Discerning God’s Call

At the Dominican Friars’ place in Dili, I gave a talk on St. Dominic to aspirants at a vocational meeting. Some youth whom I accompany will be testing on Nov. 22 to enter. Pray for them!
At the Dominican Friars’ place in Dili, I gave a talk on St. Dominic to aspirants at a vocational meeting. Some youth whom I accompany will be testing on Nov. 22 to enter. Pray for them!

In contrast to schools in Europe, the USA, Canada and most Asian countries, many students in East Timor aspire to become priests, Sisters or Brothers. There are dozens of Religious Orders registered with the local Church that work in parishes, run schools, formation centers and various ministries. The Diocesan Seminaries are also quite crowed.

Why do so many youth in East Timor aspire to become priests and Religious? On the one hand, it’s related to high levels of unemployment, the high cost of university education, few vocational options and the privileged status of Religious in East Timorese society. Such socioeconomic factors are undeniable, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Sr. Maria do Céu, OP, was a guest speaker in my classes, offering another model of Religious missionary life for my students to consider. She did a great job of sharing that within each of us is a “light,” a Light which is meant to be shared!
Sr. Maria do Céu, OP, was a guest speaker in my classes, offering another model of Religious missionary life for my students to consider. She did a great job of sharing that within each of us is a “light,” a Light which is meant to be shared!

Youth in East Timor have grown up with the powerful presence of the Catholic Church. Many are very grateful to the priests, Bishops, Religious and even Pope John Paul II, who supported them in their fight for Independence. Some local priests, Sisters and Bishops are still revered as heroes or champions of a cause that took so many lives. In general, their faith in God is strong and they want the Church to play a major role in their society.

Seven of my students attended the Dominican Friars’ “Come and See” vocational event.
Seven of my students attended the Dominican Friars’ “Come and See” vocational event.

As I try to understand young women and men’s motivations for joining the priesthood or Religious life, I find common themes. One is leadership. The Church and her ministers, both men and women, play important leadership roles in society. Young people regard religious life and priesthood as ways of exercising leadership among the faithful. Service is another aspect. Nearly all aspirants speak of their desire and calling to serve others, build them up, educate and/or lead them to God.

Lastly, there is the common element of wanting to consecrate their lives to God in love. It’s a joy and honor to accompany youth who feel called to such a vocation. Discerning deeply and sorting out their motivations take time, but there are plenty of people to help them. As a teacher, I also feel called to witness Maryknoll’s evangelical life among my students and help them to discern their own call.

Visiting Joana’s family in her village of Uaimori (Viqueque) in late October.
Visiting Joana’s family in her village of Uaimori (Viqueque) in late October.
In February, our Sisters’ community met with Joana da Costa, an aspirant of Maryknoll Sisters (seated left of me, on the right).
In February, our Sisters’ community met with Joana da Costa, an aspirant of Maryknoll Sisters (seated left of me, on the right).

Joana and I became friends in 2008, while I stayed at the local boarding home for poor students. She was one of the women in charge and taught me so much about East Timor.

In 2013, she expressed her desire to join Maryknoll Sisters and is now in our Admissions process. I ask for your prayers and ongoing support, so that we may continue reaching out and welcoming women into our mission!

Becoming a Maryknoll Sister

Roida Sinaga, an aspirant from Sumatra, now in East Timor.
Roida Sinaga, an aspirant from Sumatra, now in East Timor.

Mother Mary Joseph said, in 1945, that “Each Sister has seen her own star and had the grace to follow it.” The same “star” which led the Magi to seek Jesus in Bethlehem and to announce the good news of his birth is also guiding our own faith. It is a privilege to accompany others whose calling has inspired them to become Maryknoll missioners.

Since I have only been in Maryknoll for ten years, this is a new and challenging ministry. I still wonder if I’m skillful and mature enough to help others to discern their own vocation. Fortunately, we are a small community united in our desire to welcome women, accompany them and pray with them. The Spirit is helping us all to be honest, caring and attentive, so I know thatwe’re in good hands.

