Home » MKLM » God never ceases to surprise

A collage of photos from Ted Miles’ years with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, compiled and presented to him by the board of directors.


In the end it is love that matters;
all else will pass away.
We need a thoughtful love,
a wisdom that sees and knows more deeply;
a faith that trusts in the power of God
who lives beneath our wings …

[This] Divine love is beyond
what the human mind can imagine or invent;
it is not logical or predictable.
It has empowered life from the beginning
and promises to stay forever
because love is ever new,
ever more whole.
deepening the rich creativity of life’s playfulness.

We all have a part in this unfolding love.
We are wholes within wholes,
persons within persons,
religions within religions.

We are one body,
and we seek one mind and heart,
more personal and unified in love.

—Ilia Delio, O.S.F.
(from The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love, Orbis Books. Also in this video reflection.)

As you may have seen in recent announcements, after more than five years serving as executive director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners, I am leaving to pursue a new opportunity with Notre Dame Mission Volunteers Americorps and to be closer to family in the Mid-Atlantic. It was a decision that I did not make lightly and an opportunity that came about somewhat unexpectedly. God never ceases to surprise!

God never ceases to surprise! Perhaps these words best describe my experience of Maryknoll, and in particular the lay missioner community. In these past five years, over and over, often when I least expected it, God showed up in some new and surprising way.

Even when surrounded by mundane tasks or grappling with the next complex issue, God’s wonder-full surprises kept luring me into a new understanding of the beauty of mission and a desire to live it more authentically (in as much as I still have a long way to go). Based on my conversations with missioners, I don’t think I am alone in this …

Ted Miles visiting with Maryknoll lay missioners in El Salvador in December 2022.

I have been surprised by love — a depth of love that compels individuals to a life of mission, service and accompaniment that draws people together and assures that no one remains anonymous.

I have been surprised by the power of individuals and communities to effect change and achieve justice, not with monetary or military resources, but through reconciliation, courage, commitment, dialogue, friendship and nonviolence.

I have been surprised at the difference made by simply showing up, through simple gestures of kindness and hospitality, and by believing that one’s daily contributions matter.

I have been surprised by how joy can still show up in the places and times you least expect.

I have been surprised by good news and just how much of it there is!

I have been surprised at how much love matters. Yes, organization, funding, sound management, stewardship and more are important and necessary. But in mission, in a movement such as Maryknoll, the starting point, the end point and everything in between must be rooted in love … a love that draws us together, builds bridges, connects us across boundaries, and reminds us constantly that God is with us, that God’s got us!

In my recent reflections, I stumbled across Sister Ilia Delio’s beautiful words posted above. Love really does matter most, and it is love that will make us whole. Moreover, our sharing in this love is nothing less than divine! Sister Ilia’s words provide an apt description of Maryknoll, whose charism and spirit fills my heart with gratitude.

Ted Miles, addressing Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Class of 2022 at their Sending Ceremony.

And so, as I depart, I say thank you … Thank you to all Maryknoll missioners for your witness to a love that is compassionate and wide.

Thank you to the Maryknoll Lay Missioners staff and board of directors for your steadfast commitment to affirm, enliven and equip this mission of love expressed through Maryknoll lay missioners.

Thank you to our community of returned missioners, donors, benefactors and supporters, who walk with us in mission and remind us that the call to mission is for everyone, has many different shapes and looks, and takes place everywhere.

Thank you to the individuals and communities who welcome us and teach us what mutual love and accompaniment look like across cultures, nationalities and faiths, who remind us that the sacred is always anywhere and everywhere before we arrive.

And a very special thanks to Elvira Ramirez for your sharing in leadership this past year and for graciously agreeing to serve as interim executive director. Elvira will continue to evolve the progress that has been made in recent years thanks to the work of each one named above.

May our God continue to surprise us and draw us ever more deeply into this beautiful, sometimes terrifying but always wonderful, far-reaching, never-ending, ever-needed, simultaneously simple and complex, extraordinary divine mission of love.

Ted Miles
Ted Miles is the former executive director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners.