The gospel of Mathew 2:12 recounts an interesting fact, namely that the three magi “returned to their country by a different route.” But what’s missing in this part of the story? The star. The star which guided them into Bethlehem is not with them anymore, the star is gone. Is returning home through a different route without the star a challenge for the three magi? Certainly. What about us: what do we do when our star seems to disappear, especially when we are discerning or contemplating a decision to align our lives to follow Jesus?
he breakthrough in this story lies in the fact that God, who led them through the old route is the same God inviting them now to let go of fear because fear can cause all our stars to disappear. Let go of fear and embrace the new route is the motif that the three magi need to embrace. Perhaps in this New Year God is inviting us to do the same and to trust even more, to make the commitment to follow a missionary vocation to the priesthood or brotherhood. Remember this: God does not push anyone to go where there is no possible road. The three magi had a choice and they followed the new route. They left fear and trusted in the new road.
Here’s a revelation: The star is not gone but is inside them. They went home through a different route carrying the star deep within; they understand that everything inside their hearts will sustain them. Because when God is inside us and we know it, our faith will show it. However, the three magi had to quiet the voices of what if. What if this doesn’t work? What if we get sick? What if we get lost? What if Herod comes chasing us? Human questions we all have when we return home through a different route. Going home through a different route can be a struggle but it is in the struggle where we develop character and discipleship.
Let’s go further. Imagine a third route. We have the old route which they took going to Bethlehem and we have the new route which they have never travelled before. But there’s a third route: return to the manger. Why not see if the holy family can help them with some of their concerns. But the problem is that the manger is empty, there’s no star, neither Joseph nor Mary, no baby Jesus. But this third route is an option. The three magi could have chosen to return to the empty manger to avoid letting go. An empty manger. Think of the apostles in the empty tomb. Don’t stay in empty promises, don’t live around an empty hope. The three magi represent people who are available, who want to see what’s on the other side because how can we know if something is for us if we don’t try it? How can we know if a vocation is for us if we don’t take the leap of faith? The three magi decided to try the new road and the last time we heard of them was when Matthew wrote, “they returned to their country by a different route.” If Jesus is calling you to follow him, think of the three magi and be not afraid to do so.
The prophet Isaiah 57:14 summarizes it well: “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle from my people’s way. I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Build up, build up, prepare the way.” As we begin this New Year I pray that you take the necessary steps to prepare the way and follow your vocation even if it entails traveling through a different route.
Maryknoll missionary priests and Brothers have been serving in countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America for 105 years now. The initial missioners travled to the four corners of the world establishing the Church by founding dioceses, parishes, schools, hospitals while always proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. We have taken part in God’s Mission as messengers of God’s love, compassion and mercy for all. We are proud of our history. Today so many of these local churches are now strong. Among their young men and women there are those who wish to become Maryknoll Missioners as you can see here above in our Candidates’ 2023 Poster.
Our world has changed since those first Maryknoll missioners traveled to China in 1918 and so have the challenges presented in God’s Mission of love, mercy and compassion for all creation. These are forever changing but we are as dedicated today as those first missioners crossing oceans to meet the challenges of their generation.
As missioners when we first arrive in new countries there is excitement mixed with some trepidation. We are far from home and familiar surroundings. We all wonder if we have what it takes to learn new languages, adapt to new cultures and establish good healthy relationships with the people. We must exercise patience as we become like children once again in so many ways. Prayer becomes paramount in our lives as we acknowledge how much we depend upon God. Then ever so slowly we grow and acculturate in these new settings. In the end it is always the people in our host country who show us the face of Jesus through their hospitality and warm welcome. The transformation that takes place in us is best described as grace. And that grace, God’s goodness, brings us so much happiness!
We hope you recognize how much you and so many others like you are needed today. The message of God’s love for all people is so important. It needs to be heralded not only in words but in the actions of our daily lives. Each of you is a messenger wherever you go and in whatever you do. But, you still need to take some steps in the direction that will fulfill the dreams that have brought you in contact with us. So, don’t be stymied by the challenge. Rather, dream on and make the dream a reality!
