As the Spring season dawns on us in New York so too does the warmth and fragrances of nature. At Easter we join with Jesus in proclaiming new and resurrected life. This can strengthen our faith in God and hope for a better world. I think imagination is an important factor when addressing the theme of hope, especially during these challenging times with a pandemic affecting the lives of people throughout the world. Without imagination we can fall subject to either the presumption that humankind can solve all problems by itself or despair when it discovers otherwise. Hope with imagination enables us to avoid both of these pitfalls because its fulfillment is always on the horizon in our life’s journey. It is an eschatological hope that can only reach its fulfillment when we are finally fully united with God. Faith driven by love for God’s people and demonstrated in our relations to them propels us forward ‘imagining’ what full union with God will be like and striving to grasp it day by day. Perhaps another word for imagining is dreaming. Maryknoll needs dreamers who truly believe that a world centered on God’s love for it is possible. God became a human being and took the name of Jesus to show us the way to make all this possible.
When Maryknollers go to Africa, Asia and Latin America we are filled with both excitement and some trepidation. We wonder if we have what it takes to learn new languages, adapt to new cultures and establish good healthy relationships with the people. Missionary virtues include creativity, imagination, a sense of adventure and, yes, dreams. Our vocation is steeped in faith, hope and love. Prayer, attentiveness to God’s activity within us, becomes core as we slowly grow and acculturate in these new settings. In time we recognize God’s voice not only in our own lives but also in the lives of those we encounter in these new lands.
I 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 preached 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, imagine, dream on and make the dream a reality!
As always we look forward to hearing from you: Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry (firstname.lastname@example.org), Fr. Mike Snyder, Fr. Joe Donovan and Mr. Greg Darr
We are proud to announce the launching of our newly revised website that also features a new vocations video. Please check it out and let us know what you think about it!
Maryknoll Vocations | A Life of Mission Overseas (maryknollsociety.org)
We also offer volunteer opportunities lasting from six weeks to one year that can nourish your vocational interest.
Fr. Joyalito Tajonera with volunteers in Tanzi, Taiwan. Learn more about our volunteer programs at
(Volunteer Opportunities & Life-Enriching Experiences | Maryknoll (maryknollsociety.org)
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 Fr. Dae Kim now serving in Brazil:https://youtu.be/gKmCyhA6eAk
We also have a private Facebook Vocations Group that meets regularly to watch interviews with Maryknollers where they 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 email@example.com or follow the instructions on line for membership.
Cristo de la Concordia (Christ of Peace) Sculpture in Cochabamba, Bolivia
This is the largest sculpture of its kind in the world.
As a candidate on Overseas-Training Program (OTP), the pandemic has given me a chance to re-think about how I could be a presence of God´s love in these trying times. One such challenge arose when the government of Bolivia announced that the school year would end 8 months earlier and that all students would continue to be advanced to their next academic grade. These decisions had great impact on the locals, especially those in the rural areas. Parents in these areas found it hard to support their children in their learning because they neither had the academic ability nor the time. The inequality in terms of access to proper education become evident when schools in the city began implementing online classes which was neither available nor affordable for those in the rural areas.
At Centro Nueva Vera Cruz, the team of local educators together with Father Paul Sykora M.M., felt the need to address this social injustice by reopening our support school to help the students in the Southern Zone be more prepared for the new academic year. It wasn´t an easy decision since the covid-19 infection rates in the city area was still increasing. However, with much planning, we decided to take some managed risks to offer tutoring programs.
Collaborating with the community, we implemented new biosecurity measures; having disinfection processes on entry, and screening and turning away children who were unwell. In the classroom, we also maintained social distancing. All the children were very cooperative because they truly valued this opportunity to learn. The level of motivation they showed was encouraging for all of us, yet, I had other challenges ahead.
As a beginner in Spanish, it was a humbling experience trying to help them with different subjects. Even though I am a trained educator, I had to relearn how to teach in this context, trying to translate all the content knowledge into Spanish. Also, I had to be unashamed to ask for help from fellow educators and even the children. I felt in solidarity with the children because truly, I was learning more than I was teaching.
Matthew at work teaching his students
The work was intense because we had 3 months to complete 8 months of schoolwork. To cope with the diversity of children, we had to be creative – differentiate tasks to maintain engagement, organize dynamic ability-based groupings and even use peer-tutoring. In the process, we saw more children trying to help each other. They learned patience when they saw us occupied, more importantly, they learnt to manage their own behaviors to prevent disruptions.
We grew as a community, exchanging our cultures and even my faith journey that brought me here to them. Our friendship expanded to outside our classroom. Some started participating in our Sunday Mass. I thanked God when I saw them growing to be active members of our community of faith. Their participation inspired me to start an Advent Reflection program.
The program was ecumenical. We had 14 participants, singing local hymns and learning about the Nativity story together. We also each made a nativity creche and for some, this would be the first in their family. I was very touched that 6 children from the upper hillside joined us. They walked 50 minutes to get to our center! At the end of every session, they would ask me for the leftover snacks to bring home. Knowing their circumstances, I was always ready to offer something for their trip home. Their presence made my own reflections on the pilgrimage of Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem more substantial. They thought they came to make a creche for their family, but they came and brought Jesus to the other children, to Father Sykora, and certainly to me, a missioner-in-training trying to discern my call.
