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Walsh, James Anthony


Cofounder and first superior general of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (maryknoll fathers and brothers); titular bishop of Siene; b. Cambridge, Mass., Feb. 24, 1867; d. Maryknoll, N.Y., Apr. 14, 1936. He was born of modestly affluent Irish immigrant parents, James Walsh and Hannah Shea. He attended Boston College, and for a year was a special student at Harvard University. He completed his studies for the priesthood at St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Mass., and was ordained for the Archdiocese of Boston on May 20, 1892. After serving ten years as an assistant in St. Mary's Parish, Roxbury, he was named, in 1903, archdiocesan director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, a position he held for eight years.

Promoting Foreign Missions. In 1904, at a meeting in Washington, D.C. of priests engaged in missionary activity in the United States, Walsh expressed his conviction that the home missionary spirit in the United States would be strengthened if the urgency of foreign missions were likewise promoted. Among his hearers was Fr. Thomas F. Price, the organizer of a small mission group in Raleigh, North Carolina. Price offered his support for Walsh's proposal in his national Catholic magazine Truth. In 1906 Walsh, with three other priests, established in Boston a "Catholic Foreign Mission Bureau" for the purpose of publishing a magazine to inform U.S. Catholics about the Church's worldwide missions and to urge the establishment of a foreign mission seminary for U.S. diocesan priests. The Field Afar appeared in 1907. Assisting Walsh in the editing was Mary Josephine Rogers, the future foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters.

Cofounder of Maryknoll. In 1911 Walsh and Price met again by chance at a Eucharistic Congress in Montreal. Price was convinced that the time had come for them to unite their efforts to found a foreign mission seminary and society. Walsh readily accepted the challenge. Price was instrumental in securing the release of Walsh from the Boston archdiocese and in obtaining the support of Cardinal James Gibbons and the apostolic delegate, Diomede Falconio. Approval of the project was given by the U.S. archbishops at their national meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 1911. Walsh and Price then proceeded to Rome where, on June 29, 1911 the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith authorized the project. The following day, Pope Pius X received Walsh and Price and gave them and the project his blessing.

Upon their return to the United States, Price asked Walsh to assume the office of superior. While Price devoted much of his time to fundraising and vocation promotion, Walsh directed the administration and supervised the formation of the candidates. Assisted by Mary Rogers and other volunteer laywomen, he also edited The Field Afar, which then became the publication of The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America. In 1912 Walsh selected the hilltop site near Ossining, N.Y, henceforth named "Maryknoll," as the permanent home of the society.

In 1917 Walsh journeyed to East Asia to secure mission territory for the young society. Throughout the next 25 years of his life he annually commissioned new missionaries to the society's missions in China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Hawaii. He likewise encouraged the founding and development of the Maryknoll Sisters under the leadership of Mother Mary Joseph Rogers. As early as 1922 he urged the incorporation of lay missionaries into overseas mission work. He was a strong supporter of The Catholic University and gave encouragement to Michael Williams, founder of the Commonweal and to Maurice Lavanoux, founder of the Liturgical Arts Society. He felt that it was important for missionaries not to be narrow in their attitudes. "Be big," he insisted to Maryknollers, "bigger than your own Society, as big as the Church." (Discourses, p. 361)

In 1933, Pope Pius XI, in recognition of Walsh's achievement in promoting mission interest in the United States, named him titular bishop of Siene. He was ordained in Rome by Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi, prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. He chose as his episcopal motto words that he had made the motto of the society, "Seek first the kingdom of God." A prolific writer, his major works include Thoughts from Modern Martyrs (Boston, Catholic Foreign Mission Bureau, 1906); A Modern Martyr: Blessed Theophane Venard (Maryknoll, N.Y./Ossining, Catholic Foreign Mission Society, 1913); Observations in the Orient (Ossining, N.Y., Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, 1919); and In the Homes of the Martyrs (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Catholic Foreign Mission Society, 1922).

Bibliography: Discourses of James Anthony Walsh, M.M. (18901936), comp. r. e. sheridan (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1981). a. dries, "The Foreign Mission Impulse of the American Catholic Church, 18931925," International Bulletin of Missionary Research 15:2 (April 1991): 6166. r. a. lane, The Early Days of Maryknoll (New York 1951). g. c. powers, The Maryknoll Movement (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1926). d. sargent, All the Day Long: James Anthony Walsh, Cofounder of Maryknoll (New York 1941). r.e. sheridan, The Founders of Maryknoll: Historical Reflections, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1981).

[w. d. mccarthy]

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