Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
MARYKNOLL FATHERS AND BROTHERS
The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, popularly known as the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, is a community of secular priests and lay brothers dedicated to mission work outside the United States, and to education about the meaning and realities of mission. Founded in 1911 by two diocesan priests, James A. walsh (1867–1936) of Boston and Thomas F. price (1860–1919) of Raleigh, North Carolina, the society today serves in 30 countries. The headquarters and formation center of the society are at Maryknoll, New York, near Ossining, New York.
Organization, Objectives, and Formation. Canonically a society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, the society comprises secular priests, lay brothers, and candidates. Members commit themselves to missionary work by lifetime oath. Rather than seeking members outside the United States, the society has historically promoted within the local churches the development of their own diocesan, religious and lay vocations, and the creation of their own missionary societies. The society describes its missionary activity as "integral evangelization" carried out "through: presence and witness, human promotion and liberation, liturgical life, prayer and contemplation, inter-religious dialogue, and explicit proclamation and catechesis." (General Chapter, 1996). The formation and education of Maryknoll priest and brother candidates includes one year of spiritual discernment and study at Maryknoll, New York, followed by accredited theological and ministry studies. Ministry preparation includes a supervised two-year intern experience overseas in a Maryknoll mission.
Foundation. It was not until 1908 (decree sapienti consilio of Pope pius x) that the church in the United States ceased to be administered as a mission territory under the Congregation for the propagation of the faith. By that time there was a growing concern by many that, despite religious needs at home, U.S. Catholics should assume without delay an active role in the Church's worldwide missionary effort. It was noted that North American Protestants already had several thousand missioners in overseas fields with millions of dollars in support. Catholic missioners from the United States numbered fewer than 18.
One early manifestation of foreign mission interest was the establishment in the United States of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in 1897. A mission fundraising organization based in France, it was well promoted in the archdiocese of Boston under its director Fr. James A. Walsh. In 1904 Walsh attended a meeting of the Catholic Missionary Union in Washington, D.C., where he addressed priests who were leaders in missionary work within the United States, sharing with them his conviction that promotion of foreign missions would also give stimulus to missionary activity at home. Among his hearers was Fr. Thomas F. Price of Raleigh, North Carolina, an itinerant missioner who was struggling to develop a missionary community of secular priests for service in his home state. Price soon began promoting the foreign mission cause in his national magazine Truth. In 1907 Walsh began publishing his own mission magazine, the Field Afar, which urged the establishment of a foreign mission seminary for secular priests of the United States. Among those who assisted in the production of the magazine was Mary J. Rogers, who would later become foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters.
In September 1910 Walsh and Price met again by chance at a Eucharistic Congress in Montreal. Price urged that they take immediate steps themselves to establish a missionary society and seminary. Walsh accepted the challenge. Price conferred with Cardinal James gibbons of Baltimore, who was then the dean of the U.S. hierarchy and with whom Price was personally acquainted. Gibbons was immediately favorable to the project and recommended Price to the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Diomede Falconio, who was also favorable and advised that the society and seminary be national, rather than dependent on a diocese. He asked Gibbons to address a formal proposal to the archbishops that could be acted on at their next annual meeting. Walsh and Price drafted a letter to the bishops, and Price personally canvassed several of the bishops for their support of the proposal.
At their meeting at catholic university in Washington, D.C., the project was discussed and on April 27, 1911, the archbishops affirmed unanimously: "We heartily approve the establishment of an American Seminary for the Foreign Missions as outlined in the letter sent by his Eminence Cardinal Gibbons." Walsh and Price were instructed "to proceed to Rome without delay, for the purpose of securing all necessary authorization and direction from [the Congregation of] the Propaganda for the proposed work." The two were readily received at the Roman congregation. On June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the cardinal prefect, Girolamo Gotti, formally communicated to them papal authorization for the founding of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America. The following day they were received by Pope Pius X who gave them and the society his apostolic blessing.
On their return to the United States, Walsh and Price accepted the invitation of Archbishop John farley to establish the new institution in the archdiocese of New York. After several months in rented quarters in Hawthorne, they acquired a hilltop tract of 93 acres overlooking the Hudson River near Ossining, New York, 35 miles north of New York City. It would become the permanent location of the headquarters and formation facility of the society. Dedicating the site to the Virgin Mary Queen of Apostles, they named it "Maryknoll," a name that would later be shared with the Maryknoll Sisters' Congregation, the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, and the Maryknoll Affiliates.
Farm buildings provided living facilities, classrooms, and offices for the Field Afar, which now became the official publication of the society. At Price's request Walsh accepted the role of superior, organizing the society and seminary, while Price, aided frequently by Brother Thomas McCann, traveled throughout the East and
Middle West making the new society known and seeking vocations and support. In addition to priesthood candidates, the early community included several young laymen who generously contributed their technical skills and would soon become brothers. A small community of dedicated laywomen, led by Rogers, provided voluntary secretarial and other support services.
