Life Updates from Annie Burns!

September 29, 2016

Compañerxs, Friends, Dear Ones –

I am writing you to initiate the first of many installments of my keeping-you-up-to-date-newsletter-of-sorts thing. (For those with wit and rhyme – the competition for the most clever newsletter name is in full swing! I’d love to hear your ideas). I am so grateful for your companionship and for your willingness to share in the next adventure with me, and I look forward to hearing about the graces and challenges that come with your own journey these next few years. That said, if you’re not sure why you are receiving this email and/or would like to spare your inbox for the next 3 and a half years, please don’t hesitate to let me know and I will remove you from my list!

And now, without further ado, some life updates:

It has been a busy summer! I said my goodbyes to Chicago and all of its wonders after taking a one-week course at the Catholic Theological Union. Dr. Rick Gaillardetz offered us a crash course in ecclesiology called Power and Authority in the Church. Needless to say I learned a lot and have already been able to put that knowledge to work during my summer internship. Upon my return to Cleveland, I began work with an organization called FutureChurch (FC). FC is a church reform organization that seeks to provide all Roman Catholics the opportunity to participate fully in Church life and leadership. Deb, Russ, Kathleen, and Ann Marie, the small but mighty FC team, have been empowering mentors. They have offered me a number of opportunities to challenge myself, apply my experience and skills, and work to create resources to embolden those seeking justice in the Church. From writing pieces for the FC newsletter to sharing my reflections during a recent teleconference (listen in!), I am so grateful for the immense growth and learning that has resulted from their invitation and support. My main project for the summer has been to track where women are in positions of leadership in the Catholic Church, from the most local levels right on up to the Vatican. Our hope is to soon launch a website illustrating this information, and to put a metric on Pope Francis’ suggestions for greater inclusion of women. I will be sure to share that site with you once it goes live! As is clear, it has been a remarkable summer working alongside the team at FC, and I am so grateful for their willingness to welcome me onboard in this period of transience.

While FutureChurch has certainly kept me busy, a few other adventures have filled my summer with joy and laughter. I went on a quick visit to St. Louis in June for a friend’s surprise birthday/graduation party. While there I attended the Jesuit ordinations that happened to be the same weekend and had a pint at my favorite pub (McGurk’s). I spent two evenings at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario, enjoying the Tribe’s run for the AL Central (translation: watched the Cleveland Indians win a few baseball games). A roadtrip to Toronto allowed for a blessed visit with the Church St. community of L’Arche Daybreak and my dear friend Rusty. Per tradition, my family and I went on vacation to Stone Harbor, NJ. Hoagies, sticky buns, and ice cream were plentiful, though nothing was so sweet as hanging out with my two adorable nephews (PICTURES!). And, fortunately, I have had quite a few opportunities to hang out with my extended family. I particularly enjoyed a recent day with Pops (my grandpa), as he shared some old photos with me. One photo of his mother’s family dated back to 1908! It has been a jam-packed summer and I cannot believe how quickly the months have flown by. I only have a few more days to organize, pack, and wrap up things in good old Cleveland before I begin my time with Maryknoll.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM) provides its new missioner candidates with a 10-week orientation that aims to provide the tools needed to be successful in cross-cultural experiences. On October 1st, I will be moving to Ossining, NY, home of the extended Maryknoll community, to attend this orientation, which will include seminars on topics such as Catholic Social Teaching, Scripture, Communications, Conflict Resolution, Maryknoll Lay Missioner history and values, etc. I will also spend time studying the region in which I will be living and working for the next few years…

After an extensive process of both personal and organizational discernment, the MKLM Leadership Team has extended a placement invitation to me to live and work for the next 3 years in Cochabamba, Bolivia. While my exact work placement will be determined in country, I will spend the first 12 weeks of my time in Bolivia studying Spanish and living with a host family. I will be missioned, primarily, to listen and to learn about the communities present in Cochabamba, to study Bolivia’s history and socio-cultural realties, and to figure out how to get to the grocery store, among other things. Hopefully, after these few short weeks, I will find some way to be of use amongst and alongside the Bolivians I will soon encounter.

But alas, all of these things are yet far off! I will be in Ossining for orientation into December, and then will swing back through Cleveland for the holidays. I won’t be heading towards Bolivia until early January, but I am grateful for the time this provides to share life with my family and friends in Northeast Ohio, and to prepare for all of the gifts and growth to come.

And now. For some regular features.

In each update I share with you while I am in Bolivia, I am hoping to add a few tidbits that are consistent over time. They include a must listen to song, a must read news article, and a piece of wisdom. My hope is that the pieces I share will, over time, offer a view into the things that are resonating with me, challenging me, and giving me reason to dance in my new home. So. Round 1:

Must listen to song(s) of the week: the radio edit of Zac Brown Band’s song “Castaway” has been lifting my spirits lately. The group’s vocal talent is incredible and the opening refrain is captivating! I also recently discovered a new song by my favorite artist, The Weepies. I could listen to “Early Morning Riser” on repeat for hours – in fact…I may or may not have done just that at work last week. These two up beat songs feel like summer might last forever. I hope you enjoy them.

Must read news article(s) of the week: So far as news goes these days, this piece is a little dated, but its content is pretty exciting. At the beginning of August, Pope Francis named the members of a new Pontifical Commission to study the historical role of women deacons. My friend Luke goes into detail about the particulars of this new commission in a Q&A with The Jesuit Post,  but, if you want to learn more about women deacons more generally, check out Finally, Jamie Manson wrote a compelling article for NCR regarding the unfounded and unfair accusations frequently placed on women who seek greater participation in the Church.

Wisdom for the week: This East of Eden quote has been one of my screen savers for a few months now, but it continues to resonate with the realities of this wild, precious life we’re living: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck

Go be good, kids. Please be sure to write back with updates from your own adventures, as time allows. It would be wonderful to hear how God has been at work in your days. And don’t forget to share any newsletter name ideas for this terribly long opening letter — I promise I’ll get better at this!

Hasta prontissimo, amigxs. Until soon.


“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” ~ Wendell Berry


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