After 12 years back in Bolivia running a volunteer and immersion program for the Maryknoll missioners there, my family and I returned to the United States in 2019. We have settled in Washington, DC, where, much to my surprise, I am once again working with Maryknoll! The latest segment of my long mission journey has brought me to the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (MOGC), where I coordinate the office’s Sustainable Pathways to Peace program, working on a broad portfolio of peace and nonviolence issues.
It has been a long, strange transition back to the United States for my family. We spent over a year living in the wonderful Assisi Community here in Washington, with former MOGC director Marie Dennis and others, before moving into our own place. Between stints in Bolivia, I had spent seven years back in the United States with my wife, Rocío, who is Bolivian — one year in Indiana and six in Seattle. However, Washington is a whole different culture. Rocío has enjoyed it, and our two boys, Santiago (18) and Francisco (14) have done exceptionally well adapting to life here.
More than half of our time back has been during lockdown, with virtual school and work, so engaging socially and culturally with the people around us has been a challenge. On the flip side, technology has not only allowed us all to stay connected to colleagues and classmates — it has also made keeping in touch with friends and family in Bolivia easier. Francisco attended a bilingual public middle school here in Washington, and hearing him introduce his Spanish-speaking classmates in DC to his cousins and friends in Cochabamba to play video games together online was an astounding moment of modern interconnectedness.
With MOGC, I advocate for decreased Pentagon spending, nuclear disarmament, an end to armed drone strikes and Forever Wars, and against militarism more broadly. We promote human rights for people on the move, prisoners, land and water defenders, and persecuted minorities around the world — especially in communities where Maryknoll missioners live and work.
I serve on the steering committee of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International working to advance nonviolence and just peace in the church and the world. Through our Faith Economy Ecology program, MOGC is also on the cutting edge of advocating for a more just, equitable and sustainable global economy and caring for our common home by pushing for bold measures to address the climate crisis. Especially during the past year, we have been working for global vaccine equity, and seeking new ways to draw connections between the movement for Black lives and racial justice in the United States, and Maryknoll’s long-held commitment to raising the voices of marginalized communities of color confronting the violent legacy of colonialism around the world.
It is very exciting to be a part of the MOGC team, after so many years of reading NewsNotes and other MOGC publications and collaborating with the office from a distance on peace and justice issues in Bolivia.
I encourage all returned (and current!) Maryknoll Lay Missioners to sign up, peruse our website, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. It is really an ideal way to deepen one’s connection to Maryknoll and live out the call to mission and global solidarity. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of playing a part in making it work. And returning to the U.S. at a time of such deep political upheaval, it has been consoling to be in Washington and be able to speak truth to power together with so many other impressive faith groups and civil society organizations in the struggle for nonviolence and just peace.