poor as a lay missioner in Tacna, Peru, for four years, and there she met Sr. Marie Lynch who planted the seed of a cross-cultural vocation in her. Her call then took her several continents away to Cambodia where she shared her life with women and children living with AIDS and with children with special needs for the next 12 years.

We rejoice, Juana, that your journey has come full circle as you return to Maryknoll and renew your commitment to mission with us.

The reassuring words of Jeremiah ring so true in both of your lives: “Do not be afraid for I am with you and will rescue you.”

In the second reading, the wise and prophetic words of Mother Mary Joseph remind us what should be uppermost in our lives.

“Whether we are working, praying, sleeping or at recreation,” she tells us, “we must be aware of God’s presence.” In other words, everything is holy, everything is touched by God.  These words can guide us as we prepare for our General Assembly of Maryknoll Sisters in a few weeks – aware of the presence of God in all that we do.

Pope Francis puts it this way: “A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with her, speaks to her, breathes with her, works with her. She senses Jesus alive with her in the midst of the missionary enterprise.”

Today’s Gospel reading is another way of saying the same thing. (We heard the same reading last night and Mara’s moving reflection.) The treasure in the field, the pearl of great price – these are none other than the awareness of God’s presence in our lives and in our world. This awareness we are told is worth more than all worldly possessions and we give up all else to obtain it as Mara, Susan and Juana have done. They left careers, homes, language, culture and even their families because they have found the treasure and don’t want to lose it.  What makes this treasure so different is that we don’t want to hide it and hoard it for ourselves.  Our call to mission is a call to share this treasure with others.

This urge to share the treasure reminds me of a recent reflection by Brother Bill Firmin, Director of Solidarity with South Sudan, about mission to South Sudan.  He begins by quoting a commercial – “A ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.”

Brother Bill comments: “A person in his or her home place can feel very safe, especially if the home country appears nowhere on any list of most fragile states.” (South Sudan now heads that list, overtaking Somalia.)

He tells us: “Religious men and women who have committed to give their lives to help others, live out that commitment by leaving the safety of the harbor – that is what they are for.”

Juana and Susan, you chose to join Maryknoll because you are ready to leave the safety of the harbor – whether it be Tanzania, Peru or the United States. Today you proclaim by this public witness that you will seek and share the treasure in whichever fragile state it may take you because that is what we Maryknoll Sisters are for. You will not fear because you trust the words of the prophets Mother Mary Joseph Rogers and Jeremiah.  God is with you and with all of us as we celebrate this sacred call!

— Sister Janice McLaughlin, MM

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.

 

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.”