Monthly Archives: February 2018

Make Straight the Paths: Privilege, Inclusion, and Embracing the Future

From Maryknoll Mission Education
Written by Kevin M. Foy, February 22, 2018

Sixteen years ago, the US Bishops wrote, “A table is where people meet to make decisionsLast Supper—in neighborhoods, nations, and the global community. Many people have no place at the table. Their voices and needs are ignored or dismissed” (A Place at the Table, 2002). Increasingly, diverse voices are making themselves heard, and making room for themselves at tables that too often exclude them. We see this represented in popular culture, with the most successful films of the past year including Black Panther (a superhero film by and about people from Africa and of African descent), Coco (a children’s film celebrating Mexican culture), and Wonder Woman (a film about a heroic woman from an island of strong women, which was also directed by a woman).

The beauty (and necessity) of this moment comes also with the challenges of fear and resentment, which generate conflict. While more and more of us are beginning to recognize how privilege and power blind us to the dignity and gifts of others, many still view acknowledgment of this equal dignity as a threat. If more voices can be heard, they fear, their own voices (and influence) will be diminished. As the actress Tessa Thomspon recently said about negative reaction to herself as a person of color being cast in a movie role based on a white comic book character: “If you’re accustomed to privilege, anything else feels like it’s taking something away from you.”

This is a sentiment that echoes what I have heard in parts of Latin America, where marginalized indigenous populations are mobilizing for greater inclusion and representation politically, economically, and socially. In the case of Thompson, I am struck by the compassion of her assessment as someone on the receiving end of hateful rhetoric. She continues, “So when you suddenly see brown people where you thought there should be white people, it feels like your world is caving in on you. That’s sincerely what I feel, because I don’t understand where else that kind of vitriol would come from.”

The sense of the world shifting beneath our feet, with power and privilege being questioned and disrupted by calls for inclusion, is central to the Gospel. In addressing my own privilege as a white man and US citizen, I look to St. John the Baptist as a witness to managing these shifts. It certainly would have been easy for him to develop an ego, place himself at the center, and hold onto “his” place at the table. After all, as the Gospel of Matthew writes, “It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: ‘A voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (3:1-3) But for all his preaching and prophecy, perhaps the greatest example he provides to us is in recognizing that the future is coming, and choosing not to stand in the way. He proclaims with humility to his followers, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11) The most important thing he has to say, then, is that he is altogether not that important.

Contrast this with the Scribes and the Pharisees: they see Jesus speaking out of turn, they see the forgotten and ignored suddenly able to stand and speak, they see the limits of their knowledge and authority exposed, and it terrifies them. Whereas John the Baptist stepped out of the way and followed the future, these people crucified it. They caught a glimpse of the Reign that Jesus points to—where all manner of outsider and vulnerable people have a place at the table—and tried to shut the door. I suspect that John knew and trusted something that they could not: that they were not being “sidelined” or made irrelevant, but being blessed with the opportunity to participate in something greater than themselves.

The Gospel shows us repeatedly that abandoning privilege and power in favor of togetherness leads to true joy. Standing in the way, however, brings shame, fear, and anger. One of the clearest examples of this occurs when Jesus heals a woman physically incapable of standing upright (Luke 13:10-17). The healing occurs on the Sabbath, which sparks outrage from the leader of the synagogue. Jesus responds to this critique by exposing deeper truths about his accusers: “Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering?” (Luke 13:15) In that moment, Jesus challenges the crowd to see the woman’s plight as one they actively helped create. He continues, “This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” (16)

Thus, the crowd can no longer simply see this woman as a mere victim of circumstance, but as a child of God whom they choose to marginalize. Reflecting on our current conflicts over who “deserves” to be seen and heard, what we often fail to remember (and trust) is that justice brings wholeness. We cannot experience the fullness of life if we refuse to see the world (and ourselves) honestly. In his proclamations and actions, Jesus affirms the dignity of the woman and her place at the table, and widens the lens with which the crowd views this moment. While those opposed to the recognition of these truths “were humiliated,” those who embraced his message “rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.” (Luke 13:17)

As the psychologist Susan David reminds us, “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” When I began teaching twelve years ago, I worked with African-American students living in tough socio-economic conditions. At first, things seemed to be breaking down for me: the world was not truly what I believed it to be, and I was not truly the person I thought I was. But these were false constructs, a weak shell constraining stronger truths. Continually struggling to break free of these constraints has meant for me an endless well of discovery, meaning, compassion, and love from which to draw. As new relationships are formed, new truths uncovered, and new possibilities to follow God’s future revealed, I become more spiritually whole and content.

