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.”

Remembering a Tragedy

Thirty-four years ago, four churchwomen were slain in El Salvador, simply for daring to walk in love and life with the poor.  The lives of those four women – Maryknoll Sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, along with Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel, and lay missioner Jean Donovan – as well as other Maryknoll Sisters, including Sister Carla Piete, who gave her life to save Sister Ita’s, were commemorated in a moving Mass, held this past Sunday, November 30, 2014, at Maryknoll Sisters Center.

Family and close friends of Sisters Ita and Maura attended the Mass, which has become an annual observance made the first Sunday of Advent at the Center, gathered with the congregation to once again pay tribute to sacrifices made and to contemplate those who, even in the present day, face death in the course of missionary endeavors.

“The violent and sudden deaths of our martyrs remind us that we do not know the manner of our death or the time,” commented Maryknoll Sisters President Janice McLaughlin, MM, in her welcoming remarks prior to the beginning of Mass. “We are advised to prepare ourselves, to be ready. Ita and Maura had just come from a regional meeting in Nicaragua, only a few months after Carla died.  In the company of their Maryknoll Sisters and friends from Panama, Nicaragua and El Salvador (some of whom are with us today), they were strengthened in their resolve to return to El Salvador in spite of the danger. They were prepared. They were ready.”

“Martyrdom is not a thing of the past; a phenomenon that took place hundreds of years ago under Roman Emperors, or under Stalinist, Nazi or Communist governments,” Sister Janice was quick to add. “It is very much a reality of our own time.

“A few weeks ago the Eastern Fellowship of Professors of Mission ‘Christian Mission in Times of Persecution’. We heard the witness of Christians from Pakistan, North Korea, Syria and Iraq who barely escaped death themselves; whose friends, neighbors and family members were brutally murdered because of their faith.

“More people than ever before are dying because of what they believe – an estimated 100,000 per year.[1] In an article called “Flashpoints for Future Martyrdom”, historian Eric Hanson states: “This new vocation of the global religious-based international servant of humanity could inspire a new generation of young people to live out their faith in situations that would be more, rather than less, demanding than that of facing the lions in the Roman Coliseum…  True peacemakers will not have to look for martyrdom… it will easily find them.”[2]

Martyrdom found our friends, Ita, Maura, Carla, Jean and Dorothy – as well as all the Maryknoll martyrs whose photos are placed around this chapel and those yet to come. We know the stories of how they suffered and died…. Their lives make a difference. So should ours.”

The four churchwomen will also be remembered in a prayer service to be held Tuesday, December 2, 2014, from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. at Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI.  The public is invited.

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.”

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.”

Holding All God’s People in our Hearts

By Sister Mary Ellen Kempken, MM

As we celebrate World Mission Day 2014, I recall the words of Dan Schutte’s song, Here I Am, Lord. In that song we hear God tell us: “I have heard my people cry… I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.” Then God asks,  “Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?”  In the refrain  we are given the chance to answer by responding,  “Here I am, Lord…I will go Lord, if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.”

In these days the news is filled with the suffering of people facing the Ebola crisis in West Africa, with the terror and cry of people living amidst violence in the Middle East, with the concerns of people experiencing drought, floods or huge storms nearing their homelands. All these people look to someone to make their darkness bright.  World Mission Day reminds us that we are all called and sent to share God’s light with our brothers and sisters throughout the whole world. They are looking for some Good News. If we are disciples of Jesus, then we do have Good News to share and we are all in effect, missionary disciples no matter where we are.

As a missioner in Bolivia, I remember one day watching families affected by the flooding of the Beni River in the northern Amazon region of the country.  I realized that Jesus addressed not only learned scribes but crowds of people just like these families.  It occurred to me, watching the mothers and children, that God knows each of us and that the Good News God would want us to have would never be a complicated message. The crowds in Galilee in the time of Jesus and ordinary people in Bolivia, in Tanzania, in Taiwan or in the Bronx today could begin to find hope by hearing from Jesus the Good News that they are loved by God.

The Good News is that God is Love and God holds each person like a loving parent. Each of us is made in God’s image and likeness and is therefore made to love and hold all people in our hearts, too.  Jesus even pointed out who especially needs that love: the hungry and homeless, the ill and imprisoned, the prodigal son and the lost sheep. He said: Be merciful. Forgive. Rejoice. Just love.  Not easy but not complicated.  God is Love.  Our life is all about love. And those families along the Beni River and many others throughout the world today should be able to find hope in that Good News: people can and will reach out to help one another through times of crisis.

As Pope Francis says in his message for World Mission Day 2014,  ”the disciples were given an experience of God’s love, but also the possibility of sharing that love.”

This is not new. This is the core of our Christian belief.  Teresa of Avila used the image of each of us being the hands and feet of Christ.  And that was because love isn’t just a nice sentiment.  It requires doing something. Each of us has so many gifts to share. And these many gifts can be a sign of God’s love for the person receiving the gift we share.

Some of us will share the gift of our prayers.  And we know that prayer can bring about wonderful things.  Some of us will share our gifts by directly reaching out and listening to, speaking with, and touching the persons who are suffering. Others will share the gift of themselves as they take the time to learn what others need and to network with other people and with those in the situation, advocating for the changes that must happen if our world is to be able to meet the needs we are seeing.

