10 October 2013

maryknoll? what's that?

As many of you have heard, Michael and I recently left Dallas for our eventual move to Tanzania. You know generally that we're doing nonprofit work. You know it has a Christian/Catholic flavor to it. And you sometimes heard the word, "Maryknoll" when we were discussing our transition and new jobs. But what is Maryknoll? How did it come to be?

Yay! Time for a history lesson!


I know, I know. I'm one of the few children who pulled their kiddie chairs closer to the teacher when I used to hear these words. But I'll try to make this fun, modern, and mercifully brief. A quick disclaimer to accompany the post: As with all organizations, we have a, shall we say, interesting history, about which I am only beginning to learn. All opinions in this post are 100% my own, maybe 51% Michael's, and 0% for pretty much anyone else affiliated with Maryknoll. Done and done.

So let's get started!

About 100 years ago, two dudes named Walsh and Price from Boston and North Carolina, respectively, met up and discussed a common idea they had about sending other dudes overseas to share faith experiences and stories. (Side note: all of these dudes were American Catholic priests.) The dudes got ultimate approval from Pius IX, a.k.a. The Pope, and the group became known as the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America. Very fancy, I know.

When Walsh and Price got some dollah dollah bills, they set up shop in a little town/village known as Ossining, New York, on the Hudson River line! (I'm sorry, I know Michael already referenced the Billy Joel song, but I'm obsessed!) The campus, which is still here today, is on a large grassy hill in Westchester county, making it a "knoll." After the spot was dedicated to Mary, the mother of J.C., the affectionate nickname of "Maryknoll" was coined and eventually stuck as a way to describe the Fathers and Brothers.

Walsh, Price and a couple other random dudes

um, yes, can you believe this is new york?

Okay, you're thinking, fair enough, but where's the girl power?

Oh, it's here. And it's in full National Women's Hall of Fame force.

One young Bostonian home girl, named Mary Joseph Rogers, had met Father Walsh, the guy I talked about earlier, and offered her services to the newly formed Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Walsh thought Rogers was a gem so he asked her to assist with a group of female "secretaries" at Maryknoll. She obliged and after ten years or so, Rogers decided to establish the group as a separate religious congregation as the Maryknoll Sisters. And she did! And she's being inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame! Because she was the first woman, ladies and gentlemen, to get a religious organization established, which was dedicated to serving overseas AND most importantly, was led by women. In 1920. What's up now.

now there's a classy lady.

"But Ashley, you and Michael are married. And you haven't taken vows of poverty or obedience or anything like that."


Luckily for us, single folks, married people, and families have wanted to serve abroad for many, many years with Maryknoll but for obvious reasons, haven't felt the pull to join the Fathers, Brothers, or Sisters. As early as 1930, actually. This non-religious, "lay" component subsisted as a program under the Fathers and Brothers up until the 1990's, when we became our own 501(c)(3), legal speak for a nonprofit organization, headquartered in the state of New York, known as the Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM).

Separate from these three, we also have the Maryknoll Affiliates, which I didn't even know about until a few weeks ago! The Affiliates make up an awesome group of individuals stationed here in the States, who dedicate themselves to the mission (or charism, in Catholic terms) of Maryknoll while remaining committed to a life here. They also put together groups of folks who travel to our MKLM sites for immersion and service opportunities. (If you're interested, let us know and we can hook you up with a local chapter!)

So together, the four of us  - Fathers and Brothers, Sisters, Lay Missioners, and Affiliates - make up one, big, happy Maryknoll famiglia! Right? Right. Kind of. Except for one little thing.

kind of true.

Remember those dollah dollah bills I mentioned? Ugh, they just always get in the way.

After hearing our Maryknoll news, so many friends and family have exclaimed, "That's great! I already give money to Maryknoll!" It's easy to think, with a common mission and similar values, we would be funded together. Or maybe divvy up donations equally. But we don't. Since MKLM became a separate nonprofit, all of our fundraising is FUBU - For Us, By Us. Although we're under the common Maryknoll umbrella, we don't share money. It gets messy and complicated. Furthermore, MKLM has realized that we all have different needs. And that's okay.

But the transition hasn't been an easy one. Frankly, the religious (a.k.a. the Father, Brothers, and Sisters) have been formal fundraising machines for over 100 years. This means they have donor lists much longer and deeper than our own. They have a staff much bigger than our own dedicated to raising money. We are only at the beginning of our story.

With that said, if you are reading this blog, you are likely a dear friend of mine, Michael, or both of us. (If not, we would love if you became one!) We'd like to ask you to continue to follow us on this journey, with the hope that some of you will feel compelled to help us financially, in addition to your mail, thoughts, prayers, and general good vibes. Some of you have already started writing checks and putting cash in our hands, which is amazingly generous and we thank you from the bottom of our newly minted nonprofit hearts.

money comes in - we get psyched!

For the rest of you, you can financially support us by clicking here to donate to the Maryknoll Lay Missioners general fund. Your donation will help pay the cost of recruiting, training, sending, and sustaining people like us overseas who live and work in solidarity with the marginalized, destitute, and the forgotten. For us right now, donations assist in covering our current orientation room and board fees and payment for the cross-cultural training we receive.

If - and this is where it gets tricky - you currently give to Maryknoll, which most likely goes directly to the Fathers and Brothers, that is totally cool. We love the Fathers and Brothers like we love, well, our fathers and brothers. But just know that we don't see any of that moola. So like I said, keep up with us and we hope that you'll feel pulled to get involved with us too, if you don't already!

MKLM Headquarters!

MKLM currently has 70 missioners serving in 6 countries, with over 700 alumni! That's a lotta good people. Hundreds of good people! Working with good people all over the world! And we're so happy to be just two among the many.

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