New Lay Maryknoll Missioners Span the Globe to Help the Poor


Mike Garr hopes to return from his mission in Kenya in 2021 with a better understanding of people living in poverty. The 61-year-old retiree is one of seven missioners in the 50th Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ (MKLM) class who will begin their assignments this month.

“I would like to have a better understanding of why people who have so little have so much faith and love,” the parishioner of St. Michael’s in Grand Ledge, Mich., told CNY.

The six other missioners and their overseas assignments are Kylene Fremling, Cambodia; Gabe Hurrish, South Sudan; Gabrielle Cuda and Angelica Ruppe, Tanzania; Margarita Duran, Brazil; and Kathleen Flatoff, Kenya. Each missioner will serve three and a half years.

The missioners completed a 10-week orientation program at Maryknoll in Ossining that began Oct. 1. They were instructed on topics such as Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ history and core values, theology and Scripture, Catholic social teaching, practical training for conflict resolution and communication, and spiritual development and prayer.

Maryknoll missioners live and work in poor communities in Africa, Asia and the Americas, serving in missions such as education and leadership training, faith formation and pastoral care, health care and health promotion, and justice and peace.

Some 800 Maryknoll Lay Missioners have served around the world inspired by the mission of Jesus to assist the poor. Single people, married couples or families who are Catholic and over the age of 21 may apply.

“Our orientation program gives our new missioners basic tools for adapting to a new culture and country. We are sure that the Class of 2017 will enter this new journey in their lives with enthusiasm and compassion for those whom they will serve in mission,” said Debbie Northern, MKLM training and educational programs manager.

Garr learned of Maryknoll four years ago from Father Brian Barron, M.M., the regional director for Maryknoll in Asia, who visited his parish. The two spoke and remained in contact, getting together when Father Barron visited Michigan. Garr said he gained knowledge of MKLM through the Catholic Volunteer Network.

“I started doing service work when I came back to the Church 14 years ago and fell in love with it. I started taking short-term mission trips and decided it was what I was going to do when I retired,” said Garr, who looks to further deepen his faith in God in Kenya.

Garr is leaving his three adult children and two grandchildren to return to Maryknoll in Westchester County this week before leaving for Kenya Jan. 30. He’s still uncertain of his mission and exactly where in Kenya he will be assigned.

He said the orientation program and the previous short-term mission trips before he joined the MKLM program helped relieve him of nerves and prepare him for the mission. “I trust God will take care of it,” he said.

Miss Cuda, a parishioner of St. Joseph’s in Long Beach, Calif., left from Los Angeles Dec. 30 and visited Rome on a layover for a few days before beginning her mission Jan. 3 in Tanzania, where she is being trained to teach women how to start a small business as well as financial and life skills.

Miss Cuda, 23, is the daughter of Deacon Shane Cuda, director of deacons in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Olga Cuda, business manager at the rectory of St. Joseph’s. She said she was hoping to do another mission in Africa after completing one in Uganda last summer and learned of the MKLM through the Catholic Volunteer Network.

“What appealed to me about Maryknoll was the long-term commitment and they offered an opportunity in East Africa,” she said. “I’m nervous, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s playing into my excitement about the trip. I’m trusting God everything will be OK.”

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