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Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful


The Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful (M.M.A.F.) is a Catholic community of predominantly, but not exclusively, lay men and women, including families, who commit themselves by contract to participate in the global missionary ministry of the Church. The term of the contract is normally three and a half years and is renewable. Today members are engaged in mission in 14 countries. The headquarters of the Association is at Maryknoll, N.Y., near Ossining, N.Y., 35 miles north of New York City. The mission statement of the Association states:

We are a Catholic community of lay, religious and ordained people, including families and children. We participate in the mission of Jesus, serving in cross-cultural ministries in order to create a more just world in solidarity with the poor.

Admission to the M.M.A.F. is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents according to established norms. There is a four-month period of formation in the United States before language study and work overseas.

History The Association in its present organization was established in 1994, following a history extending from the beginnings of the maryknoll fathers and brothers and the maryknoll sisters. The first Maryknoll Brothers initially volunteered their services as laypersons, as did the laywomen who later became Maryknoll Sisters. Later some single men who were not seeking the priesthood or brotherhood but wished to contribute their skills in meeting the society's needs in the United States were accepted into the life of the community under the designation of oblates. In 1922 cofounder Fr. James A. walsh made a challenging appeal for lay missioners:

Surely there will be generous souls, in numbers proportionate to the grace of God, who may not feel called to devote their entire lives to a religious work, but who would gladly spend a certain time, say five years or more, in teaching on the missions If non-Catholic laymen are willing to make such sacrifices, is it too much to expect of the Catholic? It should be our business now to prepare an organization that will enable us to accept such volunteers and utilize their services (Field Afar, April 1922, p. 100).

No steps were taken at that time. In 1930 a physician, Dr. Harry Blaber of Brooklyn, N.Y., became the first layman to serve overseas with Maryknoll, treating victims of Hansen's Disease in southern China. After marrying, his wife Constance White, a nurse, served with him. When they returned to the United States in 1937, Dr. Artemio Bagalawis, a Filipino, continued the Hansens work with Maryknoll. Over the decades several other laypersons from the United States served overseas with Maryknollers by individual arrangement.

The Second Vatican Council deepened the Church's theology of the laity and urged all to a wider participation in the Church's mission. At its 1972 General Chapter the Maryknoll Society authorized the experimental beginning of an organized program for Maryknoll lay missioners. In 1975, with the collaboration of the Maryknoll Sisters, the organization was formally established under the Archdiocese of New York, and in 1979 leadership was assumed in part by lay missioners. Within the flexibility offered by the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the M.M.A.F. has sought recognition by the Pontifical Council for the Laity as a public association of the faithful. The association has close cooperative relationships with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and with the Maryknoll Sisters.

[w. d. mccarthy]

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