Ministry In Line with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

By Sister Marvie L. Misolas, MM

When I am not teaching my graduate students at Miriam College and Philippine Women Universities, I find myself visiting farmers and their communities whom I collaborate with projects that promote sustainable development through forest and watershed restorations and conservation to address climate change. My purpose in working on these projects is to align my work/ministry with some of the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs).
In early March, I was invited by a peasant movement leader, Maria (Maria is used as a pseudonym for the farmer leader to protect her identity), to collaborate with 10 peasant families who have been displaced recently from their farming land because of land grabbing by powerful developers who are supported by town leaders. Maria’s husband was murdered a year ago inside their farm area. Thus, their families left their farmland land and are in hiding for fear of their lives.

The seedling production project will be situated somewhere in Laguna using a borrowed land. The community joined the government’s National Greening Program. The government agency on natural resources (DENR)will buy the seedlings from them for P7 each (about 15cents of a dollar). The group entered an agreement whereby Rizal Provincial Environment Office will buy 20,000 Acacia, Narra (a Philippine hardwood) and Ipil-ipil seedlings. These seedlings will be planted in watershed areas somewhere in Tanay, Rizal sometime in July or August. With funding from Maryknoll Sisters, the farmers and their families worked together to prepare and plant the more than 20,000 seedlings during the months of April and May. These seedlings will be bought by the Rizal-PENRO in July-August when rainy season starts and planting tree seedlings will be carried out.

In mid-May, Maria and I visited the seedling production area. Nestled at the foot of a mountain, the seedlings are neatly arranged in rows and batches of 200 counts. They are like jade slabs sparkling in the sun. Philip and wife were tending the seedlings while the children playing around. The seedling area consisted of about a hectare of clearing in the middle of forest and coconut plantations. The families used the red soil in the area mixed with rice hulls in black seedling pouches.

It was fun to meet the families who were part of the project. One of those I visited had fruit tree seedlings in their backyard, and the children were excited to show me their plants. Before I left, the family gave me a bunch of green cooking bananas harvested from their backyard to take to the convent.

I went back in late July for another site visit. Philip and I checked the seedlings that were almost two feet tall but we noticed some insects are eating the leaves of acacia seedlings. We checked and found out ants were eating the leaves and so he decided that to spray the ants to save most of the seedlings. After two weeks, I received a call from Maria saying, most of the farm seedlings’ leaves dried as well as the grass around the seedlings, suspecting someone sabotaged the seedlings ready for planting by spraying weed killer. The incidence was reported to the local police hoping to get the perpetrators. Meanwhile, the farmers did their best to save the remaining good seedlings. In August, most of the seedlings were transferred to the mountains of Rizal for reforestation.

Maria and her group wrote a critical reflection of their effort to help in the reforestation program of the government and the lessons learned from this initial project. The project promoted their livelihood while helping rehabilitate the Philippine forest and collaborating with government agency. They are also aware that their group is vulnerable to attacks by people who are against them who are fighting to advocate for farmers right to land and livelihood.

Maryknoll Discernment Retreat 2017

Maryknoll Discernment Retreat 2017

By Sister Maureen Hanahoe, M.M.

During Holy Week of this year, April 13th to the 16th  2017, 27 young men and women came to Maryknoll, New York, from all over  the United States, as well as Kenya and Scotland,  to discern a Call to Global Mission as a Priest, Brother , Sister or Lay Missioner.

The Retreat was both prayerful and meaningful, as we accompanied Jesus in His Passion, and in our own desire to deepen our call to discipleship.  It also provided the opportunity to share with each other our diverse calls to mission, as well as to listen to other missioners, who have been transformed, through sharing their lives with so many cultures, throughout the world.

Through this experience, the participants discovered the diverse charisms of the Priests, Brothers Sisters and Lay Missioners.  They also learned about the Affiliates and about Short Term Mission. They experienced   Maryknoll as a movement, where  there is the opportunity to minister collaboratively with others, in working for justice and peace, and in recognizing and giving witness to God’s love, in every part of the world.

Thisness of God

“Thisness of G*d”(Haecceity)

by Sr. Marvie L. Misolas, MM

Thisness of God (haecceity) is a term I borrowed from Sister Ilia Delio, OSF, from her book Making All Things New – Catholicity, Cosmology and Consciousness to reflect and articulate a recent period of quiet and meditation in a place where my spirit finds home.