A crèche created by the children
Many of us live a life more privileged than we know. Yes, some of us have experienced hardships, discrimination or even didn´t get to buy the newest gadget that all our friends have. Yet, there are whole new realities out here, out in the peripheries, where Jesus is calling us to. The mission here isn´t about building beautiful churches or proselytizing. It is a calling to a deep encounter with self and others, so that we can better understand the presence of God that has been here, way before any missioners stepped foot on this land. Pope Francis speaks of Mission as stepping out of our comfort zone to bring about and have encounters with God. I took a risk four and a half years ago to step out of my comfort zones to participate in Maryknoll missions. Six months ago, together with the team at Centro Nueva Vera Cruz, we took a risk to attend to the needs of the local community. We have certainly gained more than we have given. Through the risks we took together, God´s love and presence permeated our daily experiences. I feel confident to say that we, the community of Nueva Vera Cruz, are all better people because of the risks we shared. The question is, will you be willing to take some risks in your own life to join us in this mission to enrich your faith life through participation in a new one?
Fr. Paul Sykora, Matthew and the students
Greetings from the Formation Community in Chicago! It is close to a year since the first restrictions related to Covid-19 came into effect. The last in-person class at CTU was on March 13, 2020. A new way of studying for ministry beckoned us as classes were conducted online and in-person ministry became unavailable. The beginning of the pandemic was a time with lots of signs. God invited us to discern and separate the transient and ephemeral from the enduring and timeless. God’s graciousness to us during this Covid-19 pandemic points us to the steadfastness of God’s word of love that never passes (Isaiah 40:8). Our intercultural and multigenerational community has not witnessed a case of infection thus far. It has been a blessing to continue having our community liturgical schedules throughout the pandemic. These moments of communal prayer helped sustain the light of God in our community and world during one of the dark nights of our generation. The fire and zeal for the Mission of Maryknoll has kept burning in our muted celebrations of some vocational milestones by our members – the making of a permanent oath and the renewal of temporary oaths. These were livestreamed so that we could share these moments with the wider Maryknoll community and our families across the globe. In the midst of a global pandemic, we strove to build a community that drew from our diverse cultures in preparation for the Mission of Church. We took turns making our meals when multiple stay-at-home orders sought to protect our House Staff and all Chicagoans from Covid-19. We have had sumptuous dinners. That Fr. Rector’s fish recipe can beat the Food Network Chefs’ is a settled matter among us.
In collaboration with members of the Maryknoll Sisters’ Formation House, we participated in ministerial ventures that sought to supply packaged sandwiches to local food depositories. With our in-person ministerial engagements curtailed by the raging virus, making sandwiches in the safety of our house offered a pragmatic way of adapting to the signs of the times in Mission. Some aspects of our own formation programs such as the Intercommunity Novitiate had been reduced to online interactions over Zoom sessions. Together, and in solidarity with others in the world, we adapted to a virtual world that helped to maintain ministerial, educational and pastoral relationships threatened by a global pandemic. Our Formation Community is a gift to us. Our interactions in community have emphasized the beauty and sanctity of the Mission of Jesus Christ to all in our Common Home. Formation continues to strengthen our resolve to learn the ways of Maryknoll, to follow Jesus Christ closely so that we may be transformed in the Mission of Christ and the Church. In this, we know that all will work for the good of the Missions of Maryknoll and for the glory of God. Amen.
Institution to the Ministry of Acolyte for Sem. John Siyumbu (center)
held on October 31, 2020 at the Formation House in Chicago
Former Superior General, Fr. John Sivalon, once described Mission this way:
A tangle of twigs lies drying in the sun,
And then a spark catches one, and she,
Astonished by divinity, topples and tumbles and ignites
Another and another and another and
Soon the whole tangle is aflame
Gibber jabbering in many tongues!
Chattering and blabbering until babbling comes
Singing – in so many harmonious parts even the twigs can’t count them!
Each year at this time I enjoy sharing these words from Fr. Sivalon. They remind me of the Apostles at Pentecost: “Suddenly, from up on the sky there came a noise like a strong, driving wind which was heard throughout the house where they were seated. Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.” (Acts 2:2-4)
The Apostles emerged from that experience on fire and boldly went forth to Jerusalem, Judea, the surrounding lands and finally even Rome proclaiming the saving message of Jesus. They, as have generations of men and women who have followed in their footsteps, were filled with a dream instilled in them by the Risen Jesus. They had been like twigs filled with the fire, the passion for God’s Mission as lived out in the Paschal Mystery that is Jesus. For the past 110 years Maryknollers have been among those twigs generating sparks that have ignited others and others and others. We continue to go forth and invite you to join us for the short term as volunteers, the long term as lay missioners, and the life time as Priests, Brothers, and Sisters. We welcome you to Maryknoll (https://maryknollsociety.org)!