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Maryknoll Sisters


Also known as Maryknoll Missioners (MM), a religious congregation with papal approbation, whose official title is Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic (see Official Catholic Directory [2470]). They devote themselves to catechetical, educational, medical, and social work in non-Christian and Christian countries. This first American Catholic community for women devoted exclusively to foreign missions began in 1912 with a group of lay-women who volunteered to help Rev. James A. walsh, leader of the new Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (see maryknoll fathers and brothers), with the publication activities of the society's monthly, the Field Afar. By 1920 they numbered about 30, and, aided by Walsh and Father (later archbishop) John T. McNicholas OP, the community received canonical recognition as "The Foreign Mission Sisters of St. Dominic." Sister Fidelia Delaney of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wis., was the first novice mistress. Mother Mary Joseph rogers, one of the original helpers for Field Afar, and foundress of the congregation became the first superior and mother general. Twenty-two made first vows in February of 1921. In June, six were assigned to South China to collaborate in the apostolic work of the Maryknoll priests. The Holy See extended papal recognition with a decretum laudes in 1954.

The Second World War and subsequent communist seizure of many Far Eastern areas interrupted or destroyed many of the congregation's most promising endeavors. Nonetheless, numbers increased and by 1965 the sisters were engaged in ministry in Africa, the Far East, Central and South America, the United States, and the islands of the Pacific. The Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours are the center of the sisters' prayer life. A firmly established contemplative branch is an integral part of the community. In a number of areas indigenous religious communities have been formed with the congregation's direction. From the very beginning, the Maryknoll sisters were also open to the membership of the Catholic women of all nationalities who were seeking to follow a call to cross-cultural mission.

The post-Vatican II years brought an emphasis to strong educational and professional preparation of the sisters as well as an end to rapid growth. To meet the aggiornamento mandated by Vatican II, the sisters formulated new criteria that reaffirmed their dedication to missionary activity, the "preferential option for the poor," the promotion of women in all cultures, works devoted to peace with justice, a serious commitment to interreligious dialogue and ministries to persons with AIDS. The sisters strive toward more effective evangelization through an integrated witness of Christian presence of life, word, and ministry in service of and to the Gospel. For the congregation, then as now, "Mission is a total way of life."

Bibliography: c. kennedy, To the Uttermost Parts of the Earth: The Spirit and Charism of Mary Josephine Rogers (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1980). p. lernoux, Hearts on Fire: The Story of the Maryknoll Sisters (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1993). j. m. lyons, Maryknoll's First Lady: The Life of Mother Mary Joseph, Foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters (Garden City, N.Y. 1967). m. j. rogers, Discourses of Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, M.M., Foundress, Maryknoll Sisters, compiled by sr. mary coleman and staff, 4 v. (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1982). j.-p. wiest, Maryknoll in China: A History, 19181955 (Armonk, N.Y. 1988).

[j. m. lyons/

c. kennedy]

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