When we speak of the Holy Spirit, it seems to be always in symbols or metaphors, some of which are tongues of fire, wind, wisdom, breath, truth, and peace. Jesus told his followers after the resurrection that he was sending the Holy Spirit to watch over and guide them, but until its full arrival, they could not understand.
Pentecost (50 days after Christ’s resurrection) arrived with the Holy Spirit descending on the followers of Jesus with “a noise like a strong driving wind” and “tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them”. This certainly seemed to grab the attention of all present! The disciples were also able to be understood by people of every nation who heard them speaking in their native tongues. The Holy Spirit has the habit of descending upon people to whom the followers of Jesus do not believe should be given the Spirit (i.e. the gentiles)! We do not control the Holy Spirit; it is a gift from God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears to the disciples behind locked doors, saying, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you”. Then he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
From the Scripture readings, it seems as if the Holy Spirit is a call to action – to take the frightened disciples out of their locked room to spread the Good News throughout the world, to inflame the hearts of those who spoke and heard the Word, and to open the ears of those who hear the message of Jesus to understand it. By our Baptism, we each have been gifted with the Holy Spirit. All of us who are connected in any way with Maryknoll Lay Missioners try to live our call through action and words aimed at creating a more just and compassionate world. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are many and varied. Each person has a unique contribution to make in living out his or her faith in response to God’s call.
Pope Francis writes in Gaudete et Exsultate (On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World):
(23) ….Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.
(24). May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life. Let yourself be transformed. Let yourself be renewed by the Spirit, so that this can happen, lest you fail in your precious mission. The Lord will bring it to fulfilment despite your mistakes and missteps, provided that you do not abandon the path of love but remain ever open to his supernatural grace, which purifies and enlightens.
Pentecost is considered the birth of the Church; the beginning of the missionary spirit to proclaim the Good News to everyone and bring us together as community. As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, perhaps we can take time to listen to how the Holy Spirit is calling us to reflect Jesus’s love in the world and allow the Spirit to transform our lives so we can serve others.
It’s almost two years since we left our family and friends in the US to become Maryknoll lay missioners serving the poor and marginalized people of Bolivia. Today, we’d like to share with you a few stories about the people whom we’ve met here. These are true stories and very typical to the communities that we work with in Cochabamba.
Hong works with a local organization to help women recently released from prison. These women come to learn new skills so they can get back to their normal life and support their family. One of these women is Isabel, a 36-year-old lady who doesn’t talk much and usually keeps to herself. However, she always smiles and loves talking to Hong about her family during lunch break. After having a second child, her husband left her for another woman, leaving Isabel and two young children with no job and nothing else. She had no money to pay for food or rent, and eventually got evicted from the little shack they rentedfrom others.
Every day, Isabel had to work 2-3 different jobs, from cleaning people’s houses to selling fruits on the streets, and the family often spent the night on a bench or under a tree in a city park. She wanted to rent another shack so her children could sleep under a roof at night. But with just a few dollars doing odd jobs during the day, she did not even have enough to buy food for the kids in the evening. In desperation, Isabel agreed to sneak drugs into a men’s prison and, unfortunately, was caught and sentenced to ten years in prison. You might wonder what happened to her children after that. In Bolivia, children under six years of age have no other choice but to live in the same prison with their mother.
Alejandro is a smart and friendly 13-year-old boy whom we met during our Easter retreat in Chapare. Alejandro’s father was a cab driver who had been killed in a traffic accident. Being the eldest son, Alejandro had to find work to support his ailing mother and six younger siblings. Every day, he would go to school in the morning and then work as a tour guide in the afternoon at a state park. After work, Alejandro would go home, start cooking for his mom, and help the younger siblings with their homework before doing his own. I asked Alejandro about his
plan for the future and he said he just wanted to grow old enough to get a driver’s licenseand to become a cab driver, just like his father. It is a sad situation, but I do consider Alejandro and his family lucky that they still have each other, at least for now.
We also work with Casa Nazareth through Amanacer, an organization started in 1981 by the Sisters of Charity to provide a home and a new beginning for the abandoned, abused and orphaned street children of Cochabamba. Most of these children were abandoned by their own parents due to various reasons.
We also work with Solomon Klein, an orphanage for children whose ages vary from oneweek to six years of age. Some of them arrive with evidence of alcohol, drugs and other substances in their blood, from the parents, of course. Others, with some kind of abnormal disease or mental disorder. But they are so cute, so precious, and ALL of them so in need of love. Unfortunately, there have been days that the center doesn’t have enough money to buy milk, and instead has to feed the babies with corn starch or potato puree, just so they don’t go hungry.
Please help our mission and the Maryknoll Lay Missioners organization by sharing a little piece of your family’s happiness with these children and families. If you wish to start or to continue your support for our ministry for children, please be sure to mention in the comment section that your gift is for “Sonny & Hong Nguyen’s ministry in Bolivia.”
“God has caressed us with his mercy. Let us bring God’s tender caress to others, to those who are in need” (Pope Francis). May God bless you and your family as you bless others with your precious gifts.
On July 13, 2016, Sam Stanton, former Executive Director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, was interviewed on Seize the Day, a nationally broadcast radio program hosted by Gus Lloyd on The Catholic Channel (Sirius XM, Channel 129).
Sam spoke about the charism of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, shared stories of mission and promoted the call of all the baptized to mission.
