We chose Maryknoll Lay Missioners for overseas mission because of its social justice focus and the respectful approach to the cultures in which it operates.
~ Chris & Katie Reid, Maryknoll Lay Missioners
Term of Service in Mission
Maryknoll Lay Missioners commit to serving 3 ½ years overseas. However, many missioners serve well past that first contract. Of the 60 current Maryknoll Lay Missioners, 24 have been with the organization for at least 10 years.
Each October, generous Catholics – young adults, families, and older, retired couples – step through the doors of our building at Maryknoll brimming with energy and excitement, to begin the process of orientation to their new lives as missioners. They already hold academic degrees and/or professional experience in specific ways of serving others – for example, through healthcare, education, faith formation, human rights and social justice advocacy, sustainable development, or organizing for peace and justice.
So that they can truly respond to the needs of the world’s poor as Catholic missioners – not secular, not short-term, and not simply “volunteers” – Maryknoll Lay Missioner candidates must participate in a comprehensive discernment process which culminates in a 10-week Missioner Orientation Program. Only upon successful completion of this program is the candidate formally accepted as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner and sent to her/his overseas assignment. Orientation continues overseas in the missioner’s assigned country.
Preparation for Overseas Service
We offer missioner candidates a formation and orientation experience that prepares them theologically, spiritually, psychologically, and intellectually to go into mission.
Missioner Orientation addresses such topics as:
• theology, spirituality, & scripture.
• adult faith development .
• conflict management.
• participatory education.
• theology of mission.
• confronting racism.
• cross-cultural adaptation.
• staying healthy overseas.
Sessions are led by invited instructors who are experts in their fields.
Each candidate also studies the country where s/he will serve. This process begins in the months before coming to Maryknoll for the Orientation Program and is based primarily in real-time communication with a designated Maryknoll Lay Missioner serving in the candidates’ country of assignment.
Once in their assigned countries, new missioners receive in-country orientation including language school as well as further country and cultural studies.
Laity in Mission
Preach the Gospel at all times.
When necessary, use words.
~ St. Francis of Assisi
Maryknoll Lay Missioners in El Salvador have some unusual ways of proclaiming the Gospel.
Larry Parr does it with a soccer ball. Through his “Playing for Peace” program, he keeps kids off the streets and out of gangs. Local young adults serve as coaches, so the youngsters can learn from positive role models. “We do a lot of formation with the kids, talking about violence and the realities they’re dealing with,” says Larry. The kids learn priorities: God, first; studies, second; sports, third. The program’s emphasis on schoolwork opens up future job and educational opportunities for its participants.
Maryknoll Lay Missioner Ann Greig preaches the Gospel with soybeans. (Yes, soybeans. You read correctly.) Using soy milk and other soybean-derived products, Ann oversees an innovative nutrition program that has reversed appalling hunger statistics in the areas of El Salvador where it has been introduced. Ann’s program has added an inexpensive source of protein into the diets of children who would otherwise suffer malnourishment.
Crayons, paints, and clay are the means by which Maryknoll Lay Missioner Mary Ann Carmel preaches the Gospel. Her art school in an impoverished area at the foot of El Salvador’s Izalco volcano helps children and young adults unleash their creativity, discover hidden talents, portray both the beautiful and harsh realities of their lives, and – most importantly – preserve their threatened indigenous culture. Some of the students earn small amounts of extra income for their families by selling their artwork in the marketplace.
Team sports, nourishing food, and art lessons: These are just a few of the lifegiving ways Maryknoll Lay Missioners proclaim the Good News of Jesus in El Salvador and other poor countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. To find more examples of our hands on, service-oriented, practical approach to evangelization, visit the Missioners and Our Ministries pages of this Web site. You can also read MKLM’s Eight Core Values.
A Lifelong Mission
When MKLM missioners return from overseas and transition back to life in the United States, they bring with them the valuable skills and insights they gained during their mission service, and place these at the service of the local Church.
For example, when Cecilia and Daniel Aguilar-Ortiz returned from Thailand, where they had served as Maryknoll Lay Missioners for ten years, they settled in Cecilia’s hometown of Tucson, Arizona. There, they are deeply involved in carrying out the Church’s ministry of justice for immigrants, seeking to accompany people whom society has discarded.
Vicki Simon served as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Nairobi, Kenya, working with street children. Her years in Africa were followed by a stint as director of MKLM’s Mission Services Department in Maryknoll, New York. She then returned to her hometown of St. Louis, where she directed the social ministry program at St. Francis Xavier, the “college church” at St. Louis University. Recently retired, she now guides immersion trips to MKLM’s mission sites in Kenya, and delights in sharing her mission stories with her local church.
Read more stories of our Returned Missioners and learn about their ongoing contributions to the work of the Church in the United States.