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Walsh, James Edward


Maryknoll Missioner and bishop; b. Cumberland, Md., Apr. 30, 1891; d. Maryknoll, N.Y., July 29, 1981. His parents were William Walsh, an Irish immigrant and lawyer, and Mary Concannon. After studies at Mount St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md., and employment at the U.S. Rail steel mill in Cumberland, he entered the Maryknoll Seminary near Ossining, N.Y. in 1912; he was ordained there on Dec. 7, 1915. In 1917 he was assigned with three other Maryknoll priests to open Maryknoll's first mission, in Jiangmen (Kongmoon) in southern China. In 1919, upon the death of Fr. Thomas F. price, a Maryknoll cofounder, Walsh became the superior of the Jiangmen mission. In 1927 he was named vicar apostolic of Jiangmen, and he was ordained bishop at the shrine of St. Francis Xavier on Shangchuan (Sancian) Island on May 22, 1927. Committed to developing a self-sufficient Chinese church, Walsh founded Little Flower minor seminary in 1926 and a Congregation of Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1927. It was during these years that he began recording his personal reflections on missionary spirituality, which he later incorporated in The Maryknoll Spiritual Directory. His prayerful commitment to the poor, "Shine on Farmer Boy," became a classic of inspiration among Maryknollers.

Superior General. Following the death in 1936 of Maryknoll cofounder, Bishop James A. walsh, Bishop James E. Walsh was elected to succeed him as the society's second superior general. His ten-year term (19361946) spanned the difficult years of World War II. During 19401941, at the request of Japanese authorities and the acceptance of the U.S. State Department, Walsh and his vicar general, Fr. James Drought, gave their services as an unofficial channel for negotiations in the interests of avoiding war between the two powers. Though the effort failed, as did all other efforts, Walsh defended it as an expression of Christian responsibility in working for peace.

Under Walsh's direction, Maryknoll made the decision to work in Africa (1946), and it was he who visited Latin America (1942) to lay the groundwork for sending Maryknoll missionaries. Addressing those whom the society was sending to Latin America, he affirmed: "We are going to South America as missioners, but we are not going as exponents of any so-called North American civilization. We will endeavor to preach the Catholic faith in areas where priests are scarce and mission work is needed; but as regards the elements of true civilization, we expect to receive as much as we have to give."(Maryknoll, May 1942, p. 3)

Return to China; Imprisonment. In 1947 Walsh returned to China at the invitation of the Chinese bishops to serve as executive secretary of their newly organized Catholic Central Bureau in Shanghai. The project was short lived. In 1951 the communist government closed the bureau and placed Walsh and his associates under continual surveillance. Though prodded to leave China, he determined he should stay, expressing his view in the article "Why the Missionaries Remain," (Hong Kong 1951). In 1958 Walsh was arrested and charged with a currency violation and of being a spy for the United States. For a year and a half he was subjected to daily interrogations and in 1960 was finally sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and interned in Ward Road Prison in Shanghai. The only visitor permitted him was that of his brother William in 1960. In July of 1970 he was abruptly released and deported to Hong Kong. Walsh spent his final 11 years at Maryknoll, N.Y. To his death, he remained strongly devoted to the Chinese people. "I have no bitterness," he said, "toward those who tried and condemned me. I could just never feel angry with any Chinese. I felt that way almost from the day I set foot in China in 1918 and it has grown stronger with the years, even during my imprisonment. I love the Chinese people."

A prolific writer, Walsh's major works include Mission Manual of the Vicariate of Kongmoon [Jiangmen., southern China] (Hong Kong: Nazareth Press, 1937); his inspirational classic "Shine On Farmer Boy," Maryknoll, (JulyAugust, 1942) 12; "Description of a Missioner by One," Worldmission 6 (Winter 1955): 402416; Blueprint of the Missionary Vocation. (World Horizon Report no. 19) (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Maryknoll Publications, n.d. [about 1953]); The Church's World Wide Mission (New York: Benziger, 1948); Zeal for Your House, ed. R. E. Sheridan (Huntington, Ind.: Our Sunday Visitor Press, 1976), which includes his famous plea "Why the Missionaries Remain" (1951), and the text of press conference on his release following 12 years of imprisonment in China (1970). Walsh was also the compiler of Maryknoll Spiritual Directory (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Field Afar Press, 1947).

Bibliography: r. j. c. butow, The John Doe Associates: Backdoor Diplomacy for Peace, 1941 (Stanford, Calif. 1974). r. kerrison, Bishop Walsh of Maryknoll: A Biography (New York 1962). r. e. sheridan, Bishop James E. Walsh As I Knew Him (Maryknoll, N.Y. 1981). j. p. wiest, Maryknoll in China: A History 19181955 (2d ed. Maryknoll, N.Y. 1997); "The Spiritual Legacy of Bishop James E. Walsh of Maryknoll" Tripod 3 (1989): 5669.

[w. d. mccarthy]

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