Happy 47th/28th anniversary! - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Scenes of Richard at — and commuting to — Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

Today is the 47th anniversary of our founding as the lay missioner program within Maryknoll, and the 28th anniversary of the creation of our Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful as an independent organization. I have been an employee for the last 22 years. Recently, I was having a procedure done, and to keep me preoccupied until the anesthesia kicked in, the doctor engaged in a little small talk with me. “You are retired, right?” “No,” I said, “I’m still working.” “Really?” he replied. “I love my job,” I said.

In my relationship with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, there have been plenty of changes. I have now worked with nine different department heads. I have seen the organizational structure change dramatically. I have seen regions open and regions close. Most of all, I have seen missioners come and go and staff come and go, some of whom I felt very close to. I have had to make many adjustments over the years, but it has been worth it.

I do love my job. A friend of mine won a bishop’s cross (for contributions to the church above and beyond expectations) at the Diocesan Convention, and when she spoke in response, she said she wanted to thank the Episcopal Church for giving her the opportunity to “do good.” That is also what drew me to Maryknoll Lay Missioners: It gives me the opportunity to do good.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners is different from other organizations I’ve worked for, because its mission is not making a profit, but rather, “Compelled by faith to engage with people across cultures and ethnicities, we live, love and work with communities on the margins to promote active nonviolence and healing.” That first part, “Compelled by faith,” is important to me.

Jesus is in our hearts, and nothing can change that. I have read the results of various Mission Assemblies, and while the discussions are sometimes heated, everyone’s goal is always to make Maryknoll Lay Missioners better at doing God’s work. This motivation is immediately apparent if you listen to the discussions going on. Take a minute to ask one of our missioners why they are in mission, and God’s light shines from their faces.

What a wonderful history this organization has. Take a look at the faces of all the classes in the photographs on the wall downstairs at Walsh. Hundreds of people over the years doing good all around the globe. I think we are living out St. Francis’ prayer:

Make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners has been providing peace, love, pardon, faith, hope, light, and joy for almost 50 years. I raise my glass in a toast for the next 50: May our light never dim.

Richard Gatjens
Richard has served Maryknoll Lay Missioners as donor care manager since 2000.