Maryknoll Affiliates: It’s All About Relationships
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Members of Maryknoll Affiliates chapters work globally and locally to make the world a better place.

Pope Francis reminds us we are all called to mission. Being a Maryknoll affiliate has given me a way to answer my call.

Maryknoll affiliates are lay people whose lives are centered around four pillars: spirituality, global vision, community and action. Simply put, members work individually and communally to effect positive change. Each chapter decides how the members will arrange their meetings and each individual decides how involved he or she will be. Chapters have been evolving for the past 25 years. I have been a member of the Albany, N.Y., chapter since its beginning in 2007.

I became a Maryknoll affiliate because it has given me the opportunity to join those who see the spark of the divine in all people. In my affiliate chapter I am accepted for who I am, my voice is heard and my opinion matters. I have attended other chapter meetings and it seems this sentiment is what keeps Maryknoll affiliates together. Members make a conscious commitment to each other, feed each other spiritually and challenge each other to continue to cross borders of all kinds.

My parish has had a longtime connection with Guatemala. A parish trip to that country in 2009 introduced me to Maryknoll Sisters Connie Pospisil and Helen Werner in Lemoa. How wonderful it was to join them for prayer at 5:30 each morning. The sisters inspired me not only with their prayer life but also their constant availability to the people. They taught me what it means to be a contemplative in action. My life was changed. An unknown place in my heart was now awakened. I had found my passion. This was the start of a beautiful relationship that flourished and allowed our Albany chapter to directly support Maryknollers active in mission. My communication with the Maryknoll sisters increased. We were overjoyed when they came to visit us in Albany. How sad we were when Sister Connie died recently. We will continue to follow her example.

I have traveled to Guatemala five times and visited the Maryknoll sisters in Panama and Maryknoll lay missioners in El Salvador.  I went to Bolivia on a Maryknoll Lay Missioners Friends Across Borders immersion trip. Each trip allowed me to meet the local people and enjoy their hospitality. They were people like Isabel in El Salvador, who invited me to dinner. Her family was eating fish but she had made chicken for me. “I didn’t know if you would want the fish,” she said. She was delighted that I would eat whatever they were eating.

Like many affiliates, I do my part in the local community. For me, teaching ESL allows me to have one-on-one interactions; others work in soup kitchens, promote eco-justice, assist refugees and work for immigration reform. The list varies from chapter to chapter.

I believe people are changed when they experience other cultures, which is why I am active in the Maryknoll Affiliate Quo Vadis program, a forum for groups returning from cross-cultural trips to reflect on how they have been affected.

I embrace the Maryknoll charism, which is centered around relationships and calls us to treat all people with dignity, equality and respect.

Guatemala Maryknoll Affiliates Rosa Maria de Leon (left) and Rosa Beatriz Castaneda de Larios (front) welcome visiting Albany Maryknoll Affiliates (left to right) Denise Lessard, Santa Orlando and Richard Lessard. (Courtesy of Santa Orlando/Guatemala)




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About the author

Santa Orlando

Santa Orlando is northeast regional coordinator of the Maryknoll Affiliates. She has three grown children and is a high school biology teacher.