Two aspirants I met in Korea.
Two aspirants I met in Korea.

Recently, while I was in Korea, I had the chance to meet two aspirants seeking mission with Maryknoll. We had a great time sharing experiences of community, our longing to be of service and how to engage in mission. It’s not easy to be a newcomer. Especially with fewer people joining us, women must have courage. Leaving one’s home country, living within new cultures and diverse communities, require a lot of faith. I was inspired to meet them and join them in prayer as we journey together.

As Vocations Contact Person in East Timor, I try to support all those seeking Religious life and the priesthood. Indeed the harvest is plentiful…but labourers are few. Please pray for us and consider supporting our Vocation Ministry.

Sister Janet Srebalus is ready to return to Tanzania

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Sister Janet Srebalus is ready to return to Tanzania after a brief Renewal Time in the U.S. She will be soon getting ready for this year’s annual Community Day Demonstrations at Jordan University in Morogoro, Tanzania where she teaches Psychology and Counseling at this Constituent College of the Catholic University of Tanzania.

Above are some pictures from the 2014 Jordan Community Day which welcomes students from other faculties to visit tent displays and demonstrations of each departments’ work. Sr. Janet helped her students prepare posters and a brochure of the basic facts about the Enneagram Personality Profiles as well as videos of sample counseling sessions. Sister teaches Counseling Theories, Counseling Skills and Enneagram along with supervising student Practicum Field work in Hospital, schools, NGO’s working with children at risk and people living with HIV/AIDS. Psychology is a recent field of study in Tanzania with Jordan University offering the first combination of Psychology and Counseling for both 2 year Diploma degree and 3 year Bachelor after a 2 year post-secondary High School Certificate.

Sister Janet is happy to be part of training this new generation of Psychologists and Counselors. Sister lives in community with three other Maryknoll Sisters, Sr. Bibiana Bunuan, from the Philippines, Sr. Lekheng Chen from Taiwan and Sr. Suzanne Rech from Pittsburg, PA. All of the Sisters do a variety of meaningful missionary works of teaching, counseling and animating youth, women’s groups, people suffering various illnesses and disabilities, prisoners and children abused and on the streets.

Friendships Memories Never Fade

BabyI was looking at some old pictures and this one caught my attention. The baby’s Mother, Virgie, was a Social Worker. We were working together in Manila at the Philippine Agency for community and Family, Inc. (PACAF). Virgie told me her baby’s birthday was April 13…the year was 1983. She said her little girl would be called Hannah Vi. The Vi, she said, was for Virgeen. I felt honored to have her as a namesake. I would be “Lola” (Grandmother) to her and she would be my “Apo” .Years have passed, Hanna Vi is now a Social Worker in Manila.

Seeing this picture again brought back so many happy memories of that time of my life. I am aware that life is filled with so many precious moments. Just one little picture brought back so many mental pictures of our PACAF Staff and the people we served in Quezon City and Navotas. Being a Maryknoll Sister has given me friends near and far and for this, I am grateful.

Sister Virgeen Healey, MM

Friendship Through the Ages

Friendship Through the AgesFrom July 26 to August 5, 2015, a group of 10 students from Maryknoll Convent School in Hong Kong visited the Maryknoll Sisters Center. We had a delightful time and the students experienced many events: visiting our elderly Sisters, visiting the campus of Maryknoll, trip to New York City, trip to Hawthorne where our Sisters first started, gardening in Pachmama and the Sisters’ gardens.  Can you believe that they were delighted to pull weeds!!!  (There are none where they live in Hong Kong)  As we worked together in the garden pulling weeds, poison ivy was discovered.  They were not familiar with poison ivy so I shared the article on poison ivy and also the remedies just in case someone got it.  As we talked about everything under the sun, we developed new friendships.  Once they are settled back in Hong Kong, we plan to exchange photos and share how our life is moving forward.  It has been a delight to be with this group and experience their joyfulness and youth.

