First Stop on the Lay Missionary Journey

By Ribordy, Chad; Martel, Angel | National Catholic Reporter, July 31, 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

First Stop on the Lay Missionary Journey

Ribordy, Chad, Martel, Angel, National Catholic Reporter

Couple will spend next three years at the service of the poor in Brazil

They met as North Americans teaching in Guam. In 1992, they returned to the United States and, in 1994, wed. Angel Mortel, now 29, who grew up in San Francisco, and Chad Ribordy, 33, of Wichita, Kan., applied in 1997 to become Maryknoll Lay Missioners. They'd talked often about a life of service, they said, as they reminisced over an Italian meal barely a month before they left for Brazil in January this year. "Finally, one day," recalled Mortel, "we just said, `Fine, we'll apply once we [have] paid off my college loans. We'll give it a try.'"

Mortel, educated at Oberlin College and American University with a bachelor's in English and Third World studies and a master's in international development, was working as Office Manager at Bread for the World; Ribordy, with a bachelor's in Philosophy from Conception Seminary College and a master's in Pastoral Theology from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, was teaching high school religion.

The Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, known as the MMAF, founded in 1994 as a successor to an earlier lay mission program run under the auspices of the Maryknoll fathers, prepares its missioners with four months of theological and cross-cultural studies in Maryknoll, New York. The initial obligation is a 3-and-a-half-year renewable contract as a lay missioner in a location mutually agreed on between the association and each missioner. After in-country language training, the lay missioner is at the service of the local poor and needy.

In Brazil, where Mortel and Ribordy were bound, the Maryknoll presence includes lay people, sisters and priests in Sao Paulo and the Northeastern city of Joao Pessoa, working in the areas of women's and children's rights, land issues, prison ministry, marginalized people living and working in the city dump and Christian Base Communities. Before they left, NCR asked the young coup& to periodically file an account of the new life that confronted their first year in Brazil while the impressions were new and stark.

This first letter from Brazil covers their first month ia the country.

A 10-hour plane ride from the United States, and we finally landed in the city of Sao Paulo, home of nearly 18 million people. It seemed that the plane took as long to fly over the city as it did to fly over the country.

For several weeks, we stayed with colleagues in Brasilandia, an area on the edge of the city. Though not a slum by Brazilian standards, it is definitely a poor neighborhood, with garbage strewn in the streets, deep pot holes, half-constructed though occupied homes and a whole assembly of stray, mangy dogs.

In one of our first days in the neighborhood, we visited the home of a local parishioner, Lucinha. Her house is situated in a small valley among a cluster of similar-looking homes in am area prone to flooding from the frequent torrential rains. We had to step over a stream of open sewage to get to the front door of the small house. The cinderblock wails and rafters were exposed, and the cement floor was bare. The two windows in the house didn't provide sufficient ventilation on that 92-degree day.

We were warmly welcomed (no pun intended), Lucinha lives with her husband -- who was away working one of his marathon shifts as a restaurant waiter -- and their four children. Their 5-year-old daughter has a terrible bone defect in her knees; one of the triplet boys also has a physical defect -- he has virtually no neck, and one shoulder is higher than the other. He also had open sores on his back and legs. In spite of the heat and cranky kids, Lucinha exuded dignity, maintained her composure, was very attentive to her guests and seemed not at all embarrassed by her poverty. During the course of our conversation, Lucinha, who is darkskinned, congratulated Angel, who is of Filipino descent, for having married Chad, a white man, a telling comment on Brazil's racism.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

First Stop on the Lay Missionary Journey


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?