That afternoon, whilst walking towards the cemetery, these little things lying sparsely on the ground along with fallen summer leaves caught my attention.  Lo and behold there are quite a bit of them, like winged creatures, except that they are, I learnt, are seed-pods of a tree which I still have to know the name.  The heat of the mid-afternoon did not deter me from picking a few of these, trying very hard to put them in my palm and not crushing them for they are so fragile.  Accidentally, a gentle breeze blew and one got blown off from my palm, and like a child~ I got more fun watching it propelled in perfection, sliding through the breeze to the ground.  So, instead of collecting them, thinking of planting them, I blew them off my palm and watched them twirled in unison.  Then, I would pick them up again, and blew them off, to my satisfaction.  Sweating and sweltering, I walked back to my room, feeling so happy, the child within made whole again!

Later that afternoon, in prayer, all the images and recollection of the mid-afternoon rendezvous came back.  It has dawned on me; I have met my teachers in these little things.  I was conscious of them, as they were of my presence.  They were actually the whole universe.  They represent the present as well the future possibilities of what make up creation unfolding.  I thought, I have just witnessed and experienced God’s love ~ being creative every moment.  These seed pods represent both death and new life. As I have come to the retreat with the intention of reflecting on the passion death and new life of Jesus, the Spirit helped me to gaze and contemplate nature and be conscious of this wholeness in nature.  The gift I have received is what Ilia Delio said, “To see is an act of consciousness, and it brings what it sees into conscious reality.  It requires an open heart.  To have an inner spaciousness of the heart to receive another.”   Somehow, there was this intense creative communication between me and the seed pods, they have become alive!

Intuitively, as I continued to reflect on these seeds, this has led me to understand that there is this awesome wholeness in nature.  That is, the process of life and death.  That death is integral to life. That reflecting on the suffering and death of Jesus, he showed us that it is all part of the process of life.  Ilia Delio said, “Jesus’ death symbolizes his Yes to the consciousness of his unity to God (humanity) and God’s unconditional love (divinity).  This is Jesus, the ‘thisness’ of God.

Delio also quoted Jurgen Moltmann,

“When the Crucified Jesus is called the image of the invisible God, the meaning is that this is God, and God is like this.  God is not greater than he is in his humiliation.  God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender.  God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness.  God is not more divine than he is in this humanity.”

Beautifully, Delio summarized Jesus’ suffering and death, “Jesus’ mission of creative wholeness restores humanity to its integral nature within the whole of evolutionary nature.  Through the life of Jesus we can see ourselves as part of an ongoing process of creative and emergent life(evolution) and are called to realize our participation in this unfolding of life, as creation seeks its ultimate fulfillment in God.  Death is not due to sin and evil, nor it is opposite of life.  It is radical in nature, integral to life.”

These seeds springing to new plants represent resurrection.  In the quantum understanding of life and death, Jesus resurrection must empower us, to be like him, to being renewed.  That in every big and small deaths we experience throughout this life, we emerged with a higher consciousness, a new whole sense of being, more loving.  For Ilia Delio, ‘every act of physical death is an act of new life in the universe. The resurrection of Jesus reveals to us new cosmic life.  Through the lens of quantum physics, death is the collapse of our ‘particle’ aspect of life into the ‘wave’ dimension of our relatedness.”

Our living on in and through relationships, noted Delio, is the meaning and depth of the resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus now lives on in the heart of the universe in a new relatedness.  Jesus lives in us, those who follow him, who remember him, who extend our relationships in compassion, justice and peace.  mlm 劉美妙修女04122017

The Power of Healing: By Sister Euphrasia Nyaki

power of healing 1
Sister Efu on the left performs body
and mind healing.

As I celebrate 25 years as a missioner, I celebrate with a grateful heart the development of this wonderful project that brings health to people of all classes, race, nationality, sex and age.

I co-created the second organization (NGO) know as Afya, a Women’s Holistic Healing Center that begun working with poor women in the poor communities in the periphery of a North Eastern City of Brazil known as Joao Pessoa. At Afya I taught the women how to use the healing methods that are within their own capacity to heal their physical, emotional and spiritual being. Some of these methods are; herbal medicines grown in their own back yards, therapeutic massage, reflexology, reiki, the use of mud therapy, somatic experiencing for trauma healing, family constellation, and balanced/natural diets.

Afya begun in the year 2000 and it has developed in a very interesting manner.

It started serving only poor women from the neighborhood, however, as time went on those who were healed at Afya they told their stories to others that had the same needs, and more people came from other parts of the city, regions/state, other parts of Brazil and even other parts of the world. Also we started receiving other people from the working classes who needed Holistic healing and the women from the community who were first healed are the ones attending those who continue coming.

Sister Efu shows women how to make holistic medicine.
Sister Efu shows women how to make holistic medicine.