Generosity without bounds

I am a secondary high school teacher so when I was asked to ‘take care of’ a second grade class in Arequipa, Perú, while the teacher was at a meeting, I cringed! What could I do with about 50 little people? Arriving at the classroom I saw that the teacher had left work for the children to do. It was absolutely quiet. Each one was writing away except one little boy. I went over to him and said. “Why aren’t you writing like the other children?” He quickly replied, “I don’t have a pencil.” In a flash the little fellow sitting next to him said nothing but quickly broke his own pencil in two and handed half of it to his friend and went right back to his own work! I was amazed! He didn’t hesitate one moment about giving half of what he possessed to his friend. He had a bigger pencil than he needed then and his friend had none. It was so spontaneous!

I wondered, after seeing that, if my sense of generosity, of sharing, came even near to his…

What a lesson, I learned! By the way, the receiver of the pencil whipped out his little razor blade (a poor boy’s version of a pencil sharpener) and sharpened the dull end and went on with his work.

Sister Helen Phillips, M.M.

Mission Is A Two Way Street

Years ago I ministered to the people of the Beni, the jungle area of Bolivia, in a town called Riberalta. I was a teacher in the elementary and later secondary school of that town. After being there for a while, I realized that two of my students, who were brothers, were sons of a leper. Now I had never seen a leper. I had only read about them in the Scriptures or heard others talk about them. All I knew was that they had a terrible disease, and that they used to ring bells to announce their presence in a neighborhood. People had the idea that they might catch their disease (which is a fallacy, as leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, as it is now known, is not contagious). It was not unlike how folks treat those with AIDS in our own country today.

One day I decided to go and visit this man, let’s call him, Sr. Rodriquez. I went down to the banks of the Beni River to their house. ‘House’ is quite a word for that in which they lived! It was a shelter built of bamboo, or chuchío, as it was called, with a high slanted roof covered with palm leaves. The spaces between the bamboo strips were filled with mud. When I entered the house I found it very difficult to see after coming in from the bright tropical sun. When I became accustomed to the darkness, I saw a low wooden bed, which is called a catre, to one side. There was something in the middle of this bed. As I became even more accustomed to the darkness, I realized that this ‘something’ was the man I had come to see! Here was a man, who obviously was quite tall, sitting with his knees up to his chest, his shoulders were all purple and covered with suppurating sores; one of his ears was gone, as was part of his nose. His hands were covered with greatly stained cloths. I discovered later that the fingers of one hand were totally gone as were one or two on the other. I had never seen such a sight! My first reaction was, I think, a very human one. All I wanted to do was to get out of there! Just as this thought entered my mind, Sr.Roderiguez smiled! It was very crooked smile, given his infirmity. He then said “Sister, I want to thank you for helping to educate my children!” I was stunned!  If he had cursed and sworn and complained about his terrible illness, I think I could have understood this better. But here he was with words of gratitude to me, the missioner, who had come, I thought, to console him!

We then began to have a conversation in which he told me a little about himself. He was the father of twelve very handsome children, He had been what we call in Spanish, ‘un comerciante’, someone who went up and down the jungle rivers bringing supplies and selling things to those folks who lived upriver and couldn’t get into the pueblo where we lived.. He said, “You know, Sister, when I was working the rivers, I never had much time for God, but since I have become ill, Jesus and I have become very good friends!”

He then told me about his relationship with God and how it had grown since he became ill and could no longer work the rivers. It was then that I realized that Mission is a two-way street. I, the missioner, had come to minister to him and here he was teaching me!

A very humbling experience!

In Baptism we receive the gift of Faith. However this gift is not something to be selfishly kept to oneself. It is meant to be shared. This is what Señor Rodriguez shared with me.

*name of man has been changed
Sister Helen Phillips, M.M.



What Would You Sacrifice for Education?