On July 13, 2016, Sam Stanton, the former Executive Director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, was interviewed on Seize the Day, a nationally broadcast program hosted by Gus Lloyd that airs daily on the Catholic Channel, Sirius XM (Channel 129).
Sam spoke about the charism of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, shared stories of mission and promoted the call of all the baptized to mission.
All of us have our dreams, our hopes and our motivations for who we are and what we do. As a Maryknoll Lay Missioner, my dream is to help bring about “heavenly justice.” I must help to make justice a reality for the disadvantaged.
Marcelo and Daniel Castillo are brothers, living in Cochabamba, Bolivia. They grew up together and they were raised single-handed by their mother. Life was never easy, yet they managed to grow up. Naturally, they had to share often, sometimes even sharing hardships.
Now they are sharing a new and different hardship. In 2010 they were arrested, charged and held without bail for an accusation of child, sexual assault. They tried to hire their own lawyer. Their efforts and even the efforts of their mother failed. During pretrial proceedings, they had four different lawyers-some from the local, public defender´s office and some court appointed. Given their lack of a high school diploma, they did not understand their rights.
On the day scheduled for their trial in 2013, their lawyer did not show up. Their mother, Doña Victoria, pleaded with the judge to give her time to hire a lawyer. The judge refused and appointed two attorneys to represent them and ordered that the trial start as scheduled. The lawyers did not even have time to review the court or prosecutorial files. Marcello and Daniel did not have private conferences with their defense lawyers. Although the trial lasted four days, the lawyers never visited them in the jail. The lawyers did not present any witnesses or any other evidence on their behalf. At the time of the final argument, the defense lawyer for Daniel did not make a final argument of any kind—not even asking for leniency. Marcelo and Daniel were convicted and sentenced to ten and twenty years in prison respectively.
I met the Castillo brothers after their appeals had been rejected while visiting the men at El Abra prison in Cochabamba, Bolivia. After listening to their story, I could not help but recall my days as an assistant public defender in Detroit. I could not imagine agreeing to represent someone charged with a major felony without carefully reviewing the files, engaging in several, confidential conferences with my client, conducting an investigation and exploring all the possible defenses and the legal options short of a trial to resolve the case.
I decided that I had to consult Bolivian criminal defense lawyers. Most of the Bolivian lawyers simply threw up their hands and told me that there was nothing to be done. My conscience, however, told me that this was not just.
I remembered the words of Helen Keller.
I read their court files, I consulted others and I pondered the depth of the violation of their basic human right to a competent defense attorney.
After research and consultation with local Bolivian attorney and university professor Henry Pinto Davolos, I decided to draft a complaint to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights the Organization of American States (OEA). Bolivia is a member of the OEA. We filed the petition for review in May of 2015. Recently, the Commission for Human Rights (CIDH) notified me that they have accepted the petition for review and have requested that the Bolivian government answer the complaint (case No. P-609-15 Bolivia).
While the process in the OEA is admittedly slow, the boost to the self-esteem of the Castillo brothers when I informed them of the news and the fact that a local Bolivian newspaper had printed a large article on their case, provided the Castillo brothers and me with the encouragement we needed to continue. I hope to find some of what I call “heavenly justice” for the Castillo brothers. Similarly, I hope to establish a binding precedent so that no judge will appoint and permit lawyers who are unprepared to defend women and men charged with criminal defenses on the day of trial.
“Equal justice is a dream. We must make it a reality.” – John Cummiskey
Link to the attached document titled “Come and Meet the Missioners”
Meet the Missioners!
Location: Maryknoll House, 2360 Rice Blvd.
Houston, TX 77005
Date/time: Oct. 4, 2015, 2pm
Description: Join Lindsay Doucette to learn more about overseas Catholic mission at this “Meet the Missioners” event, presented jointly by Maryknoll Lay Missioners and our mission partners, the Maryknoll Sisters and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.
Ecumenical Advocacy Days is an annual encounter of people from more than 20 different Christian traditions, who meet each year to study a specific justice theme. They end the gathering with a visit to their congress persons to advocate change according to gospel values of justice and peace.
For this year’s conference, held April 17-20, the point of discussion and sharing was incarceration and the reality of prisons in the states and around the world. Nearly 1,000 members of the different faith traditions attended this year’s conference. Over 20 percent were Catholics.
Joanne Blaney (’91 Brazil) is pictured here (in the middle). Joanne has served as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner for more than two decades in Brazil. As an educator, she has worked in prison ministry, and along with a team, developed a system of restorative justice and right relationships. Her effective work and capacity to articulate the “what” and “why” of restorative justice has gained her international recognition. Joanne recently joined the MKLM team at its NY base of US operations as Director of Mission Services; responsible for recruitment, orientation, admissions, sending, Returned Missioners and Friends Across Borders. MKLM is very grateful that Joanne responded to our invitation to assume this key position and are confident in her leadership of the team and these important areas. We fully realize what a sacrifice it was to leave her beloved Brazil and incredible work.
Photo: Joanne is pictured at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days, as she catches up with Mary DeLorey (’87 Peru), who currently works for Jesuits on justice issues and Gerry Lee (’84 Venezuela, US/leadership), who is now the Director of the Joint Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns.
Since July 2013, Maryknoll Lay Missioners has been a member of JFM. During this time MKLM has written and published several stories to the JFM Publications such as this bi-monthly e-newsletter. JFM feel that, “Our Christian faith invites us to become agents of God’s compassion in a wounded world.” We here at MKLM believe that, “The Compassion of the Faithful Transforms Lives.” Find out more about JFM.