Home » MKLM » Where we came from and where we are going

Minh Nguyen teaching math to Leonardo Mamani at her after-school tutoring program for indigenous grade school students in Tacopaya, Bolivia (Maryknoll Photo by Nile Sprague).

I recently came upon this scripture verse: When Jesus is teaching in the temple and speaking to the Pharisees, he says, “I know where I came from and where I am going” (Jn 8:14). It caused me to ponder not only the truth of who Jesus is but also what these questions might mean in our own lives — and still further, how they might apply to Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

This year of 2024 seems a good time to look back as we approach the 50th anniversary of Maryknoll Lay Missioners during the following year. How profound it is to contemplate where we came from and where we are going. Only the wealth of stories of the 964 men, women and children who have served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 35 countries could begin to recount the history that is MKLM.

Over the past 22 months, I have been blessed to hear some of those stories of service, of transformation, of sacrifice, of faith and of some serendipity and much joy of our current and past missioners. As it was for Jesus, where we came from sheds light on and gives direction to where we are going.

It is the in-between part of the journey that represents the now. “Now” is less clear, sometimes uncomfortable, and uncertain.

Let me be specific: Many have been asking about the move of Maryknoll Lay Missioners to El Paso. Currently, it is the Mission Services Program that is implemented through the staff located in El Paso. The first Orientation program and the first mission sending out of El Paso took place in 2023.

Even as a small community of lay missioners continue to provide migrant advocacy and direct service, we continue to explore the possibility of expanding the MKLM presence at the border. Many details still need to be worked out before the administrative services may be conducted out of El Paso, and a vision for expanded collaboration with Maryknoll Affiliates and local partners is being mapped out.

Another “moment” in the now of getting to where we are going, is the decision to change the leadership structure of Maryknoll Lay Missioners. With much reflection and discussion, together, the missioners, staff and board members recognized the need to review internal and external factors that resulted in a new structure that now incorporates an executive director and a leadership team composed of the Director of Operations, the Director of Communications and the two Area Directors. The role of the Director of Mission will be assumed by this leadership team.

We are certainly on our way. The Mission Advisory Council, together with the Mission Services staff are engaged in planning the implementation of a new admissions and orientation program for international members by the end of 2024.

The nonviolence committee has facilitated a process for each country to conduct a social analysis process that begins with listening to the local communities.

The advancement department is restructuring to meet the challenge of increasing our revenues.

Most importantly, MKLM is committed to responding to the marginalized peoples where we serve with compassion, humility and joy.

We may not be as clear as Jesus was about where he was going, but I experience the lay missioners as a community of disciples who walk confidently in the now to get to where they are being led by the Spirit.

The season of Lent is about to begin. It is a good reminder that it is not all about the many activities that we are engaged with in the now; it is just as important to know where we are going.

And so the wise words of Mother Mary Joseph (Mollie Rogers), the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters, also come to mind:

There is nothing more astonishing than life, just as it is, nothing more miraculous than growth and change and development, just as revealed to us. And as happens so often when we stop to regard God’s work, there is nothing to do but wonder and thank God, realizing how little we planned, how little we achieved and yet how much has been done.

Elvira Ramirez
Elvira Ramirez is Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ executive director.