Embracing Mariamu after many years.
Embracing Mariamu after many years.

Emusoi Center aims to empower pastoralist girls by helping them gain access to secondary and post-secondary education.  Some of our students run away from home in order to avoid early marriage, often helped by their mothers or some relative who understands the value of education.  Mariamu was one of these girls.  She came to Emusoi and joined the pre-secondary course and then secondary school, finishing at the end of 2014.  But she never went home during this time because he father wanted to marry her off.  Mariamu will join cookery school in January and she has been helping out at the Center.

However, her usual bubbly spirit seemed a bit dampened recently and she expressed the desire to go home to see her mother and father and siblings.  She asked herself are they even alive since she had had no communication from them.  She asked one of our staff to accompany her because she was afraid to go by herself.

Mariamu was accompanied by Teika, our Program Officer.  They left early in the morning and reached the village after a 3-hour trip.  Mariamu’s mother ran to the car and embraced her daughter; both of them crying.  But her father was another story.  When he saw Mariamu, he said, “who are you?”.  He did not recognize her. Mariamu said, Baba (Father), it is me, Mariamu. He looked at her and said, “My daughter is dead. How can you be Mariamu?”

Mariamu holding her niece with her sister next to her
Mariamu holding her niece with her sister next to her

Teika intervened and said let’s sit and talk.  She began talking with him, with the traditional greetings, telling him who her father and grandfather are, where she was born and how she works at Emusoi. Slowly, she told him that Mariamu had been in school this whole time and she will continue to study.  Mariamu’s father was impressed with Teika because she knew his language and the customs and the proper etiquette.  He said to leave him alone for awhile and he began to weep because his daughter whom he thought was dead had returned.

After awhile, he called Mariamu and they talked.  The family is very poor and they had nothing to offer the guests, but their neighbors brought tea for them to drink. Teika told the family that Mariamu would return to Emusoi and she will go to school next year.  He father accepted this and called all the guests in front of him so he could give Mariamu a blessing along with Teika and our driver and even the car!  A beautiful reconciliation had taken place as this “prodigal” daughter had now returned home.

Sr Mary Vertucci


My trip to Korea in June 2015

By Sr. Margaret Kollmer

I had the privilege of going back to the country I love again this year.

The occasion was the joint meetings of the International Council of Nurses Congress, the Korean Nurses Association Annual Meeting, and the Korean Association of Nurse Anesthetist Annual Meeting being held at the same time. The ICN attendees, all nurses, were from 139 countries around the world, and numbered over 17,000 members. If you remember, shortly before the meetings were to begin, South Korea had the occurrence of an incident of MERS infection, brought to Korea by a person from the Mid East. This caused, in the two weeks I was there, the quarantine of 7,000 people, and the deaths of 36 people out of the 186 who were stricken with the disease. For those of you who are unaware of this, MERS is a virus infection, caused by contact (not airborne), which does not respond to any known antibiotic treatment, and is quite serious. Luckily the measures taken to control this outbreak were efficient, and the disease was controlled.

The ICN had as its theme, ―Global Health, Global Nursing.‖ Dr. Margaret Chang, the National Director of the World Health Organization, gave the opening address. In it she commended Korea on its response to the crisis, which controlled the outbreak, preventing further spread of the disease throughout the country. She then went on to urge the nurses of all countries to become more involved and active in helping to write the laws regarding health affairs in their own countries. She said many countries are now beginning to organize health systems, and now is the time for the Nurses to take an active role in seeing that the laws are proper to meet the health needs of all peoples, especially the poor and those without a voice. It was most inspiring.

The Korean Nurse Anesthetists had one of the many booths at the ICN, which gave the history of our Association, as well as having two models to try different anesthesia technics- spinal/epidural anesthesia, as well as intubation. It was most impressive.

The other two meetings were held nearby and the Korean Nurses Association stressed the importance of working together.

