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Rogers, Mary Joseph, Mother


Foundress of maryknoll sisters of St. Dominic; b. Boston, Massachusetts, Oct. 27, 1882; d. New York City, Oct. 9, 1955. Mary Josephine Rogers ("Mollie"), the daughter of Abraham and Mary Josephine (Plummer) Rogers, grew up in a closely knit family of eight children. Following her public schooling in Boston, Massachusetts, she attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, graduating in 1905.

During her college years, she was struck by the missionary zeal of the Protestant students involved in the Student Volunteer Movement. After graduation, she returned to Smith College on a teaching fellowship in the college's biology department. A Protestant colleague urged Mollie to form a Bible Study Class for the Catholic students, and following the deeper yearnings of her own heart, she chose to do a Mission Study Class. Her search for mission materials led her to Fr. James A. Walsh at the Society for the Propagation of Faith Office in Boston, Massachusetts. She left her academic post at Smith in 1908 and began teaching in the Boston public schools. This enabled her to give all her spare time to collaborating with Walsh in the publication of the new mission magazine, The Field Afar.

In 1911, Walsh and Rev. Thomas Frederick Price founded the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (see maryknoll fathers and brothers). Mollie organized a group of women who offered their services as secretaries to this new mission society in 1912. Mollie was chosen leader, and within a few years the number of women had grown. By 1920 they received canonical recognition as "The Foreign Mission Sisters of St. Dominic." A year later, the first group of sisters went to South China. As foundress of the community, Mollie, now known as Mother Mary Joseph (Rogers), became the first mother general of the congregation and remained in office until 1946.

Mission shaped every facet of life. In the early 1930s Rogers founded a teachers' college for her sisters at the motherhouse in Maryknoll, New York. A contemplative community was firmly established within the congregation; she held out the ideal that every Maryknoll Sister be a contemplative in the midst of an active mission life and encouraged the gifting of each sister. Cooperating with Bp. Francis X. ford's plan of using sisters to carry the gospel message to the village women of Kaying, South China, she was also active in establishing centers to train indigenous personnel as catechists, nurses, teachers, and religious women. Impelled by her missionary spirit and charism, the congregation established international missions with a wide range of educational, medical, social and pastoral ministries. At the time of her death on Oct. 9, 1955, the congregation was actively serving the missions in nineteen countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Central Pacific Islands, and the U.S.

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

[j. m. lyons/

c. kennedy]

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