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Returned Missioner News

TJ Hellman continues grassroots involvement

June 2022: While a missioner in El Salvador, T.J. Hellman (Class of 1999) worked with the local community of San Ramón on local concerns and needs. His main project was helping to open a youth center with a focus on youth empowerment and environmental sustainability. They organized hiking trips, fixed bikes, ran a secondhand store, printed t-shirts, made recycled paper, and gave talks on environmentalism to local schools. Now living with his wife, Rachel, and two children, Gloria and Elias, in Terre Haute, Indiana, T.J. is on the board and volunteers with Rethink, a grassroots non-profit working on sustainability. Rethink has community gardens, a zero-waste shop and an upcycling center where plastics are repurposed. T.J. says his interest in grassroots efforts started in El Salvador: “I loved learning from the people, and that lesson has stuck with me.” He is a web developer and graphic designer for a worker-owned cooperative that works with social justice organizations. Although the family will move to Indianapolis soon, T.J. intends to continue working for grassroots organizations there, “wherever I can best fit in to get involved.”

Richard Ross completes Camino

May 2022: Richard Ross (Class of 2012 – Tanzania) writes: Last September I went back to Spain to finish the French Camino I had started in September 2019. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, I had to wait before I could go back. On my first trip I had walked 340 of the 500-mile walk. The 2011 movie, “The Way” had inspired me to make this walk and to follow St. James’ way to the “end of the earth” to spread the Gospel in Spain. On Sept. 15 I took a taxi to Hospital de Orbigo, where I had ended my first walk in 2019 and started on the second part of my Camino to Santiago. Santiago (St. James in Old Spanish) is the name of the town and the cathedral where the remains of St. James are located in the crypt of the church. On the way, I walked up to the Iron Cross (Cruz de Ferro), the highest point of the Camino anywhere, where pilgrims drop a stone representing some cross they are leaving to God to help them carry. To finish my Camino I walked 13 of the 17 days that I was in Spain. The total on the second part of the walk was 178.31 miles, averaging 13.7 miles/day in a total of 67 hours walking, averaging 2.66 miles per day.

Katie Hudak ordained as Episcopal priest

March 2022: Katie Hudak (Class of 1988 – Venezuela, Mexico) shares: My almost ten years as a Maryknoll lay missioner launched me to work with nonprofits that have a focus on immigrants. I worked at Borderlinks along the Arizona-Mexico border, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. Most recently I served as the director of development at Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services in El Paso, where we worked to “provide immigration legal services, advocacy, and community outreach to protect immigrants’ rights and advance justice in the spirit of the Gospel.” Since my return from Venezuela and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, I have had bumps, bruises, and scrapes along the way, but mostly I have been incredibly blessed! Thanks to Maryknoll, I met my husband, Miguel Angel, in Ciudad Juárez. I have been able to progress in my faith journey over the years as well. Most recently my faith journey compelled me to become an Episcopal priest! I was ordained on August 1, 2021 and am currently serving to fill in as needed in El Paso churches on Sundays. My years as a missioner have brought me to where I am today — always a missioner!

Nancy Davies’ Parish Involvement at Border

January 2022: Nancy Davies (Class of 2012 – Cambodia) writes:

In 2016, after returning home to Olympia, Washington, from my time in Cambodia with Maryknoll Lay Missioners, I joined a ministry at my local parish called Journey of the Heart. This ministry prepares and accompanies parishioners on short-term mission trips to the Holy Spirit Center in Juárez, Mexico. Since we have not been able to visit there for the last couple of years due to COVID, two of us on the formation team flew down to El Paso, Texas, and then across the border to the center to evaluate where they might need help in the future. On the way home we stopped in El Paso to meet with Debbie Northern, who is currently serving in El Paso. She gave us a tour through one of her ministries, Annunciation House’s Casa de Refugiados, which processes people who are coming to the U.S. from many different countries. I was so impressed! This is a huge facility with plenty of space for intake, a dining room, dormitories, office, etc. Everything was spotless and the staff very friendly. Debbie was so accommodating to show us around and describe the process to us. I was so impressed at how they can process folks through in a short amount of time, requiring that they often are only there overnight before moving on to more permanent housing.

Rest in peace, Carolyn Bosse

November 2021: We mourn the loss of Carolyn Bosse, who served as a Maryknoll lay missioner from 1985 to 2010. She passed on to eternal life Nov. 19, 2021, at a hospital in Booneville, Kentucky. Carolyn and her husband, Ronald (called “Bosse”), were long-term missioners in South America, serving in Peru, Patagonia (Argentina) and Chile and were part of the formative period of the program and, later, of the association. Bosse is one of the first Maryknoll lay missioners, having also served in Peru from 1974 until 1981. The funeral mass for Carolyn was to be held Friday, Nov. 26 at Holy Family Church in Booneville, Kentucky. Give Carolyn eternal rest, O God, and may your light shine on her forever.

