‘Why Maryknoll, Sarah?’ - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Maryknoll Lay Missioners Class of 2023

Sarah (right), with her fellow “classmates,” Theresa (left) and T.T.

Dear friends and family,

Greetings from El Paso!

Receiving this email means that you have indicated (or I superciliously surmised) your willingness to receive the occasional episodic e-letter from me. This first letter finds me currently in Orientation in El Paso, Texas, in preparation for the next three and a half years in El Salvador as a Maryknoll lay missioner. (You can of course always unsubscribe from these updates at any time.)

Consider this a note of welcome, but more importantly, a note of gratitude. Nobody arrives to Maryknoll without being shaped by family, friends, strangers-who-become-friends and places.

Sarah Bueter talking

Facilitating a workshop on migration

When people ask, “Why Maryknoll, Sarah?”, turns out, the answer is shaped by very concrete love. Cousins’ compassion influenced your own, professors’ gentleness shifted your heart, or a border community’s longing for justice attracted you to something curiously life-giving.

Maryknoll is not any ole NGO. Mission reconfigures those on the peripheries as the center, as the privileged place to love and serve. This attempts to pattern God’s own activity: God migrated, tabernacled, tented among the people, and drew near unto becoming creation itself in a person who took the margins as his center. Christ’s longing for justice and peace compels our own.

For us, it matters how we construct a more just and peaceful world. We celebrate the holiness of everyday life, and we live the hope of resurrection. We live in poor communities not because they are broken or in need of our repair, but because they are holy. We serve not because life is broken, but because it is holy.

After arriving in January and completing language school in San Salvador, I’ll start a process of deeply listening to the needs and wisdom of the communities before landing on a general routine. Our ministries in El Salvador commit us to identifying with the struggles of the most marginalized and joining our lives to theirs. And because the struggle for justice is a constitutive element of mission, we seek to challenge unjust structures that perpetuate the marginalizing of communities in the first place. Stay tuned for how this unfolds!

A group photo of Maryknoll lay missioners in El Salvador (December 2022)

Meanwhile, orientation in El Paso continues until December. It is a great privilege to be back at the borderlands. In fact, one of my favorite books takes place here — Suffering and Salvation in Ciudad Juárez by Nancy Pineda-Madrid (check out her compelling talk at Boston College here) — and it had a big impact on me when I was a student struggling to understand what kind of credible love and hope could respond to large-scale violence. Now I’m here firsthand!

During the week, my classmates (T.T. and Theresa) and I receive classes on cross-cultural humility, nonviolence and the like. We celebrate (birthdays!), pray (examens!) and eat together (today was rice, pickled eggs, carrot salad, and more!). You can read more about our Class of 2023 here: “Answering the call to ‘love one another.’”

On Mondays, I visit at Holy Family Refugee Center. My favorite activity with the migrant families is cutting off and throwing away their wristbands from ICE custody: está libre! You are free now.

At a peace protest in downtown El Paso, with Theresa and Sr. Betty Campbell, a Sister of Mercy who is a veteran peace activist and longtime advocate for migrants. 

And as a gentle ask, I also invite you to help meet the needs in our various Maryknoll Lay Missioners ministries. Some of the needs may not be so obvious, but we all know the importance of keeping the lights on and providing for the sustenance of missioners themselves, for example. If this is a way that you can walk with me throughout the next three and a half years, I will be very grateful. The generosity of our benefactors makes all the difference in our success. Please consider making a donation by clicking the button below.

And most importantly, please pray for me! Send any prayer requests, and know that you are in my prayers. Count on these updates or email me directly.

Pope Francis reminds us, “To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious…. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love, by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” (Gaudete et exsultate).

May blessings be on your own mission of living a life of love, in everything you do, wherever you find yourself this season.


P.S. The Orientation program for the “Class of 2023” of new Maryknoll lay missioners will conclude with a Sending Ceremony during a Mass with Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 10 a.m. (Mountain Time; i.e., noon Eastern). If you are able, please join us that day by watching the livestream of the celebration on Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Facebook page (more details to come).


Sarah Bueter
Sarah Bueter joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 2023 and is serving in El Salvador.