On this World Mission Day, I invite everyone to listen to God’s questions for today: “Who will bear my light to those suffering from violence, fear, illness, hunger, homelessness, isolation or rejection?  Whom shall I send?”

May we all help one another to answer:  “Here I am, Lord.  I will go.  I will hold your people in my heart.”

 

These Kids Are in Good Hands

Kita_GuatemalaFor the last several years, Maryknoll Sisters in the Guatemala towns of Lemoa and Chajul have hosted a group of freshly-graduated high school girls from Colegio Monte María in Guatemala City. They come as rural missionaries during school vacation in the month of November, when it’s summer in Guatemala. Each group quickly develops its own unique communal personality – no two groups are alike!

Those assigned to Chajul, a distant mountain town, are brought by their parents in vehicles filled with teaching materials, toys for children, enough food for a month, and their favorite pillows. These Monte Maria graduates, now college students in Guatemala City, volunteered in a spirit of adventure and service to help Ixil-speaking children in Chajul learn how to speak and read Spanish.

Last year, I had signed up 30 first-graders, 30 second-graders and 20 sixth-graders for remedial classes in Spanish and math. The volunteer mentors quickly organized themselves into a teaching team covering five days a week for four weeks. In addition, a few went with our priest to a distant village where they sloshed through mud, ate unfamiliar food, and witnessed the hard life of the people in the rugged countryside. All of them caught a variety of colds from their students. One sprained a ligament in her knee after too much mountain climbing. One had a few spontaneous and scary nosebleeds. And all took turns cleaning toilets, sweeping and mopping floors, washing dishes and cooking supper. In return for their volunteer service, the volunteers eagerly learned from their pupils how to speak a few words of Ixil and set themselves to learn to weave from some of their older students.

Before leaving Chajul, the group sat around my kitchen table talking about their experiences and a few shed tears. They had never seen such poverty, much less experienced it firsthand. They admitted to being deeply touched and permanently changed in those few weeks. Comparing their privileged lives in the capital with the lives of the children of Chajul, they wondered aloud how they could help them once they returned home.

In my kitchen that evening was born a project: to contribute during the next year to the education of six of the children. With very little free time left, these determined young women made arrangements with the children, the parents, the schools, and the banks to make their plan a reality. Several months later, the project was continuing as planned, and the Monte Maria graduates, now college students, were keeping in touch with their protegées in the countryside.

The volunteers from Guatemala City added a whole new dimension to my ministry with their one-month mission to Chajul. Each year, they had collected so much learning materials from other Monte Maria students that, when each year’s new group of volunteers arrived, they brought children’s books, loads of paper, games, paints, and lots of other materials. Each year I had to add more shelves to store everything they left.

This year in June, two of the Monte Maria graduates who served last November wanted to come back for a week during their vacation and plunged right in where they had left off.

 

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: http://www.maryknollsisters.org/articles/archbishop-says-thank-you#sthash.CgjYdyIH.dpuf

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.”

 

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: http://www.maryknollsisters.org/articles/saving-lives-myanmar#sthash.q3QXvJVN.dpuf

In Iraq, We Worked for Peace

IraqBlogBy Rosemarie Milazzo, MM

This summer, I attended a meeting of a New York group called Religion and Peace in Stony Point, NY. I met a young Iraqi mother who told me that all her life, her country has been at war. Now, her children are born into more violence and war.

I was in northern Iraq last year as part of a peace team made up of mostly Christians from all different denominations. Our group, whose newest member is a Muslim, is called Christian Peacemaker Teams. During our mission in Iraq, I attended a dance festival in Erbil, a city in northern Iraq where thousands of Christians have fled attacks by extremist Islamic forces.

Last year, there was peace in Erbil. Many ethnic groups performed dances reflecting their cultural traditions.  The Yazidi danced beautifully. They were stunning in their presentation. They danced with passion, with gentle rhythms, huge smiles, radiantly garbed in their traditional clothing.

As part of our peace-building mission in northern Iraq, we monitored Kurdish national elections to ensure fairness for all. We also served with Islamic women who advocated for an end to abusive practices they suffered in their society.

Later in the year, we had the opportunity to visit the northern Iraqi village of Duhok. That’s where many Iraqis who are members of the minority Yazidi have fled. In recent days and weeks, the Yazidi have been trapped by Islamic extremists who have overrun their homes, persecuting the Yazidi where they have lived for thousands of years.

Last year, they warmly welcomed us to their homes and we were fortunate that they were baptizing two babies that day. We were invited to share the celebration. Following the baptism, we were taken all around the village by Yazidi elder women. They have such endearing respect for the earth that we all walked barefoot.  No shoes were seen in the whole village.

There were many smiles and songs that day.

Now, there is no more dancing in that village. Military forces have entered and ravished the homes, temples, ritual centers and have killed many of the men and taken the women.  Some have taken shelter in the mountains in Sanjir, where the hostile heat and lack of water and food offer no hospitality. It seems that many of the people have already died and many are suffering without help.

There is no more dancing for the Yazidi people now.