It’s often said that you can tell a lot about people from the clothes they wear. But, as I was reminded recently in a noisy convention center hall filled with hundreds of Catholic youth, clothes tell us nothing if we do not first open our hearts to the stories of those who wear them.
At the time, our Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Vocation Ministries team was hosting a t-shirt swap at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Long Beach, California. The idea was simple – youth were invited to bring a new or used t-shirt they could swap for a shirt that had been donated or brought earlier by someone else. Shirts would be, ideally, unique – representative of a person’s culture, community, school or church. Or, the shirt could recall a life event or portray an inspiring phrase. Most important though was the card pinned to each shirt; completed by the person swapping the shirt, the card told others something about the t-shirt or offered a prayer or encouraging words for the person ultimately choosing it.
The swap took place under the hashtag, “#Share4Creation”. It seemed like a fun but thought-provoking way of reminding ourselves that, as members of God’s family, we share this one Earth and everything made from it. Even as shirts were swapped, youth learned how we can care for Creation and impact the lives of people in distant countries through the clothing choices we make. Youth can also serve as powerful advocates on behalf of those who labor long hours for low pay to produce clothes we often take for granted. And youth, of course, learned about the extraordinary work of Maryknoll priests, sisters, brothers, lay missioners and affiliates around the world.
The idea was simple. The experience was, at times, profound.
As youth browsed the racks, some found shirts that attracted them in deep and unexpected ways. One youth chose a t-shirt donated by a Maryknoll Lay Missioner who served many years in East Africa as a doctor; he told us of his own plans to become a nurse and help those most in need of medical care. Another picked out a shirt donated by Divine Word Missionaries, she hopes to someday go abroad in mission. One young man was so excited by the t-shirt he found, he stripped off the shirt he was wearing and handed it to us in exchange.
Perhaps the most inspiring of these stories came from a young woman who decided upon one of the most ordinary-looking of t-shirts – a simple 5K race t-shirt. A traumatic brain injury years earlier, she recounted, had left her in a coma for about eight weeks. She regained consciousness on her birthday – her “new birthday”, she remarked – the day she began learning anew how to live and accomplish ordinary tasks most of us perform without thought. Months of effort passed before she could walk again. Still, she set an ambitious goal; she would someday run. On the t-shirt she chose was printed the goal she so painstakingly accomplished; she’s now able to run a 5K race though her running abilities are not as they were before her injury.
It was, however, the hand-written message attached to the shirt that moved her most. She read it aloud with emotion: “To whom this shirt will go — may every step you make, make you closer to the heart of Jesus Christ.”
Christ, she remarked, had been with her through it all. It was in Christ’s love that she found faith in herself to persevere, to run her 5K race, and discover herself even closer to God through the struggle. She hopes her own hard-won experience will inspire other young people to find faith in themselves, through God’s love, even as they endure the toughest of challenges in their own young lives.
The famed world heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammed Ali once observed, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
This young woman, who shared her story with me, won her race the same way: behind the hospital room curtain, in years of occupational therapy and ultimately out on the path, one painstakingly awkward step at a time until, in a noisy convention center hall, she held up a used 5K race t-shirt and beamed with gratitude.
We are proud to introduce you to our newly revised website. Please check it out and let us know what you think about it!
Winter scene of the cloister and Our Lady of Maryknoll at Maryknoll Headquarters in Ossining New York
Mark your calendars! This Maryknoll Holy Week Retreat will take place at our headquarters in Ossining, NY and will offer an opportunity to discern your vocation as a Missioner. Come and learn from an outstanding missionary past, envision a promising missionary future by coming to take part in this retreat. The Maryknoll Journey is for you, come and see! For further information contact Fr. Rodrigo at email@example.com
Queen of the Apostles Chapel, Maryknoll NY
We understand that not everyone is a Facebook user. However, if you take the time to visit us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mklvocations) you will find several short video testimonies of Maryknoll Missioners speaking about their vocations and experiences in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Here is a sample by Sem. John Siyumbu: https://www.youtube.com/embed/qQI_rFCN4m8
We also have a private Facebook Vocations Group for men expressing greater interest in a missionary vocation. The group meets regularly to watch interviews with Maryknollers and have the opportunity to dialogue with us and with each other about missionary life. Please visit our Vocations Facebook page and if you are interested in joining this group then just contact Fr. Rodrigo at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow the instructions online for membership.