Afya Women Healing center became a Healing Center for all!

Many women from the neighborhood who came for healing were able to change their situations of pain and suffering for themselves and for their family. Then their husbands, who probably were their source of brokenness, saw that their wives were doing well and asked them if they could take them to this place which gave them life again. A number of women came and ask asked us if they could bring their husbands to Afya for healing. Since these women have experienced healing they also wanted to see everyone else in their family healed as well. Some of them had their grown up sons involved with drugs and wished to bring them to Afya for healing. We had to talk about this serious issue in order to make a decision of opening up Afya for all. It came to my mind that; “A half of the world population in the world is Women, and the other half is the product/offspring of the women”.  With this phrase we decided to change the statues of Afya from only attending women to “Transformed Women attending the community/Society/planet earth with Holistic healing means.

Afya begun with a team of 5 women and now, 15 years later we have 20 women attending as team members. For the first 6 years, Afya relied on grants from different organizations including Maryknoll Sister’s Project Funding. Eventually, in the last 7 to 9 years, Afya has been in the process of creating a cooperative which helps women to be self sustained. Now we have the cooperative COOPAFA within Afya as an NGO. Through COOPAFYA, women divide up among themselves the earnings of every month as they attend the community.

The word Afya means Health in my native Swahili language spoken in Tanzania. So, I am very happy to have found Afya in Brazilian people with the roots in my own country.

Grateful To All For Such Blessings

greatful-to-all-for-such-blessings-1It’s been nearly a year since I returned to East Timor, yet when I pause to reflect on all of the experiences, gifts and blessings that I’m grateful for—they’re innumerable. It’s impossible to count or remember them all. Each of you, receiving this bulletin, is also one of those blessings. I’m not merely grateful for the support you’ve given me as a missioner, and to my students. This giving and sharing is part of a greater context, an infinite whole—in which we experience the unfolding GOODNESS of life itself.

At the risk of becoming philosophical, let me just say I’m grateful for your kindness, for allowing the graces of human virtue to flow through you. This is what touches me the most. As Mary Josephine Rogers, our founder said, “How much goodness there is in all, how much beauty that bears the likeness of the Creator!” She counseled us to look at others this way, and to give thanks for the ways God’s love touches us.

Standing with three of my students who are now testing to become Dominican Friars. What a joy to witness their vocations bloom!
Standing with three of my students who are now testing to become Dominican Friars. What a joy to witness their vocations bloom!

Now at the risk of sounding sentimental, let me just say I’m grateful for your help! Together, we have done a lot to support the education of many students, who are now in a better position to improve their own lives.

Receiving a visit from Pinto Pereira, one of my first students from the class of 2008. He is the one who inspired me to teach at the public school and opened my eyes to the real hardships that some youth face. His dedication to his own education, despite his poverty, hunger and lack of support, compelled me to help him pay for college. His story moved me so much—and over the years we’ve grown closer.

Bonifacio, the scholar on the left, just joined the seminary.
Bonifacio, the scholar on the left, just joined the seminary.

In 2014, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in English and recently gave me a gift in gratitude for the support. I wish each of you could have been the recipient and felt what it’s like to be on this side of your donations!


Source of Peace and Light of the World

God of Compassion,
hear the cries of the people of France and around the world that suffer from terrorists’ attacks. Bring healing to those suffering from the violence. Bring comfort to those mourning the dead, and strengthen the people of France with courage and hope. Convert the hearts of those who have become terrorists,
and protect those committed to peace, and give us all hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.We ask this blessing through Jesus the Christ,
Source of Peace and Light of the World,
who lives and reigns forever and ever.

From the Writings of Martin Luther King
Like an unchecked cancer,
hate corrodes the personality
and eats away its vital unity.
Hate is rooted in fear,
and the only cure for fear is love.
Hatred and bitterness can never cure
the disease of fear;
only love can do that.
Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.
Hatred confuses life;
love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.
Hate begets hate;
violence begets violence;
toughness begets a greater toughness.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Only love can generate
creative fulfillment.
Love is somehow the key
that unlocks the door which leads
to ultimate communion!

Sr. Theresa Baldini

Terror in the City of Light

 Looking back now on the horrible events of these past two days in Paris, I wondered how to react. How does one accept the inhumanity shown by a group of jihadists against innocent people going about their own lives, enjoying an exciting soccer game in the stadium, sharing a meal with friends, listening to a rock concert, or just walking along the peaceful streets in this lovely city? One cannot lose hope even under these drastic circumstances. It brings to my mind the words of the letter of Peter3:15 where he says:
“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands of you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
Sr. Helen Phillips

World Kindness Day

Someone mentioned to me this morning that today is World Kindness Day and I thought, Now isn’t that a nice thing to promote? Then when I gave it a little more thought it occurred to me, Isn’t  it strange that we have to designate a special day in the year to make sure that we do something kind for someone?!?

