By Judy Walter
For eight days at the end of July, the Lake House of Prayer in Mwanza, Tanzania, hosted a Global Maryknoll Contemplative Retreat. We were 10 Maryknollers from the four different entities of Maryknoll: four Maryknoll priests, two Maryknoll sisters, two Maryknoll affiliates and two Maryknoll Lay Missioners. These 10 missioners represented mission experience from nine countries: Korea, Japan, China, Cambodia, Latin America, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Tanzania.
Why a Maryknoll contemplative retreat? The challenges of our globalized world today demand a more contemplative approach to mission. The vision for this retreat, written by Maryknoll Father Jim Eble, stated that it was to foster a more contemplative way of being Maryknoll missioners that would empower us to be contemplatives in action in our broken world. Thus the mission of this retreat was to help create a Maryknoll culture of contemplative mission through a contemplative intensive retreat.
The participants sat in silence together for six hours a day. In the mornings and the last session at night, we sat in our chapel dedicated to Elijah, who heard God’s still small voice, gentle as the breeze, speaking to him in the depths of his own being. In the afternoons, we sat together outside in covered patio overlooking Lake Victoria, where we could experience the beauties of nature, the sound of the birds, and the cooling breezes from the lake.
We were blessed to have Maryknoll Father Alphonse Kim as our retreat leader. Father Alphonse has had much experience in leading silent contemplative retreats around the world. We were also blessed to have Maryknoll Sister Kathleen Reilley, a Zen roshi from Japan, who shared her experience of many years of practicing Zazen.
The participants came from various contemplative practices, reminding us that there are many different ways to be contemplatives in action. What united us was the silence—sitting together in silence with the desire to help create a contemplative culture in the Maryknoll world.
On the last evening of the retreat, as we shared our experiences, we were reminded of Maryknoll’s contemplative charism, from the beginning an integral part of the spirituality and vision of our founders. From the very foundation of Maryknoll, missioners were to be contemplatives in action. Our Maryknoll contemplative retreat was not only an affirmation of our original charism, but brought to light the urgency of the need for a contemplative response to the overwhelming challenges in our globalized world today.
Photos by Judy Walter and Sister Kathleen Reiley, MM