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Returned Missioner News

Madi Ott at Sempre Viva

Madi Ott returns to João Pessoa to volunteer

June 2024: Madlyn Ott, daughter of Mike and Joanne Ott (Class of 2001 – Brazil), last year volunteered for three months in João Pessoa, Brazil, where she had lived as a missioner child. Madi spent most of her time assisting the teachers at Sempre Viva, the school she had attended as a child. “Reconnecting with the teachers and forming new relationships with the students helped me regain my Portuguese, resonate with a part of my identity, and deepen my faith,” she writes. “Upon my arrival, I was eagerly welcomed by Brazilian culture and embraced by the Maryknoll community. I felt most at home while spending time at AFYA Women’s Holistic Health Center, revisiting Casa Pequeño Davi, and working at Sempre Viva. What I will cherish the most, however, is the incredible Brazilian community that my family built as missioners — and that embraced me as one of their own when I returned.” Madi will be entering her second year of law school at the University of St. Thomas, hoping to focus on international human rights.

Carol Honerkamp Zuccarino featured in Washington Post

June 2024: Carol Zuccarino (Class of 1975) was featured prominently in two photos of a June 6, 2024 Washington Post story about Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, and its founder, Ruben Garcia. Carol has been serving with Annunciation House since February 2020 and currently is co-administrator of the Casa Papa Francisco shelter. “As long as I am healthy and able to help out,” she says, “I will be here at the border. I think this is where Jesus is calling all of us who are on the other side of 75 to be: We have to be in service.” One of the earliest Maryknoll lay missioners, Carol served with her late husband, Joe Honerkamp, and their two children in Bolivia, Samoa and the U.S. for 19 years. She says, “Once you step out in mission, you have to keep moving in it.” She quotes an often-recited Maryknoll Lay Missioners poem written by Joe and called “The Pilgrimage”: “And they were never the same again.”

Third ‘All-Maryknoll Gathering’ set for Sept. 27-28

May 2024: Save the Date. The Committee of 12 (with representatives from all four Maryknoll entities) is inviting all Maryknollers to the third “All-Maryknoll Gathering.” The gathering is scheduled for Sept. 27-28, 2024 and titled “Maryknoll at the Dawn of a New Creation: A Movement in Mission.” This Zoom gathering will have two sessions on each of the two days (10 a.m. to 12:30 pm and 2 to 4 p.m. Eastern time). Following up on his inspiring presentation at our All-Maryknoll Retreat in October 2023, Robert Ellsberg will be present and interviewed by us at this gathering. His references to ‘sparks of mission consciousness,’ along with Pope Francis’ insistence on the mandate of mission received by all at baptism, call us to a more open and far broader understanding of mission.” We will link to the registration form once it becomes available. MKLM’s representatives on the Committee of 12 are Marj Humphrey, Kylene Fremling and Sami Scott.

Missioner kid turned opera star shines at bicentennial

May 2024: Leticia de Altamirano, daughter of Kathy and Javier Vargas (Class of 1985 – Mexico and U.S.), is today one of Mexico’s leading female opera singers. Together with her uncle, Ramón Vargas, a cousin of Javier’s and also a Mexican opera star, she recently headlined a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Mexican state of Guanajuato at the Teatro del Bicentenario in León. The program included arias and duets from famed operas as well as Mexican music. You can watch one of their duets on YouTube at tinyurl.com/Leticia-Leon and the whole two-hour program at tinyurl.com/Leticia-Leon2. To learn more about the talented opera star who was once a Maryknoll lay missioner kid, visit leticiadealtamirano.com.

Gehrigs celebrate drinking water inauguration in altiplano

May 2024:  Jason Gehrig (Class of 1999 – Bolivia) and his youngest son, Anthony, age 18, recently returned to the Bolivian Andes, where the family had served for seven and a half years. A highlight included visiting the rural community of Cuipa Kahuaya, whose 70 families were celebrating the inauguration of their first drinking water system, thanks to the community members’ sacrifice, their local municipality, Jason’s waterworks specialist friends with Suma Jayma of El Alto and the WEFTA group Jason volunteers with. Anthony writes, “The community members’ … sincere thanksgiving to God and reverence toward Mother Earth were woven into the entire inauguration ceremony. Extended dancing also marked the occasion – not an easy feat for recent arrivals [at] 13,000 feet above sea level! Witnessing how important this day was to these Aymara families and how grateful they felt opened my eyes to how much I take simple things like safe drinking water for granted.” You can read more about their return visit here.

Debbie Northern serves refugees in Virginia

May 2024: Debbie Northern, who retired at the end of last year after 24 years of service as a Maryknoll lay missioner (Class of 1999 – Tanzania, El Salvador, U.S. and U.S. Mexico border), has joined Catholic Charities in Roanoke, Virginia, as a resettlement education specialist. In her new role, she is serving refugees — currently mostly from Afghanistan and Congo— with ESL and GED classes and a mentoring program for young refugees. She is even dusting off what she remembers of the Swahili she learned during her time with MKLM in Tanzania because the folks from Congo are coming from refugee camps in Tanzania and speak Swahili. Once she has completed her ESL certification training, she will also be teaching ESL classes.

Allen Scheid is volunteering at the border

May 2024: Since last July, Allen Scheid (Class of 1981 – Chile and U.S., at right, holding the baby) has been volunteering at the border in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. At the Juárez cathedral, “I help serve meals for the immigrants and wash dishes. I enjoy the people and the work … and the fact that I can walk a mile from my apartment to the border crossing and a few more blocks to the cathedral.” On Good Friday, “I was asked to meet two Salvadoran friends as they crossed the border and cleared immigration.” They had washed dishes together at the cathedral and Allen had shared stories and songs with them from his time in Chile. “After more than six months of waiting and serving their fellow immigrants at the cathedral, Glenda and Grogner were finally being allowed to cross the border. I waited for hours, nervously drinking coffee at the McDonalds on the El Paso side of the border. After they finally finished the long interview process, we met at the border, embraced, and went to the shelter where they stayed a couple days.” Later they left for Omaha. “I told them they would soon become ‘Cornhuskers.’ I continue to be amazed at the courage of the immigrants and the kind, welcoming spirit of the people of El Paso.”

