16 March 2015

we are edge people.

What would you say if asked, "What defines you? What are you about?"

Would you have your answer ready?

Recently we were invited to a dinner with our local Maryknoll community (lay missioners, sisters, priests, brothers) and some guests visiting from the United States. In about the first 18 seconds of the meal, one of the guests asked us, "What defines Maryknoll? What is Maryknoll about?" (I thought, "Whoa, take it easy buddy. Barely sat down and you're already dishing out the big questions.")

We looked across the table at each other, a bit caught off guard, waiting to see who among us would respond. Various answers erupted from the group, most of which were unimpressive and just meant as jokes (e.g. Those having no regard for their personal health), and then the conversation simply moved on.

But at the close of the meal, just before we were all about to take our leave for the night, the one Maryknoll Priest among us, Fr. Jim, said he'd like to comment on the aforementioned question posed to the group regarding the charism of Maryknoll. (Fr. Jim had sat quietly when the question was originally posed.)

Fr. Jim has lived in Tanzania since 1985, and has never lived anywhere as long as he has in Mwanza, Tanzania. (That latter fact, in my opinion, is grounds for immediate canonization.) Believing Fr. Jim to be a man of great wisdom, and one with enormous experience as a Maryknoller, I eagerly awaited his response. Below is my paraphrase of Fr. Jim's answer to the question, "What is the charism of Maryknoll?

We are edge people. We are from the center but we exist to go out to the edges, to those living on the margins. We share our gifts, time and talents and learn from each other. And then we return to the center to share that experience, but ultimately we go back out again to the edges, because that's where we are called to be.

Boo-yah grandma.

It was a simple yet powerful answer, and I felt not only proud but also inspired by Fr. Jim's words. I felt that he rather succinctly articulated in four words ("We are edge people.") what drew me and Ashley to overseas mission, what shapes our values and what directs our consumer decisions.

Life in Mwanza, Tanzania often feels heavy, but I left dinner that night with a renewed hope and sense of strength and purpose.

Sometimes - no matter who you are and what you do - it is good and necessary to stop and ask yourself, "Who am I? What am I about? What is driving me?" Think about it.


  1. I liked a Maryknoll priest's answer to this same question in Bolivia. You can tell a Maryknoller at an embassy event as they are the ones talking with the waiters/waitresses and other staff while others try to suck up to those in power.

    1. It would be interesting to collect answers to this same question from both Maryknollers and those with whom Maryknollers have worked.

  2. Hi y'all! Not to be a total creeper, but I found your blog via Curt Klueg. I am the new Maryknoller in Mombasa. I've very much enjoyed perusing your hilarious and poignant reflections. They remind me of hyperbole and a half if you're familiar with it. Looking forward to meeting y'all at some function or another. :)

    1. We have no issue with creepers. Hyperbole and a half is hysterical. Good to hear from you Teresa.


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