When I was a child there was a little comic strip called “Good Deed Dotty”. Everyday little Dotty would do something good for somebody she saw in need and jot down in her little notebook, “That’s that for today”.

As Christian’s – or just as members of the Human Family – aren’t we called to be aware of our brothers and sisters in need,  every day  and do something kind for them?

Sowing seeds of the Gospel

On New Year’s Day, I invited a Dominican aspirant to celebrate the Liturgy in the village where I was assigned to preach.
On New Year’s Day, I invited a Dominican aspirant to celebrate the Liturgy in the village where I was assigned to preach.

One of the unexpected gifts of mission is the chance to celebrate Liturgies of the Word. It’s a privilege to be part of a pastoral team that proclaims the Gospel and invites people to Communion. I’m grateful to our priest and to all who show up each week, thirsting for the Word and the presence of Christ. They are signs of hope and change.

Praying before Communion at a Liturgy in Lequitura.
Praying before Communion at a Liturgy in Lequitura.

Our parish has many small chapels and six mission stations. In the past, catechists gathered the villagers on Sundays to pray the rosary or to reflect on the Gospel. Only a few places had Liturgies and Mass was a rare event. All of this changed during Lent in 2011, when Fr. Albino Marquez lamented the situation our parishioners faced in rural areas. He formed a pastoral team, including Sisters and a seminarian, to unite the parish through Sunday Liturgies of the Word.

It was daunting to face an entire assembly for the first time, but the Spirit led me through it. As I gained more experience leading the Liturgies, they became more natural and spontaneous. The rhythm and prayers of the Liturgy became a part of my being and I felt a greater reverence for the people and the ministry of the Word.

After the Liturgies I like to greet people, especially my students, and to get a sense of their joys and challenges.
After the Liturgies I like to greet people, especially my students, and to get a sense of their joys and challenges.

On days when I’m assigned to a chapel, I leave home after the Mass. Sometimes I drive for 40 minutes or an hour through rain, dust or construction zones. In places where the roads or rivers are hard for me to go alone, I get a ride by motorbike. I love to feel the breeze as we drive by rice fields, pine groves and riverbeds. Often the people prepare coffee or lunch, giving me another opportunity to share in their hospitality. It’s always a grace-filled chance to encounter Christ in his Body, the people.

A new generation of peacemakers

Olga, an 11th grade student at St. Paul Catholic High School, wrote a speech ‘Stopping Violence Against Women’ to commemorate East Timor’s Independence Day in May.
Olga, an 11th grade student at St. Paul Catholic High School, wrote a speech ‘Stopping Violence Against Women’ to commemorate East Timor’s Independence Day in May.

My story of leadership training and peace-building in Aileu goes back to 2008, when I came to East Timor. This mission field had been plowed, sown and cultivated by previous Maryknoll Sisters. The soil was not only fertile, but scattered with seedlings. It was up to the Holy Spirit and me to help them grow and bear fruit. In particular, two young men were very eager to work with me. Both had received basic training in the art of dialogue and wanted to share their knowledge with other youth. From this impetus, we invited teenagers to workshops and introduced them to forms of dialogue, conflict transformation and peacemaking. After two fruitful years, the group disbanded and I focused more on teaching.

My student Abrão, below, won 1st place for his speech on Education.
My student Abrão, below, won 1st
place for his speech on Education.

Yet in 2015, after graduating from college, João dos Santos asked me to continue this work. It was a joy to support him, witnessing to his maturity and growing passion for peace. From May to October, we co-facilitated nine workshops in various schools. João designed materials on leadership skills, dialogue and conflict transformation. He led the sessions and I took on a supportive, mentoring role. It became clearer that such skills are truly needed—and that our work is not done.

In many respects, the youth I’ve met long for peace in their families, communities and nation. Domestic violence is fairly common, while civil strife and political violence still hover like dark clouds in their collective consciousness. Fortunately, some youth have begun the critical work of looking within to see the roots of violence—and of peace—within their own lives.

May the Spirit help us to deepen & expand our work for peace!

João dos Santos (left) is my partner in the work of introducing youth to the art of dialogue and conflict transformation. These photos were taken at leadership trainings at two public high schools.
João dos Santos (left) is my partner in the work of introducing youth to the art of dialogue and
conflict transformation. These photos were taken at leadership trainings at two public high schools.