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Class of 1985 Sending toast

Allen Scheid leading a “Sending toast” for the Class of 1985, MKLM’s largest ever.

Getting ready for a move from El Paso, Texas back to the Midwest, returned missioner Allen Scheid (Class of 1981 – Chile and U.S.) sent us a few treasures he unearthed while organizing his stuff. Here is a note he recently shared with friends: 

I think some of us, among our family and friends, are beginning to see ourselves as getting older, and maybe a little slower in our thinking and walking perhaps, but we aren’t too anxious about getting older…

Sure, we may not be as sharp as we once were — maybe we walk a little slower, maybe we find ourselves messing up on our laptops more than ever — but in other areas we may find ourselves becoming more sensitive, more understanding, more caring, and more thankful than we were in our younger days. At least I hope so.

As we get older, I think we may be more appreciative of the family and friends that have held us in love and patience and that have continued to teach us and encourage us along the way.

I remember different stories and people that I hold close to my heart.  As the middle child in a large family, I had the chance to see how my mom handled her middle and late years. I saw how she taught us kids by her example and her words. In the kitchen, my mom sometimes put up little signs on the wall or on the refrigerator door.  I remember one that said, “Lord, give me an understanding heart.”

As a teenager, I asked her what she thought about my plan to walk with Martin Luther King Jr. in a demonstration for open housing in Chicago. She simply said, “I think you’ll look back on this someday and be very proud.”

Many of my years growing up were away from home — 11 years in in the seminary, later several years living and working in Mexico and Chile — and when I returned to the States, many of my jobs had me away from home in New York, California, Minnesota and Washington, DC.

Isaiah 63:15

A note Allen has kept from his seminary days — Isaiah 63:5.

I remember how happy I was when my mom and my sister, Carolynn, visited me when I was working in Washington, DC for the Environmental Protection Agency.  A year later, I was even happier when my mom and dad visited me at Maryknoll, New York, while I was training to be a Maryknoll lay missioner assigned to work in Chile.  After years of supporting me as a seminarian and now as a lay missioner, my parents were coming to Maryknoll, New York for the first time.

Before my parents arrived, I jokingly told one of my lay missioner classmates, Celine Woznica, “When my parents arrive, please pretend you are one of my friends. It will make them happy knowing that I actually have friends.” She just smiled.

Another classmate, Sue Delahunt, volunteered to ride along with me to the airport to give me some support, knowing how nervous I was about driving in New York City.

While we were gone, Celine Woznica organized a welcoming committee and hung a large sign over the front door. The sign said, “Al Scheid has friends!”

The lay missioners and all the Orientation team lined the hallway and awaited our arrival.

When we got to the lay missioner house (Bethany), my dad, who was the only one in our family called “Al,” thought the sign referred to him and he began to smile. I had to quickly tell him that my friends here called me “Al.”

As Sue and I walked through the front door with my parents, the hallway was full of cheering friends, and I thought how lucky I was to have such friends — and to have such parents.

And here is an excerpt from a reflection Allen wrote a few years ago, titled “My mission journey”:

In 1970-71, after I left the Maryknoll seminary, a classmate, Jack Eagleson, led many of us former seminarians to CIDOC, a language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico, that was run by a famous priest, Ivan Ilich. CIDOC became a center for Latin American leaders like Paulo Freire and others to discuss popular education and liberation theology. It was there that many of us began to study Spanish and liberation theology….and explore ways we might serve in Latin America. I had enough money for three months at the Cuernavaca school and lived in a small hut in the backyard of a retired bullfighter.

After those three months, I taught English at a language school in Cuernavaca. In my free time, I began sending letters to Maryknoll superiors in Peru, Bolivia and Chile, asking if I might serve as a lay missioner, highlighting my many years as a Maryknoll seminarian and my Spanish studies.

Allen Scheid in Chile

Allen Scheid in Chile

Before long, I received a friendly letter from Maryknoll Father Ray Hill, the regional superior in Chile. He offered me the chance to study another three months in Maryknoll’s language school in Cochabamba, Bolivia and then join a Maryknoll team in Southern Chile. Father Hill said that there was discussion in the Maryknoll leadership about having a Maryknoll Lay Mission Program, and it was good to begin experimenting more with this idea. A few years later, Father Ray Hill became superior general of Maryknoll, and they began planning for a Maryknoll lay mission program in earnest.

After a year in Southern Chile, teaching in a Maryknoll-run high school and later taking a side job at a Chilean steel factory for four months (which is another story), I joined a group of current and former Maryknoll seminarians working in Santiago, striving to help U.S. politicians and citizens to understand the positive efforts of the Chilean government to help the poor and working class.

Sadly, our U.S. government continued to support the overthrow of the Chilean government of Salvador Allende. On Sept. 11, 1973, the Chilean military overthrew the government and military dictator Augusto Pinochet took over. I returned to the U.S. a couple months later.

After graduating in resource economics from the University of Rhode Island and starting to work for the Environmental Protection Agency, a Maryknoll priest, Father Terry Cambias, came to Washington to invite me to work on a popular education team in a Chilean barrio north of Santiago. He said, “It will be great, but the only problem is you will have to join the Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ four-month training program.

I said, “Are you kidding?” I would love to be with the other lay missioner candidates at Bethany.

I joined the Class of 1981 and worked for three years on the popular education team led by Maryknoll Fathers Terry Cambias and Tom Henehan. After three years in Chile, Father Gene Toland invited me to be on the lay mission team at Bethany and I gladly accepted.

I served five more great years with the team at Maryknoll and then left to work in several other mission groups and later helped with the care of my mom.

Allen Scheid
Allen Scheid is a returned Maryknoll lay missioner (Class of 1981) who served in Chile and on the MKLM leadership team. He subsequently worked for other mission organizations as well as with various immigrant ministries.