kenningOur Diocesan Relationships with Bolivia

Brother Lawrence (Larry) Kenning, a native of St. Mary Help of Christians Parish in St. Augusta, and Maryknoll missioner, lived and served in Cochabamba, Bolivia. His ministry there helps us be connected with the area, and we are always grateful to hear from him. Below is a bit more about Bro. Larry and his ministry.

A Future of New Relationships

Retired Maryknoll Brother Lawrence Kenning, originally from St. Augusta, Minnesota, now living in New York, but a past resident of the South American country of Bolivia for over 30 years, believes that the big question of our time is the question of violence or nonviolence. He states, “We cannot afford the culture of violence.” Referring to the violence of current economic world structures he maintains, “we could live with 15% of what we now have.”

Brother Lawrence believes that living out non-violence is the best way to preach it. Three days a week he worked at a high school with 500 students, 80 of whom are boarding students, in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Rather than taking on the role of strict disciplinarian, he believes that it is a patient, kind and accepting presence that makes a difference in the lives of the students. He likens his ministry with the youth to one of parenting and finds the work fulfilling. Another 3 days of the week Brother Lawrence worked with AA groups and the poor. He has seen poverty increase in Bolivia since he first arrived in 1970. On the streets of Cochabamba there are hundreds of people – women and children – begging, for lack of a good job with fair pay. International commercial systems are part of the cause that maintain people in poverty. He believes that “our ways are failing ways for more than 50% of the global family. The distance between the rich and poor has expanded.” Not only does the current system wreak havoc on people’s lives, it is also destroying the environment at an alarming rate. We need to practice sustainable life styles that do not abuse the earth’s resources such as energy, food, water and soil.

kenning2The future needs to be one of new relationships, says Brother Lawrence, because relationships of dominance have not worked. Many people are coming to realize that wars, such as the U.S. preemptive strike on Iraq, have actually made the situation worse. Brother Lawrence writes, “In my heart, I know that… the Resurrection is growing up and going beyond the need for revenge; being big enough to forgive. In all and every situation only then can I again hear the voice of Jesus.”

Brother Lawrence finds hope amidst the people of Bolivia. He worked with an Aymara man who runs a library for a whole neighborhood of youth. Another sign of hope is the no-motorized-vehicles day celebrated annually in the city of Cochabamba. Once a year from 9am to 5pm the 700,000 people of the city leave their cars, trucks and buses parked, and walk. The experience of clean air and little noise on that day are wonderful. People casually walk the sidewalks, parents teach their little ones to ride bicycles, soccer games are played in the streets. It is a wonderful model for other cities to follow.