Fr. Larry Radice offers a blessing in Thailand
Fr. Mike with the present chaplain and students during a reception outside the chapel
Fr. Mike Snyder has spent his missionary career among the people of Tanzania in East Africa. Today he serves in vocations and as Maryknoll’s Director of Admissions. Recently he returned to East Africa where he met several men in Kenya and Tanzania expressing interest in a missionary vocation. While in Dar es Salaam the Catholic student community at the Muhimibili University of Health & Allied Sciences welcomed him for an evening of prayer and to give a talk. Fr. Mike spent 6 years as Catholic chaplain at this institute, the national medical university of Tanzania. He commented that it was like returning home. These students did not know him personally but they knew much about him and the years spent as chaplain to the student body. After the talk they showered Fr. Mike with gifts and a short reception.
A missioner’s life is filled with hellos and goodbyes. Events such as this one demonstrate the impact we can have on other’s lives and the joy we experience in service to God’s Mission living in other countries, experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. As they say in Swahili, the language of Tanzania: Mungu ni mwema – God is good!
Students welcoming Fr. Mike back home at Muhimbili
Vocation Director Fr. Rodrigo Ulla (center) with two friends
From November 17 to the 20th, the Vocations Team led by Mr. Greg Darr and Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa traveled to Indianapolis to attend the 2021 National Catholic Youth Conference most known as NCYC. We had a booth representing Maryknoll with multiple brochures describing our charisms. The main attraction was a map oriented to the South which sparked lots of attention upon seeing it from a far. Many students were puzzled as to why did we hang a map upside down. It was not upside down but simply oriented to the South and such position helped us explain that Jesus invites us to see the world differently. We go to mission to serve God’s people and when we return we see the world and its people with eyes of mercy and compassion. From years past, our Maryknoll world mission map has challenged students giving them just 60 seconds to match 6 countries to their proper location on the map. The winner of each challenge receives a mission cross as well as our mission passport and a copy of the map so that they can review it at home. We conducted this game for the entire conference and were able to attract multiple students from different dioceses of the United States. To plant the mission seed, we successfully handed countless copies of our long/short term mission exposure trip brochures and prayer cards, to name a few.
Vocation Minister Mr. Greg Darr with map game participants
Brothers Ryan Thibert, Joe Bruener & Jonathan Jose in Cochabamba, Bolivia
What is a Catholic Brother and what does he do?
The best example of a “Brother” would be Jesus himself. Jesus lived most of his life as a “Brother”. He was single, was a person of prayer, lived in community and gave his entire life in doing the will of God. Jesus was a man of great compassion for all people, especially the poor, the lame, the sinners, the outcast of society and the sick. To be a “Brother” is to grow in compassion for all people, especially the poor and outcast of society.
“Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights” (Mt. 4: 1-2). To be a “Brother” one must strive to be a person of prayer. Jesus begins his ministry by gathering his apostles to form a community. He does not do his ministry alone. “Jesus appoints 12 apostles that they may be with him and he might send them forth to preach” (Mk. 3:14). To be a “Brother” in the Catholic Church today is to work in collaboration with the people around him. He does not do his ministry alone. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, whoever wishes to come after me must take up his cross and follow me (Mt. 16: 24). There will be times of trial and error, but to be a “Brother” he must not give up in doing “God’s will” and bringing about the kingdom of God.
Br. Loren Beaudry hugging Thomas Luchagula, child of Kiza John, Bukumbi Rehabilitation Center, Mwanza, Tanzania.
– Photo © Nile Sprague