Maryknoll’s newest lay missioners, the class of 2022, are sent to Haiti and Tanzania.
Thinking about moving to Tanzania, 12-year-old Josephine Johnson said last December, “I really want to help where I can. There is a lot of need in the world.”
Together with their parents, Anna and Kyle Johnson, Josephine and her two younger siblings — Collin, 10, and Charlotte, 8 — are part of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners class of 2022. Last fall, the Johnsons joined married couple Susan Silveus and Michael Lattanzi for an intensive eight-week orientation and formation program. They were sent forth in a sending ceremony held Dec. 10 in the Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in Ossining, New York.
Josephine’s parents have long been service-oriented. Following 9/11, Kyle Johnson served with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, Iraq and Southeast Asia. He most recently worked as executive director of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe Economic Development Authority in Sequim, Washington. Anna, a registered nurse in a hospital medical-surgical unit, worked in New York City during the worst of the pandemic. They have also been foster parents.
Leaders of Maryknoll expressions (left to right) Sister Genie Natividad, Ted Miles, Bob Short, Father Lance Nadeau and Elvira Ramirez bless the mission crosses of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners class of 2022. (Debbie Northern/U.S.)
As they deepened their faith involvement in recent years, Anna and Kyle, members of St. Joseph’s Parish in Sequim, began asking, “God, what is it that you want us to do?” “We felt that God was pulling at our hearts to go do something abroad,” Anna says. One big motivation for them, she continues, was for their children to experience what life is like outside of the U.S. “bubble.”
When the couple found out about the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, the program immediately appealed to them because it aligns with their values — and accepts families.
In early 2022 the whole family of five volunteered for six weeks at an orphanage in Mexico. The Johnson children were able to adapt and make friends there. That experience gave them the confidence to sign on for a longer-term mission assignment. “We are immensely grateful that we can do work at the margins of society on an international level and what’s more, that we can do it as a family,” Kyle says. “For us, going into mission means living our faith.”
For the next three and a half years, the Johnsons will serve in Mwanza, Tanzania, in East Africa.
The Johnson family looks on as the sending ceremony for their class takes place in the Our Lady Queen of Apostles Chapel at the Society Center in Ossining, New York. (Debbie Northern/U.S.)
Twenty-two years of living and working in developing countries have led Susan Silveus and Michael Lattanzi to once again want to live and work in cross-cultural contexts.
They hope that being with Maryknoll will allow them “to be much more deeply immersed in a new cultural context than we have ever been before.”
Susan and Mike, from Toronto, have three grown children whom they raised abroad. Susan previously worked for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for 16 years in various countries, including Senegal, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Egypt and Israel and Palestine. In addition, she served for seven years at the Institute for International Education in Cairo.
Mike has worked as an instructor, including lecturing at universities in Cambodia and Senegal and teaching political science at the American University in Cairo. He also served in Cairo as the director of the Dialogue Project, established to facilitate cross-cultural communication.
Susan and Mike first got to know Maryknoll when they lived in Cambodia from 2007 to 2010. Maryknoll’s HIV/AIDS projects received funding from CRS. Susan attended the weekly Maryknoll Mass and got to know several missioners there.
Class of 2022 candidate Michael Lattanzi receives his mission cross as his spouse, Susan Silveus, looks on. (Debbie Northern/U.S.)
“Right now in our lives — our kids are grown up — we look forward to this new commitment together as a couple,” Susan says. “We wanted to continue our work for the poor and marginalized overseas, but focus more on grassroots work.”
She adds that her faith draws her to “doing work that tries, in a very imperfect way, to do what Jesus calls us to do — especially on the side of doing it in a nonviolent way.”
The couple will serve in Gros Morne, Haiti, a small town in the north where two Maryknoll lay missioners are already serving. They are excited about learning a new language and culture, but Mike admits, there is also some trepidation. “Haiti is in really bad shape right now,” he says. “So there are issues of security, and we will also be seeing some levels of suffering that we haven’t witnessed before.”
Director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Susan Gunn addresses the new missioners. (Debbie Northern/U.S.)
The new missioners respond with a strong desire to accompany the Haitian people in their time of need.
During their Dec. 10 sending ceremony, the Maryknoll Lay Missioners Mission Director Elvira Ramirez quoted the poet-activist Clarissa Pinkola Estés: “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul.”
Addressing the new missioners, Ramirez added, “It is important that you know you are not alone. God sends you out on a mission of love. Go with our blessing, as you now ‘show soul’ in a turbulent world.”
Featured Image: The Maryknoll Lay Missioners class of 2022, clockwise from left: Susan Silveus, Mike Lattanzi, Kyle and Anna Johnson with their children Collin, Josephine and Charlotte. (Courtesy of Maryknoll Lay Missioners)