Susan Tollefson offers renewal in desert hermitage

November 2021: Susan Tollefson (Class of 1993) lived and served as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso (1997-2003) and Thailand (1993-1997). She is now stewarding wildlands for simple solitude and renewal retreats in southeastern Arizona. The Hermitage Program of the Cascabel Conservation Association has a history rooted in the Sanctuary movement. Please contact Susan if you are interested in seeking out a sojourn in a simple place for renewal. Activists and faith-based groups come for reflection and the healing that nature can provide.

De Mellos find inspiration at the border

October 2021: Returned lay missioner Merwyn De Mello (Class of 1994 – Japan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe) and his wife, Kirstin, recently participated in the weekly peace vigil at the County Courthouse in El Paso, Texas; and spent two days at Casa Tabor, a peace and “contemplative political action” center across the border in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. “We prayed to the saints from Central and South America whose names Sister Betty [Campbell, RSM; co-founder of both the peace vigil and Casa Tabor] has artistically memorialized on canvas mounted on a wall in the courtyard… — journalists, priests, men, women, migrants who have been killed or lost their lives as a result of the evils in our social and political systems…. We also walked the labyrinth in the courtyard, meditating on our own role in the structural evil and the strength and discipline one needs to develop to bring nonviolent change…. We give thanks to God for the inspiration we received from the life of a dedicated activist-peacemaker.”

Maggie Han joins Secular Franciscans

August 2021: After three years of preparation, Maggie Han (Class of 1996 – Venezuela) joined the Secular Franciscans on August 1. “I am grateful that God gave me the opportunity to follow the footsteps of St. Francis so that I can continue to live the Gospel value after Maryknoll,” she says.

Deirdre Cornell joins Maryknoll magazine staff

June 2021: In May, Deirdre Cornell (Class of 2002) joined the staff of Maryknoll magazine as its new associate editor. As lay missioners, Deirdre; her husband, Kenney Gould; and their children served from 2004 to 2007 in Oaxaca, Mexico. While there, Deirdre coordinated base communities, parenting workshops and participation in development projects. She is the author of the Orbis books Jesus Was a Migrant (2014), American Madonna (2010) and A Priceless View (2003) and a longtime contributor to Maryknoll and Misioneros magazines.

Susan Nagele featured in SIU medical school magazine

June 2021: Dr. Susan Nagele (Class of 1984 – Tanzania, Sudan, Kenya, U.S.) was honored with a feature article in the Spring 2021 issue of Aspects, the magazine of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Susan is an alum of the medical school. Titled “Missions accomplished,” the article by Steve Sandstrom highlights her storied 35-year-long career as a Maryknoll lay missioner physician who served primarily in East Africa. Read the full article here.

Tom Hinchen’s environmental parish ministry

May 2021: Tom Hinchen (Class of 1979 – Peru) is featured in a story by the Brooklyn, New York, diocesan newspaper The Tablet about the Care for Creation Ministry of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Bay Ridge, New York. The article describes the various ways the parish works to put Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ into practice. Read the full article here.

Bertha Haas Continues Ministry in Tanzania

May 2021: Bertha Haas (Class of 2002- Tanzania) helped found Huruma School, a ministry for young people with disabilities in Mwanza, Tanzania, 17 years ago. “Though we had to do it virtually this year, for the sixth time Taste of Tanzania has raised enough funds to pay Huruma salaries for another year…. The videos that Director Toto had sent of students, staff and parents in action drew us into the reality of Huruma’s daily life.” Besides updates on accomplishments, recent reports from Huruma School also shared sorrows. “Two teachers have lost relatives recently. A student was unable to recover after several months of illness and several hospitalizations. Another student … left the home he shared with his grandmother in the morning and has never returned. Mr. Toto is still trying to arrange continued education for a deaf student whose father took her back to the village. …Other progress … this year has been the development of a new website.” Besides her continuing Huruma support, Bertha is also actively involved in religious education and the justice and peace ministry of her parish and in the Portland Maryknoll Affiliate group.

Charlie Petro helps immigrants with vaccinations

May 2021: Charlie Petro (Class of 2015 – Tanzania) is the executive director of Ixim: Spirit of Solidarity. A ministry of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Ixim connects it with the Diocese of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. “Our organization prays and acts together and supports projects in both dioceses.” Recently, they worked to help Omaha’s local migrant community get vaccinated by partnering with two parishes and a local health provider to promote and provide vaccinations to parishioners, the wider Spanish-speaking community and people across Omaha (watch local news coverage here). Charlie says, “My time in Maryknoll Lay Missioners inspired me to want to connect people to mission and open their hearts to the value of solidarity. The most important lesson I learned from Tanzania was that true development must be based in solidarity. People must build relationships and share a common vision to meet the challenges of our world successfully. With Ixim, I help others build those relationships in our community in Omaha and between the people of the United States and the people of Huehuetenango.”

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