“Kama vile baba alivyonipenda mimi, nipenda mimi, (nami) nilivyowapenda ninyi kaeni katika pendo langu.” Every time I think about Maryknoll fraternity, this Swahili song from St. Bernadette Catholic Choir in my homeland of Kenya rings in my mind. It is translated as “just like the father has loved me, so I have loved you, stay in that love.” (John 13:34). This is the pillar that holds the missionary work that Maryknoll does.
Being a missioner means being a disciple of Jesus and a steward of God’s love and grace. While the reasons always changed, since my youth I always wanted to be a priest. As the journey to priesthood moves forward, these reasons continue to change and mature day by day. Through the many conferences and new experiences, each time I encounter my formators and other missioners I get to grasp more deeply the kind of work ahead. I have always wanted to work with youth and young adults. My dream is to be that priest who is a disciple of Jesus Christ and a steward of God’s love and grace for all. The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have brought that light to me. I have come to admire Fr. Lance Nadeau, my university chaplain. I consider him a mentor and one of the brightest stars in my life. On the second day of my stay at Kenyatta University, he became my role model. This sounds a little weird because one choses a role model after you have “eaten salt” with the person. He is the kind of priest I always wanted to be. He gave me reasons to want to know more about Maryknoll. I first learned the traits of a missioner priest from him and later he introduced me to the Society.
The Maryknoll missioners in the African Region were splendid. I visited the superior at his parish and he became like a father to me. Then there were Fr. Mike Kirwen and Fr. John Conway, whom we nicknamed grandpa and Sem. Jonathan Hill whom we named “king kaka”, the elder brother. The Vocation Director, Fr. Mike Snyder, even amazed me as he gave me more insights and motivations to be that true missioner. Everyone, in baptism, is called to be a missioner in our daily lives. It is a call to spiritual maturity in Christ, a call to holiness, community, service and generosity. In my search for the best route to achieve these goals I have encountered the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. We are placed on this earth to absorb God’s love and pass it on to those around us. Maryknoll does this in a very special way; its identity is love.
Through the exercise of responsible stewardship, a Maryknoll charism that filled the hearts of its founders, we are moved by the call to care for others and share God’s love.St. Augustine wrote: “Because you have loved me Lord, you have made me lovable.” We recognize the love of God in us and hence, we are called to share that love and care for others. We help the family of God recognize that love of Christ. Being a missioner is a noble and courageous call. It is a call to love!
Joshua Mutende Maondo is a seminarian participating in the Spiritual Year segment of our Initial Formation Program in Chicago. Joshua hails from Kakamega, Kenya. He first came to know Maryknoll through his chaplain at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education.