First Overseas Missions. By 1918 the young society was able to establish its first overseas mission. Frs. James E. Walsh, Francis X. ford, and Bernard F. Meyer, under the leadership of Fr. Price, were commissioned to Yangjiang (Yeungkong) in Guangdong (Kuangtung) province, south china, a territory ceded to Maryknoll by the Paris Foreign Mission Society. Fr. Price died in 1919 and was succeeded as superior of the mission by Fr. James E. Walsh. Within a few years the area entrusted to Maryknoll, newly based in Jiangmen (Kongmoon), was expanded to include three neighboring territories of Wuzhou (Wuchow), Guilin (Kweilin),and Jiaying (Kaying). In 1927 Fr. James E. Walsh was ordained bishop of the Jiangmen vicariate; Ford became bishop of Jiaying in 1935. In 1925 the society accepted the extensive mission of Fushun, in Manchuria. The society also assumed responsibility for the territory of Pyongyang in northern korea (1922), and in 1934 would undertake work in the area of Kyoto in japan. Limited work among Asian immigrants was likewise accepted in Seattle (1920), the Philippines and Hawaii (1927).
During this time the society expanded its facilities in the United States. Construction of the principal part of the major seminary was completed, and with the cooperation of major local dioceses, five preparatory seminary programs, were organized. From 1931 a separate year of spiritual formation for all candidates was introduced.
World War II. At the onset of Japan's attacks on China's coastal cities in 1937, two Maryknoll missioners in southern China were kidnapped but later released. In 1937 Fr. Gerard Donovan was kidnapped in Manchuria by a group seeking ransom money. When this was not forthcoming he was killed (1938). During the war, the policy of the society was that missioners should remain with their people despite the hazards. During 1940 to 1941 Bishop Walsh and his vicar general, Fr. James Drought, at the request of Japanese authorities and the acceptance of the U.S. State Department, provided an unofficial channel for contacts between the two governments in the interest of finding a means of avoiding war. After Japan's attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor in 1941, Maryknollers in Japan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines were promptly interned as enemy aliens. Some remained in prison camps until the end of the war; others were repatriated in exchange for Japanese prisoners. Monsignor Patrick Byrne, head of Maryknoll's mission in Kyoto, was held under house arrest throughout the war. Only missioners in unoccupied inland China were able to continue their work. Two priests died in captivity, another was murdered at the end of the war, presumably by bandits. In the United States, Maryknollers accompanied their West Coast Japanese parishoners in the isolated relocation camps where they were illegally interned.
During this period, Rome encouraged Maryknoll to consider opening missions in Latin America. The first (1942) was in the Vicariate of the Pando in the northern jungle of Bolivia, followed by missions in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico (1943)—all areas marked by deep poverty and long lacking adequate pastoral ministry. By 1945 there were 105 Maryknoll priests and brothers working in Latin America.
Postwar Developments. Japan and China. After the war, Maryknoll was able to return to all its Asian missions except Manchuria and northern Korea, which were under the control of the U.S.S.R. In Japan Maryknoll work included substantial relief programs, and mass media advertisement of Christianity. Service in the diocese of Sapporo began in 1954. In China promising new beginnings were soon blocked by the progressive expulsion of all foreign Church personnel by the communist government, which consolidated its control in 1949. Ninety-eight Maryknoll priests and brothers were expelled. Bishop Francis X. Ford was placed on public trial and mistreated; broken in health he died in a Canton prison in 1952. Bishop James E. Walsh, then secretary of the Catholic Central Bureau in Shanghai, a national service of the Chinese bishops, was placed under restrictive surveillance (1951), and later sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. In 1970, on the eve of the visit to the People's Republic of China of U.S. president Nixon, he was released and expelled. Many of the expelled missioners found new work in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Korea. In 1949 Monsignor Byrne was named apostolic delegate to Korea and ordained archbishop. He was in Seoul when northern troops invaded the capital in June 1950. Taken prisoner with his secretary, Fr. William Booth, he was brought to the northern border where he died of pneumonia during a forced winter march. After service in Seoul and Pusan, the society accepted care of the South Korean dioceses of Inchon and Cheung-Ju (1958).
Philippines. In the Philippines the society, after initial service in Manila and the diocese of Lipa, accepted the territory of Tagum, in Mindanao (1961). In Tanzania (then Tanganyika) east Africa, the society was assigned the new missions of Musoma (1946) and Shinyanga (1954); later the society would also work in Kenya.
In the United States, the postwar period was a time of intensified mission education and recruitment by the society. New films, books, and teaching materials were produced under the direction of Frs. John Considine and Albert Nevins, and aided by Maryknoll sisters. In 1945 Maryknoll Fr. James Keller launched the Christopher Movement. The society had enjoyed steady growth since its foundation, but the post war period was a time of unprecedented increase in candidates for most communities in the United States, including Maryknoll. New preparatory seminaries were constructed and facilities at Maryknoll, New York, were expanded.
