Seasons Change And So Too The Call To Be Messengers Of Love, Mercy And Compassion In Service To God’s Mission

Seasons Change And So Too The Call To Be Messengers Of Love, Mercy And Compassion In Service To God’s Mission

It is January and in most of the United States this is the cold season.  So too for our missioners in places like Northern China.  But in other parts of the world not so.  In East Africa, for example it is hot as the people anxiously await the rainy season.  In South America it is summer time. As seasons vary throughout the world so too does the nature of service to God’s Mission of love, mercy and compassion that can bring creativity and new life to an often troubled world.  Here above is a photo of Fr. Mike Bassano living among displaced persons in a South Sudanese camp.  He is there simply to say: “You are not alone  nor forgotten.” So simple, yet so profound!

The Vocation Story of the Three Magi Narrated Through a Different Route By Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa M.M.

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. 

Meet Our Maryknoll Candidates Preparing To Become Missionary Priests And Brothers

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!

As always we look forward to hearing from you at ( Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry (Vocation Director), Fr. Mike Snyder, Fr. Cuong Nguyen and Mr. Greg Darr.

Clothed in Grace By Mr. Greg Darr

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.

Of Walking Sticks and Wonder – The Apostolic Life By Mr. Greg Darr

Spiritual author, Fr. Richard Rohr OFM once remarked, “Transformed people transform people.”  It’s the chemical equation of a spiritual life – when one person encounters another through love, a transforming reaction takes place changing both lives, making each more brilliantly transparent to God’s love.  This is the call of the “apostolic life”; it’s the summons of Jesus, “Come, follow me”, through encounter upon encounter with the peoples of our world, especially those who most resemble Christ – the poor, the homeless, the refugee, the despised, the condemned.

Often “apostolic life” is contrasted with “contemplative life”, especially when distinguishing communities of consecrated life in discerning a vocation.

Contemplative communities are commonly characterized by silence, simplicity and prayerful intentionality in work and devotion to God and to one another.  In this way of life, the example of Jesus at prayer, draws us away from the world so as to embrace it more deeply and completely in God’s love.

Apostolic communities, on the other hand, are typically characterized by their action or ministry in the world, generally outside of monasteries.  Members may teach, serve the homeless or poor, minister in healthcare settings or prisons, accompany migrants and refugees, care for Creation, or advance social justice causes among many other ministries.  In this way of life, the teaching and healing ministries of Jesus, and the example of the apostles being sent by Him into the world to do the same, is foremost.

And yet as Jesus demonstrated, both “contemplative” and “apostolic” dimensions are essential for a meaningful Christian life.  And both are practiced even among the most “contemplative” or “apostolic” of communities.

Though drawn to prayer and contemplation in our Maryknoll charism, we nonetheless identify most publicly with our apostolic calling and way of life.  To paraphrase French writer, Émile Zola, if you ask us what we came to do in this world, we will answer: we are here to “live out loud”.  Mission is, for us, prayer lived “out loud” in its subversive actions against the anxieties, animosities and complacencies that fray our bonds with God and one another.

Like other apostolic communities, Maryknollers journey to the margins of societies around the world.  It’s there that God calls us to walk with the poor and broken, to bind wounded bodies and souls, and to call into question those social structures that perpetuate such suffering.  In doing so, we encounter Christ time and again, often in very surprising ways.  And, we are transformed.

Bishop James Edward Walsh, MM, one of Maryknoll’s first missionaries and our second Superior General, wrote movingly of one such encounter with a poor Chinese laborer.

“I saw him in the rice field”, Walsh recalled.  “He stopped working as I approached and leaned on his hoe. The sweat of a hot day under the South China sun glistened on his brow.”  As Walsh looked closer at the young man, he saw however something more – something that was always there that, but for a moment and Walsh’s prayerful openness to it, could have been forever lost to him.  It wasn’t.  Instead, a feeling of profound love welled up within, transforming Walsh and empowering him to exclaim his vocation as a missioner anew:

“’I choose you,’ sang in my heart as I looked at my awkward farmer boy, perfect picture of the underprivileged soul. ‘I choose you, and with you the countless million of God’s children like you… souls impoverished and unendowed, I choose you, and dedicate myself to you. I ask no other privilege but to devote the energies of my soul to such as you. For in this sudden revelation shines an incarnation of my life’s ideal. You are my father and mother my sister and my brother; you hold the center of my dreams.’

Jesus sent His apostles out into the world with nothing more than a walking stick (ref: Mark 6:8) so as to realize, for themselves, the truth of God’s dream for humanity – we are all family.  A walking stick is meaningful though only if you take time to listen to God and the family you walk among – and if you’re open to wonder.

Touched by wonder in his own apostolic walk among the poor of China, Walsh implored:  “Shine on, farmer boy, symbol to me of the thousand million like you who drew the Son of God from heaven to smooth and bless your weary anxieties and your puzzled brows. Come to me often in your barefooted squalor and look at me from out those hopeless and bewildered eyes. Do not let me forget that vision, but stay by me and preside over my dreams. Teach me that souls are people. And remind me everlastingly that they are magnificent people like you.”