Of course, I could have chosen to reject the discomfort of these truths. In fact, I at times did and do, to the detriment not only of my spiritual health, but also of the well-being of every person whom my power and privilege affects. We each, in our way, have the power to prophesy or crucify. We need to look at the world as one we not only live in, but create. Thinking back to those films mentioned earlier, we can only appreciate their significance in light of the realities they are challenging—realities we too readily construct and accept. As the author Iljeoma Oluo notes: “When I take my kids to movies and none of the characters they see look like them, it’s the studio that is making it about race when they decide to make up entire universes in which no brown or black people exist.”

We are called to be more like John the Baptist and the crowd, who rejoice in authentic justice (even with all of its discomfort and sacrifice), and less like the leader of the synagogue (who holds firm to the rules and structures which secure his power over others). John uses his prophetic voice to point to something greater than himself, just as Jesus uses his to amplify the voices of those at the margins. Both suffer death for their prophetic witness, but with the perspective of time and history we recognize that the oppositional figures, too, have long since passed. What remains, then, is memory and impact. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote, “Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name.”

The challenge for us today is to treat inclusion as an opportunity to participate in the Reign of God.

Link to original article

Susan Nagele in Kenya

Today, we share the work of Susan Nagele in Kenya through her recent newsletter.

KENYA Mombasa, the slum of Bangladesh. Dr Susan Nagele working in the Bangladesh clinic, examining a patient. PHOTO BY SEAN SPRAGUE

Mombasa, the slum of Bangladesh. Dr Susan Nagele working in the Bangladesh clinic, examining a patient.

“Kenya held the rerun of the presidential elections on October 26th. The main opposition candidate boycotted the election calling it a sham and he refuses to accept the election of

President Uhuru Kenyatta for another five year term.  Kenyatta received 98% of the vote.  Only 38% of those registered voted the second time.  The inauguration will be on Nov 28th.  This is a very divided country.  The political problems are rooted in corruption and negative ethnicity (tribalism).  There has been violence in Nairobi, the capital, and the western stronghold of the opposition.  Mombasa has been very peaceful and we expect it to remain so.  The economy is on its knees and people are hoping that the holidays will bring back the tourists and a way to earn money to pay the bills.

Dr. Susan Nagele_P1170461

For health care, this whole year has been a struggle. The doctors began striking on December 5th, 2016 and continued for 100 days until the middle of March. The nurses began striking on June 5th and continued until a couple of weeks ago. Next, the clinical officers (physician assistants) and lab technologists also went on strike. When one cadre of health care workers strike all the others stop working because they say they can’t do another’s work. This has meant that our mission facilities have been overstretched with work. Many people can’t afford to go to private doctors and our units will not turn anyone away. For those who cannot afford to pay we must find charity funds or absorb the loss.

Dr. Susan Nagele_P1170471None of these problems with strikes will be solved until there is a functioning government. At the moment it is hard to imagine how that will come about. There is poor leadership and little discussion of issues to solve these problems. Both sides have been rigidly declaring their bottom line and refusing to talk to one another.

It’s easy for us to feel hopeless. So I look to Jesus. He was born into an empire governed by a single potentate, Augustus Caesar, who reigned over 100 million people. It was a time fraught with political oppression and moral decay. From that came a little baby born into a loving family and nurtured by a supportive community to grow up and become the person he was meant to be. He had to suffer and pay a price for his faithfulness to God. That is the challenge for each of us too. His life can bring us peace in our hearts and hope for the future. But we must be faithful too.”