The Korean Association of Nurse Anesthetists held an International seminar on the Nurse Anesthetist work globally. The opening address was given by Gye Seon Jeong, President of the KANA, currently professor at Chungnam University, Kwangju,Korea. I was asked to give the first lecture on the history of the Korean Association of Nurse Anesthetists, which I began so many years ago. The speakers were all CRNA‗s: Pascal Rod, of France; KimTae Min of Halla University, Korea; Hae Sang Yeun of Inchon, Korea; Jackie Rowles of Indiana now President of the IFNA (International Federation of Nurse Anesthetists): Yun Suk Jeon from Helsinki, Finland; and MiChong Rayborn from the US, all speaking on issues relevant to the NA around the world.

Needless to say, it was an eventful time, each day bringing new friends, meeting old acquaintances, and seeing the changes in Korean Nurse Anesthesia History which are relevant, challenging, and still a work in progress. I was most delighted to have been there, and the biggest gift was that I did not forget any of my Korean Language skills despite an absence of nearly three years from Korea. It was difficult to say goodbye…

Accompanying Migrants


By Abby Avelino

I thought I‘d write today about what hap-pened and whom I met throughout the day. I am grateful for all those people. I started my usual third Sunday schedule very early. We had a Baptism ceremony for two infants; one boy with an Afri-can father and Japanese mother. The African father was in immigration detention and was given a “karihoumen” (temporary re-lease) for a year. Although he is married to a Japanese woman he’s not sure whether their relationship will work out. He is in the process of getting a “spouse” visa but it takes time to get his papers processed.

Drawing and letter of Eliana (her photo below with Abby Avelino)
Drawing and letter of Eliana (her photo below with Abby Avelino)

drawing-2(The motivation for a number of interracial marriages is to obtain legal im-migration status). I pray that he gets his visa soon and he could live together peacefully with his wife and his son, D.

The other one-year old baby girl, R‘s parents are both Filipino. They are so happy that finally she got baptized. They don’t have much time to be together and they work hard in order to make a living for their two children. They seem a happy family.

After the Baptism ceremony, a Japanese woman came. Her mother died the week before. She shared that her mother’s funeral went well and appreciated all prayers and support re-ceived. Both of her parents suffered dementia; she is now caring for her elderly father. I do pray for her and all caregivers.

Few minutes after, another Filipino family came. Their daughter, Eliana is one of the altar servers and she‗s in my ‗first communion‘ preparation class. This family migrated to Japan because of her father’s job. They’re one of the few families that luckily settled here in Japan and with a stable job. We enjoy one another in class.

While I was talking with them, a girl from Marshall Islands came. She wants to be an altar server. She and her mother came as part of a diplomatic family. Her grandfather is the Ambassador to Japan from the Mar-shalls. I have known this family for quite some time. Mr. Kijiner was taught by Maryknoll Sisters in Marshalls when he was a young boy. I thought what a small world…now their grandchildren are in my catechism class.

During 12 noon mass, I met Maria, a Filipina with her two teenage sons. Their father was Japanese and died a few years ago. Maria is very worried about their future here in Japan. Her problem is very common for migrant mothers…dealing with her bi-cultural sons and Japanese in-laws. After mass, two Filipina came for a consultation. One is a single-mother and has difficulty dealing with her teenage daughter…a typical teenager who would like to be independent. M is concerned about her daughter‗s future and their relationship as a family.

These are a few of many stories that I hear every day and these are some difficult situations for every person. I work at St. Ignatius Church (Tokyo) doing pastoral ministry primarily with migrants/ immigrants from Philippines, Africa, Americas, Europe, Myanmar, and many more. I hear many stories….domestic violence prob-lems, visa problems, financial problems, spiritual hunger, homelessness, parenting problems, difficulty of caregiv-ing for the elderly, etc…It is a challenging ministry but I love accompanying the parishioners even just to listen to their stories and pay attention to their needs. We share our joys and hopes as we journey together as sisters and brothers in Christ.