The Maryknoll Mission Bell By Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa M.M.

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers had the first mission departure on September 7, 1918. At eight o’clock the ringing of the mission bell announced the departure of our first four men to the Orient. This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation creating the yearning to hear the sound of the bell. It is a 200 pound bell from an old Japanese pagoda that was given as a gift to our co-founder, Bishop James A. Walsh, M.M., by Fr. Deffrennes, a French missionary in Japan.

It is said that during a trip to the Orient, Bishop Walsh heard that this bell was rescued from a Japanese temple which burned to the ground. In the small town near Sendai, he was offered this bell by Fr. Deffrennes. Bishop Walsh arranged the bell to be transported from Yokohama to Maryknoll by ship. As he saw the bell for one last instance, Fr. Deffrennes wrote a letter dated in 1919:

“You can imagine how happy I was to know that my bell had sounded the hour of the first departure! May it sound many, many more times! Its voice is not beautiful but the ears of apostles must get used to unpleasant sounds.”

Being faithful to the tradition, this bell rang again on the first Friday of June 2022 at 3 PM when Fr. John Siyumbu, M.M., received his mission cross and was assigned to his first mission in Latin America. Will a priest or a Brother be the next one to go on mission? When will the bell ring next? These were some of the questions that you could hear after the ceremony.

Looking ahead, I captured a group of our newest seminarians studying the still legible Chinese characters engraved on the bell which narrate the story of its origins. This is a bell that sends people to announce Good News. Be part of this tradition. Be a Brother, be a Priest, be Maryknoll!

Maryknoll Ordains a New Priest

On June 3, 2022 His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples ordained Deacon John Siyumbu to the priesthood. Maryknoll Superior General, Father Lance P. Nadeau, was concelebrant.  During his homily, Cardinal Tagle spoke about John’s future ministry and God’s calling him to priesthood saying “We are all humble collaborators.”  Father Nadeau shared a greeting and message in Swahili with Father John’s family who were watching via live stream from Kenya.

After the Ordination Mass, Father John received his Mission Cross at the Maryknoll Sending Ceremony, and was commissioned to our mission service in Latin America.

Born in Kenya, East Africa, as a young boy, he attended Mass regularly with his family.  He loved celebrating the sacraments and felt the beginnings of a calling at the time of his Confirmation.  As a seminarian during his overseas training in Bolivia, Father John has commented on he grew close to many families and learned so much from them.  Through the celebration of their faith and simple acts of friendship, his own faith was strengthened.

Father John is the first candidate accepted into Maryknoll as a candidate for the priesthood from Kenya.

Pope Francis is a Missionary Pope

We in Maryknoll admire Pope Francis because he expresses so well what a Maryknoll Missioner is all about, namely service to God’s mission in the world.  He is a missionary pope who says we should “smell like the sheep”.  On Holy Thursday several years ago he said:

“Love and charity, are service, helping others, serving others. There are many people who spend their lives in this way, in the service of others. … When you forget yourself and think of others, this is love! And with the washing of the feet the Lord teaches us to be servants, and above all, servants as He was a servant to us, for every one of us.”

Some see the missionary life as a daunting challenge but we see it simply as service in response to love and God is love.  I had the privilege of meeting St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta on two occasions.  She once said: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  If you admire the missionary vocation but feel you are not worthy to undertake it then take the time to pray over it.  We missioners are just ordinary human beings like you trying to contribute to God’s Mission in this world in whatever small way we can.  St. Mother Teresa expressed it well: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

I hope you will enjoy this edition of our Vocations Newsletter and if you feel the call within you, then contact us.  Perhaps we can assist as you look to the future asking yourself: What does God want me to do with my life?

Fr. Mike Snyder

As always we look forward to hearing from you at ( Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry, Fr. Cuong Nguyen, Fr. Mike Snyder, Fr. Joe Donovan and Mr. Greg Darr.

Holy Week Vocation Discernment Retreat Wednesday April 13 – Easter Sunday April 17

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


Queen of the Apostles Chapel, Maryknoll NY


We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.


L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Fr. Lance P. Nadeau, Fr. James M. Lynch, Fr. Timothy O. Kilkelly)

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is overseen by our General Council, led by Superior General Rev. Lance P. Nadeau, M.M.

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L-R Tom O'Brien, Ray Finch, Joe Everson, Russ Feldmeier

(Our Co-Founders Father Price and Father Walsh)





(Africa) Education and Formation of African Clergy

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Africa Region will provide tuition assistance to African clergy, male and female religious at institutes of higher education or specialized training. Read More

Stories of Our Global Mission

The calling of a lifetime
The life of a Maryknoll missioner is challenging, fulfilling, and deeply rewarding. Follow your baptismal call to mission by sharing God’s compassion with the poor, the sick, and people most in need.