Susan NageleDr. Susan Nagele_P1180101

We are grateful for your prayers and financial support!

If you would like to know more about Maryknoll Lay Missioners, please visit our website at or Susan Nagele’s personal fundraising page.
Or you can call toll free at 1-800-867-2980.

Dee Dungy – MKLM – Cambodia

Missioner Dee Dungy shows us MKLM at work in Cambodia

Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia – Immersion Program

Soak soabp buy chee uh tay? – Are you well and happy? – Welcome to Cambodia

JFM new logo color

Specifically created for JustFaith Ministries Graduates

February 23 – March 4, 2018

Deadline for Sign Ups: November 23, 2017
Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM) with these words of greeting of the Cambodian people welcomes you to the ancient culture of Cambodia – its natural wonders, its people and history.

Pope Francis calls for day of prayer and fasting for peace, especially for the DRC and South Sudan

pope and logo“In the face of the tragic continuation of conflicts in different parts of the world, I invite all the faithful to a special day of prayer and fasting for peace on February 23, the Friday of the first week of Lent.”
Pope Francis, February 4, 2018
St. Peter’s Square, The Vatican, Rome, Italy

This Friday, MKLM will join in prayer with those around the world for our brothers and sisters in the DRC and South Sudan. As you prepare to join us, take this opportunity to learn more about their struggles and why the Pope wishes us to pray for these countries.

Reflecting on the suffering caused by violent conflict, Pope Francis said, “Our heavenly Father always listens to His children who cry to Him in sorrow and anguish, who ‘heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds’ (Psalm 147:3). I make a heartfelt appeal so that we also listen to this cry and, each one of us in his/her own conscience before God, ask ourselves, ‘What can I do for peace?'”

“Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called us to observe a special day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace on Friday, February 23, as Lent begins, with a particular concern for the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Tragically, violent conflict rages in both nations. South Sudan won its independence in 2011 only to find itself a victim to corruption and a bloody civil war. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the government fails to honor the constitution as the Catholic Church courageously promotes a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the ruling and opposition parties. In both countries, innocent families suffer.

Let us answer the Holy Father’s call to pray and fast for peace, especially for the Church and peoples of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And let us turn our fasting into almsgiving and support the work of Catholic Relief Services in both countries.

May God bless South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and our world with peace.”

Read the full article HERE.

Source: America Magazine – The Jesuit Review

News from Joe Loney – MKLM Bolivia

We have a saying in Bolivia, if it does not rain much in January then it will really be a crazy, rainy month in February.

mud slidesThis has been incredibly true in Bolivia and our local community. During January we had very little rain.   We have had rain every day, and intense storm showers on many days, in February.  Ten days ago we had a flash mud slide amid an intense rainfall.  Five people in my neighborhood drowned.  Over 50 people have had their homes destroyed.  Many had their homes filled with mud and water.

Thanks to a slight elevation in our corner of the neighborhood and the quick work of many, we were able to get up barricades with rocks, sand, tree branches, old doors and anything else we could find to stop the mud and water from rushing into our homes.

Filo, Pauline, Ben and I worked with our neighbors until 2:00 a.m. to shore up our barricades.  The next day we again had to strengthen our defenses as a second mud slide occurred.  Less than 100 meters from our drive way the street turned into a wildly, raging river with mattresses, chairs, huge rocks, pots and pans washed downward as we helplessly watched.

We helped to organize the donations of basic food stuffs, shovels and boots in our local community hall. While we too felt the emotional stress of sleeping fitfully on edge for days as we feared another midnight mud slide, I will always recall the scene of a young neighborhood boy walking with his parents down the still mud filled road:  The drizzle had just turned to a steady, harder rain and he looked up and cried, “No, No I don´t want any more rain. Please…”

Although Ben and Pauline still don´t have school because their local school was flooded and inundated with mud, the greater loss was suffered by those who lost all their possessions. I am so very grateful that my most precious possession, my family, is safe.

For all those who suffer from natural disasters, I offer my consolations and prayers that they may find the strength to continue.

