Mollie’s Early Years
Reflections adapted from Sr. Jeanne Marie Lyons’
“Maryknoll’s First Lady”and Elizabeth Carr’s Monograph, “Spirituality of Mollie Rogers”
Mollie Rogers was a woman who knew the daily functioning of a large family. The fourth of eight children born to Mary Josephine Plummer and Abraham Theobald Rogers on October 27, 1882, in Roxbury, Massachusetts, she was christened Mary Josephine Rogers.
When I was born, Mollie wrote, I was the first girl after three boys. My father, who worked in real estate, was so delighted he ran around from house to house in the neighborhood announcing the news. He was always inordinately proud of me. He used to sit on our front porch waving my report card in his hand. Then he would call out to the neighbors as they passed, ‘Do you want to see Mollie’s report card?’ I used to feel like 6 cents!
Mollie’s Paternal Grandparents
Grandfather Patrick Rogers and Mary Dunn, both immigrants from Ireland to Canada, fell in love. When Patrick asked Mary if she would marry him, she answered, I will, when you take me and my sisters to Boston. Her mother had died, leaving three younger sisters in her care.
Grandfather Rogers was on his quiet way upward economically and politically, early to become a builder and a member of the Common Council, an investor in real estate, and an outstanding taxpayer.
The sons of Patrick and Mary Dunn Rogers were Joseph, Francis, and Mollie’s father, Abraham. They walked in their father’s shadow, protected by his stature from the cold winds that he had had to face of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment. The brothers bonded together, never losing their sense of partnership.
Mollie’s Maternal Grandparents
Grandmother Plummer had been Bridget Josephine Kennedy, a lovely young woman who had charmed William Gardner Plummer, who was a Calvinist. He not only married her, but did so in a Catholic ceremony. He loved his wife and as he grew older his natural goodness overcame much of his earlier prejudice. However, when his own children were growing up, he gave in only reluctantly to his wife’s gentle but unrelenting insistence that their children be allowed to practice their Catholic faith. Mollie’s mother never forgot how it felt to be obliged to go to a neighbor’s house to get dressed in the white dress and veil that she would wear to her First Communion.
Mollie’s Younger Years
As a little girl Mollie had dreamed of being a missionary. She was moved by many influences ~ from her doll collection of different nations to the stories read to her by her father about neglected children, like Oliver Twist, and accounts later spelled out in the Annals of the Holy Childhood and the Propagation of the Faith.
I was fortunate, as a child, Mollie wrote, that from an early age I was keenly alive to the existence of little sisters and brothers in far off lands quite different from myself in race, color and creed.
Also, Mollie had dreams of growing up and owning a soda fountain to which she and all her friends could resort at will and without cost!
A lively spirit pervaded Mollie’s home. The kitchen in the old home was a large one, Mollie’s cousin Francis Rogers reminisced, and up to the very last was a great gathering place for all the young folks in the neighborhood, especially on a winter evening. I can see it now--filled with youngsters, doing a Virginia Reel or playing Blind Man’s Bluff and Mollie at the stove getting molasses candy ready to pull or making a cake.
Relatives in Politics
Mollie’s childhood, with all its fascinations, was the breeding ground of a broad vision, embodied and articulated from her early school days. She was a schoolgirl in the 1880’s when being Irish and Catholic could well cast one outside of Boston’s social strata. Despite their immigrant status, the Rogers Family took its place in Boston’s politics and education.
Mollie’s grandfather Patrick Rogers was the first Catholic in Boston elected to public office and Mollie followed in his footsteps in terms of leadership. She was a leader, even at home. Her mother had frail health and, according to Frances Rogers, Mollie at an early age took over the management of the home and I can assure you that no one questioned her authority.
Mollie’s Family Life
Abraham, Mollie’s Father and the youngest of the three boys, had the largest family. He was completely devoted to his wife and immensely pleased with his eight children: William, Leo, Ned, Mollie, Elizabeth, Louise, John and Abe.
After the death of his father Patrick in 1890, Abraham’s mother divided her husband’s legacy among her children and went to stay with each family. She spent a good bit of time with Abraham’s family, as he had the most forbearing wife. Grandma had Mollie parade back and forth in front of her with a book on her head to improve her posture and carriage, as well as, stopping by Mollie’s room after she was in bed and putting a clothespin on Mollie’s nose to make it more patrician. How long the clothespin stayed on after Grandma left the room was Mollie’s secret!
When Mollie was going on a date, Grand-ma said: Mollie, that boy you are going out with, what does his father do? Mollie responded, He is an iceman, Grandma. Not hearing too well, Grandma said, Of course, I know he is a nice man. But what does he DO? Mollie had already made a good escape with the son of a nice man!
Often the dinner table at the Rogers’ home in Jamaica Plain was set for twenty—the children all being welcome to invite friends home for supper. This family spirit Mollie would bring with her to Maryknoll. There were undoubtedly good stories told around the Rogers’ dining table, especially when Mollie’s maternal uncle, George Plummer from Charlestown and a Salem sea captain, would come for dinner.
In addition to stories of great deeds and faraway places, Mollie’s childhood was filled with the wonders of the country and of the earth beneath her feet.
Grammar and High School
In stair-step formation the Rogers children moved through the local public schools. At the grade-school level, the boys attended Agasy; the girls, Bowditch. When they graduated from the ninth grade, boys and girls were reunited at West Roxbury High School.
The high school offered a three-year course leading to a diploma, and for those interested and able, a fourth year of college preparation. All of the Rogers’ children took this option. The program of studies was ambitious and the teachers were dedicated and demanding. The students were administered strong doses of history, English language, literature, mathematics and science, as well as, Latin, Greek and a modern language. Mollie learned French.
When the young Rogers gathered around the big table in the upper hall to settle down to their homework, Mollie always had time to help anyone wrestling with a difficulty, whether it was an arithmetic problem or a tough passage of French. Mollie also seemed to have time for other things besides studying, but she certainly did well at school.
Her brother, Ned, was one of the business officers on the monthly Clarion, and Mollie was one of the editors. She also held class offices, was chosen for the debating team and the committee on dramatics, as well as becoming vice-president of the athletic association.
After her third year, Mollie was named valedictorian of her high school graduating class in June 1900. The subject of her speech was “Toleration,” and she began with a quotation in Latin from St. Austin: “In what is essential, UNITY; in what is indifferent, LIBERTY; in all things, CHARITY.” Mollie then took the optional fourth year for college preparation, receiving her diploma on June 25, 1901.
Smith College 1901-1905
Mollie attended Smith College in Northampton, MA, graduating on June 18, 1905, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Zoology. In 1904, as a Junior, Mollie experienced the enthusiasm of Smith Students who signed a pledge to go for a period of time to China as foreign missioners. Mollie wrote:
Something - I do not know how to describe it - happened to me. I passed quickly through the campus and across to the Church, where I measured my faith and expression of it by the sight I had just witnessed. From that moment I had a work to do, little or great God alone knew.
~ ~ ~
Questions for Reflection:
1 – What qualities in Mollie ground us in our Maryknoll Community spirit?
2 – How did I first experience my call to mission?
Maryknoll Contemplative Community and the
Sisters Centennial Retreats-Reflection Committee