Don Diltz starts new nursing career at age 77

April 2024: At age 77, Don Diltz, who was one of the first official Maryknoll lay missioners (Class of 1975 – South Korea), recently started a new career. A newly minted registered nurse, he now works for the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical Center. Don was featured in a UAB School of Nursing video. After serving with Maryknoll from early 1975 until 1977, he has been an educator and author, Peace Corps volunteer, realtor and business executive. Explaining his decision to become a nurse, he said, “It’s very important to keep finding new ways to keep the edge sharp. [It] keeps me motivated and excited.” In the 1970s, Don was already serving as a lay missioner in agricultural development at the Maryknoll Fathers’ High School in South Korea when the official Maryknoll Lay Missioner Program was started in June 1975. He was one of five informally serving lay missioners who were at that time officially integrated into the new lay mission program. 

Teaching English in Cairo and a wide range of parish work

February 2024: Bonny Brunner Prudhomme (Class of 1985 – Korea, fourth from left in photo) writes, “After my time in Korea as Maryknoll lay missioner, my international experiences have been limited to summers in Cairo teaching English to Egyptian seminarians. This, however, does not mean that Maryknoll did not work its spell on me. I had left the U.S. as a spectator Catholic and came back after Maryknoll to find myself energized. While teaching full-time as a math professor, I completed a pastoral theology degree and became fully engaged in a wide range of commitments in my local parish. When I retired in 2018, my husband, Jon (far right), and I took on even more roles at church. Most recently we were asked to co-chair RCIA. My first response was, No way, but I quickly changed my mind when I learned who was going through the program (the photo is from the Rite of Election). Which brings us back to Maryknoll: How can we resist God’s call to serve others (here or overseas) and when do we start?”

Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds joins MKLM Board

February 2024: Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds (Class of 1994 – Venezuela) has joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ board of directors. Wynnie spent six years in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, with Maryknoll Lay Missioners. Since returning to Newark, New Jersey, in 2000, she has been a tireless advocate for environmental justice. She has been active in several New Jersey-based environmental groups and currently serves as co-chair of the board of the Newark Environmental Commission. In addition, Wynnie is the founder and executive director of Stepping Stones Resources, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization that addresses the environment, health and quality of life. In 2019, she was one of the two first recipients of Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Bishop McCarthy Spirit of Mission Award. “I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, colleagues and Maryknoll again,” Wynnie says, “Hopefully my contributions to the work of the board will be helpful.” Many thanks to Anita Klueg (Class of 2003 – Kenya), who rotated off the board after completing seven years of service.

Returned missioner is rector of Jesuit University in Guadalajara

February 2024: For the past two years, Jesuit Father Alex Zatyrka, who served as a Maryknoll lay missioner (Class of 1985 – Bolivia) in Cochabamba, has led ITESO Jesuit University in Guadalajara, Mexico, as its rector. Shortly after completing his service with Maryknoll, he joined the Jesuits and studied and then taught theology. He has been the executive secretary of the Theology Commission of the Jesuits’ Conference of Provincials of Latin America (CPAL) as well as a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. A highly respected theologian and biblical scholar, Father Alex has also served at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and as rector of the Universidad Iberoamericana in León. On his website, he provides a wide variety of Spanish-language spiritual resources (daily scripture reflections, an online Sunday Mass, contemplative prayer, Ignatian spirituality and mystagogia).

Jill Foster continues social justice work in Dayton, Ohio

February 2024: Jill Foster (Class of 2019- Haiti) writes: “After returning from Haiti last May, I agonized over a job or career that would give me the same fulfillment that my time in Gwomòn did. Maryknoll is hard to beat when it comes to meaningful work. Fortunately I was not on my own. The Cincinnati Affiliates had my back, and returned missioner Mike Gable sent me a job description for a position in the archdiocese’s Catholic Social Action Office. I am now regional director of Catholic Social Action and live in Dayton, Ohio, where I went to university. I find myself becoming busier than ever working with groups tackling social justice issues and promoting Catholic Social Teaching. There is even a growing population of Haitians forming in Springfield, which is part of my region. Attending a special New Year’s Day Mass in Haitian Kreyòl to celebrate Haitian Independence brought back many good memories of Haiti. Still in the midst of winter, I long for Haiti’s warm sun, the warm food and the warm smiles I once greeted every day. I pray that the situation in Haiti — all the violence and insecurity has increased since I’ve left — cools down and that the people can find some peace at last.”

Migrant ministry continues to evolve

January 2024: Returned missioner Celine Woznica (Class of 1981 – Nicaragua, Mexico) writes in an update to Chicago’s Maryknoll Affiliates: “The Migrant Ministry has me so busy that I am behind on many things…. It has grown so much! We started off providing showers at a closed rectory in Oak Park for migrants sleeping at a nearby Chicago police station. Our ministry has expanded and now we are located at a closed parish school (also in Oak Park).” The effort that Celine has been coordinating has attracted extensive local and national media coverage. “We have been covered in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, and even a few photos in the Washington Post. The Christian Broadcasting Network’s 700 Club (segment starts at 12:45) carried a feature, and most recently the Scripps News Service.” The Archdiocese of Chicago produced this video.

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