CLICK HERE to download a PDF of this article.

CLICK HERE to read the Facebook post.

MKLM in Kenya – Project HOPE

“What is planted in each person’s soul will sprout” [Rumi]

Greetings from H.O.P.E. Project!
[Helping Orphans Pursue Education]

CoralisHOPE Activities & Highlights (December 2017)
We facilitated our 3rd Guardians Meeting in November. I’ve been asked how relevant these meetings are and I’ve observed that our guardians value this kind of meeting because it gives them a forum to express and share their life challenges and aches. Through their shared stories, they are more motivated and committed to better the up-bringing of their children/wards. Often during this session, they share solutions to one’s dilemma and we, as facilitators, sit back and delight in how they have been empowered by their support & empathy with one another.

Last November, a former student visited HOPE to express her gratefulness. She’s now a happy mother to a 3-year-old girl. She was 12 years old when she joined HOPE. She lived with her grandma but because of her misbehaviors, she was moved to be under the care of her aunt. When she was in her teens, she resented her life due to her status. Her school complained of her absenteeism and she did poorly in her KCPE exams. Her guardian gave up on her. Her health suffered, she lost a lot of weight and lost her hair. However, HOPE continued to monitor her actions and stay in contact with her. Finally she agreed to take a hair stylist course. Now, at 21, she has recovered, and has set a new direction for her life. She is healthy, looking beautiful and happily working in a salon as a beautician. Her story affirms the value of HOPE’s mission.

For MKLM to achieve its vision of supporting more missioners and to open new ministry sites in Haiti and South Sudan in 2018, we call on you to open your heart to our financial need. Your donations are tax deductible (letter will be sent to confirm your donations upon request). You can directly send your donations by clicking on this site: 


Coralis Salvador

Meet a Missioner – Kathleen Flatoff – Kenya – Class of 2017

Today we continue our #MeetaMissionerMonday series by introducing one of our newest missioners, Kathleen Flatoff, who is now working in Kenya.

Kathy is a parishioner at Queen of the Apostles in Tomah, WI, in the Diocese of La Crosse. In her parish she has served as a guild chairman and president of the Parish Council of Catholic Women (PCCW). She has her BSN from Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI, and her MSN from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She retired in 2012 after 28 years as registered nurse in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Before starting her nursing career, she worked as an oral surgery assistant. Previously, she served 4 years as a corpsman in the US Navy, stationed in Guam. There, she worked at the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. She also worked at St. Joseph’s Indian School, an American Indian boarding school, in Chamberlain, South Dakota.

Kathy has been to Haiti, Tanzania and Ethiopia on short-term mission trips over the last decade. In her long career with the military and nursing, mission work never left her mind. She found the experience to be enriching and rewarding. After her retirement, she decided that now was the time and she would finally go back to mission work. A friend finally encouraged to her to take the first step and apply in September 2016.

Doing God’s work runs in the family as her sibling is a Salesian brother. She grew up with the Maryknoll Magazine in her house and often went on websites to read about the Lay Missioners. Though she had once considered joining the Peace Corps, she decided she wanted a more faith-based experience and signed up with MKLM. She also felt MKLM was a better fit for someone who’s retired as it appeals to a wider variety of ages. She believes she will do very well in Kenya as that is where she is being called. Ideally, she would love to work with orphans or in a clinic or school. However, once there, she will determine the needs and interests of the people she will be serving and go with the best fit.

Please join us in praying for Kathleen as she begins this meaningful chapter in her life. We hope that you wish her well and support her in her endeavors. Please share Kathleen’s story and Maryknoll Lay Missioner with others, especially committed Catholics who may be discerning God’s call to serve.

CLICK HERE or below to view her interview.

Meet a Missioner – Kathleen Flatoff – Kenya – Class of 2017

Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM) introduces new Missioner Kathleen Flatoff – Class of 2017 – who works with the people of Kenya

Sending Ceremony 2017 video

We are excited to share with you the final edited Sending Ceremony video! A million thanks to Luis Ortiz of the Maryknoll Sisters, and team, for their extraordinary video skills!

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