Accompanied by drums and the joyous singing of a Swahili song, five new Maryknoll missioners danced their way out of the Maryknoll Sisters’ Annunciation Chapel. As Kenyan and Tanzanian seminarians and sisters led the drumming, the ululating and the singing of Utukuzwe (Be Glorified) and Alleluya, the joy was infectious.
The rousing recessional song was a fitting finale to last December’s joint mission-sending ceremony.
“Our mission-sending ceremonies are one of the most important and joyful events in the life of Maryknoll,” said Sister Antoinette Gutzler, president of the Maryknoll Sisters. “They give witness to our evolving understanding of cross-cultural mission, the call of discipleship and what it means to be part of the faith-filled communities that we call Maryknoll.”
Four new lay missioners and one sister were called forth, received mission crosses, expressed their commitment, were blessed and sent to mission. They are Greg Garrity of Connecticut (sent to Kenya), Sister Rolande Pendeza Kahindo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (East Timor), Brenda Seymour of Massachusetts (Kenya), Julie Lawler of Texas (Cambodia) and Jillian Foster of Ohio (Haiti).
In his welcome, Ted Miles, executive director of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners, said, “The beauty, wisdom and grace present in every culture remind us that God is not constrained by the international boundaries of any country. Indeed, God’s love has no borders.”
Miles quoted from a homily by Pope Francis that “the Christian … is always on the move, outward-bound. ‘Go’ is, in fact, the imperative of Jesus in the Gospel.”
“Mission,” Miles said, “requires making our way in the wilderness, to pass beyond what is familiar and comfortable, to go with patience and trust along the way, keeping watchful eyes of compassion that we do not miss God inviting us into love being born anew wherever we are.”
He asked all to give thanks to and for the five new Maryknoll missioners. “We give thanks to you and all missioners who choose to say, ‘Yes,’ when God says, ‘Go.’ We give thanks to you, for your yes gives witness to the love of our God, who is always and everywhere doing something new in us and in the world. And we give thanks to our God, whose grace and covenant with each one makes all of this possible.”
Christina Lamas, executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, addressed the missioners during her keynote: “As you bring the Gospel to every corner of the world, let us be reminded by your courageous witness that all of us here are called to be a gift wherever we are.”
Lamas recounted the words of the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters, Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, “Let us just go together and see what God has in store for us.”
Maryknoll and overseas mission run deep in Greg Garrity’s family: He had an uncle who was a Maryknoll priest, Thomas Garrity, and an aunt who was a Maryknoll sister, Rosemary Garrity. Both dedicated their lives to the Church in Latin America. Garrity says he has always wanted to follow their example into mission. “Now that I have retired from my career in social services and my four children have grown, it is a good time to fulfill a life goal: to serve the Church and Christ in an overseas mission,” he says.
Sister Kahindo grew up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo but encountered Maryknoll sisters in Tanzania. She says, “I was attracted to the sisters because of their simplicity of life, their missionary spirit of crossing borders to meet those living on the margins, and their willingness to go to remote areas and share life with the poor according to one’s giftedness.” Sister Kahindo made her first vows last August.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Brenda Seymour served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya and with the Volunteer Missionary Movement in Uganda. She recently retired from teaching English as a second language. Seymour joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners because she “wanted to contribute to the justice and peace in the world, especially now because there is so much divisiveness in the world.” She says she is responding to the call of the Gospel to be “our brother’s and our sister’s keepers.”
As a deaf-education teacher for the past 11 years, Julie Lawler is excited about the Maryknoll Deaf Development Programme in Cambodia, where she will now serve. Her new mission will allow her to bring her passion for deaf-related education together with her commitment to the Catholic faith and to mission.
At age 23, Jillian Foster is the youngest of the group. After graduating from the University of Dayton in 2018, she joined FrancisCorps, serving adults with disabilities at the L’Arche community in Syracuse, N.Y. Assigned to Haiti, she will join two other Maryknoll lay missioners, helping to expand the ministries of the relatively new Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ presence there.
In a prayer they read during the sending, the new missioners committed themselves “to witness the Good News of Jesus Christ, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are marginalized and oppressed.” They pledged “to care for the earth, our common home, and to respond in service to help create a more just and compassionate world.”
Featured Image: Five new Maryknoll missioners (from left): Jillian Foster, Brenda Seymour, Sister Rolande Kahindo, Greg Garrity and Julie Lawler. (Meinrad Scherer-Emunds/U.S.)