Vatican II. In the light of major changes to the Church's understanding of mission that the Second Vatican Council introduced, at its 1966 General Chapter the Maryknoll Society sought to refocus its vision in light of the council's documents and spirit. The General Chapter emphasized the importance of prophetic public witness in the process of evangelization, of the role of laity in mission, of inculturation, interreligious dialogue, action on behalf of justice, and of the ecclesial appropriateness of collegial structures within the society and the Church. Maryknoll brothers were recognized as equal members. Renewal programs were offered to enable the membership to understand the theological and historical factors underlying the new directions. The society upgraded its language schools in Taiwan, Tanzania, the Philippines, and Latin America and opened them to missioners of other communities.
In 1966 the society opened its ranks to include diocesan and religious priests and brothers as limited term associates by contract. In 1972 first steps were taken to incorporate lay associates into the society's missionary activity; in 1995 the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, largely lay missioners, became a self-governing branch of the Maryknoll family.
In Latin America many Maryknollers, inspired by the Church's social teaching newly articulated by vatican council ii, the encyclical Populorum progressio (1967) of Pope paul vi and the documents issued by the Latin American bishops at their meeting at medellin, Colombia (1968), joined in solidarity with the local churches in denouncing injustices and protesting the deepening poverty of the majorities in many countries. Many welcomed the theologies of liberation that, proceeding from a social option for the poor, engaged the Christian conscience in a critical assessment of the factors causing poverty and repression with a view to taking just action for change. Maryknoll's orbis books (1971) became the principal publisher in English of these theologies. Theology and practice from Latin America was soon shared in parts of Asia, especially in the Philippines and Korea. Maryknollers were anguished and challenged by the suffering endured in these years by their people and colleagues, most notably in Central America where defenders of human rights and others were murdered by military and paramilitary forces. Among the Maryknoll victims were Fr. William Woods (1976) and Sisters Maura Clark and Ita Ford (1980), along with Ursuline Sr. Dorothy Kazel and Cleveland diocesan lay missioner Jean Donovan.
New Commitments. Despite its declining numbers, the society has continued to undertake new mission work in the postconciliar period. The first mission entrusted entirely to Maryknoll brothers was opened in Western Samoa (1976); other new society missions included Venezuela (1965), San Salvador (1966), Brazil (1975), Indonesia (1973), Sudan and Bangladesh (1975), Nepal (1977), Yemen (1978–82), Costa Rica (1981), Honduras (1982), Egypt (1981), Palestine (1988), Thailand (1982), Cambodia (1990), Vietnam (1992), and Mozambique (1997). Some of these commitments were temporary; most have had a more specialized focus rather than involving overall care of a diocese or parish. Many were undertaken with the participation of Maryknoll lay associates. In the Middle East and Asia the work has taken the form of human services witnessing to Christian compassion and is marked by sensitivity to other religious traditions. In China, at the request of educational authorities, Maryknollers are assisting students to improve their communication skills in English. In eastern Russia the society is assisting in the rebuilding of devastated Church communities in an ecumenical spirit.
Maryknoll Affiliates. In 1991, in response to many expressions of interest in sharing in some manner in Maryknoll's mission charism in the context of daily living in the United States, the society and the Maryknoll Sisters jointly established a program of Maryknoll affiliates. Participants are mostly, but not exclusively, lay. Organized in local chapters that meet regularly, affiliates determine their own goals and activities reflecting "global vision, spirituality, community and action." They are currently active in a variety of mission-related activities within and outside the United States.
Mission Education. From its center in the United States the society continues to make available mission education materials for all levels. The society's periodicals Maryknoll (continuation of the Field Afar since 1939) and Revista Maryknoll offer ongoing reporting on the missionary activity of Maryknollers and others around the world. The book division, under the imprint of Orbis Books, continues an unbroken tradition of publishing begun by the Maryknoll cofounders. In addition, the society conducts ongoing research on mission-related issues both historical and contemporary, and offers lectures, workshops, and study programs on these subjects. Discernment workshops and other formational services are offered to persons of other communities preparing for cross-cultural ministries.
Bibliography: a. dries, "The Foreign Mission Impulse of the American Catholic Church, 1893–1925," International Bulletin of Missionary Research 15:2 (April 1991) 61–66; The Missionary Movement in American Catholic History (Maryknoll, N.Y.1998). r. a. lane, The Early Days of Maryknoll (New York 1951). a. j. nevins, The Meaning of Maryknoll (New York 1954). g. c. powers, The Maryknoll Movement (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1926). p. r. riviera, "'Field Found!' Establishing the Maryknoll Mission Enterprise in the United States and China, 1918–1928," Catholic Historical Review 84 (July 1998) 477–517. j.-p. wiest, Maryknoll in China: A History, 1918–1955 (Armonk, N.Y. 1988; repr. Maryknoll, N.Y. 1997).
[w. d. mccarthy]