The Death of Fr. Thomas F. Price
On September 7, 1918, the first group of Maryknoll Fathers left for Yeungkong. Fr. Thomas Price, co-founder, led the group of young priests: Fathers James E. Walsh, Francis X. Ford, and Bernard F. Meyer. Father Price, who was fifty-eight years old, died of a ruptured appendix in a Hong Kong Hospital on September 12, 1919. From all over people offered Maryknoll their sympathy for his loss.
Women Religious Missioners
The twenties began with the joyous news of the Teresians being approved by Rome as a diocesan religious institute on February 14, 1920, the official Canonical Foundation Day of the Foreign Mission Sisters of St. Dominic, who were now in fact the Maryknoll Sisters.
The March and April 1920 issues of The Field Afar boasted the fact with feature articles. For the first time ever, the term "Maryknoll Sisters" was used to designate these women who were "formerly known to our readers as 'The Teresians'." For the first time ever, women, through an American founded Community, will consecrate their lives to foreign missions, a milestone in the religious history of American Catholicism.
Some "Local" Assignments
April 3, 1920 - Three Sisters were sent to Ossining Hospital to start nurses' training: Srs. M. Michael Conlin, M. Gerard Gallagher and M. Teresita O'Donnell. April 8, 1920 - Sr. M. Magdalen Doelger was appointed Superior in Los Angeles, CA, and Sr. M. Teresa Sullivan appointed Superior in Seattle, WA. May 30, 1920 - Formal opening of the Maryknoll Kindergarten for Japanese in Seattle with classes starting on June 1st. October 1, 1920 – Srs. M. Lawrence Foley, Marie de Lourdes Bourguignon and M. Veronica Hartman were selected to take a short course in nursing at the Ossining Hospital. February 1, 1921 - St. Teresa's Lodge (Convent) was designated as a Canonical Novitiate.
The First Profession of Vows
Mother Mary Joseph initiated the formal steps to meet the canonical requirements. She wrote Archbishop Hayes who authored all necessary dispensations in a formal document dated Feb. 3, 1921, and appointed her "the first Prioress." MMJ was placed in charge of the new institute for the first three years. With the completion of one year of religious formation on February 15, 1921, MMJ, with twenty other Sisters, professed their first vows which Father Walsh received. It was a singular event of a marked historical significance. Rev. Thomas M. Schwertner, OP, gave the Sisters' retreat before their profession.
The First Profession Group
Sr. Mary Joseph (Mary Josephine Rogers)
Sr. M. Teresa (Sara Theresa Sullivan)
Sr. M. Theophane (Nora Frances Shea)
Sr. Anna Maria (Anna Agnes Towle)
Sr. M. Catherine (Katherine Gertrude Fallon)
Sr. M. Ambrose (Mary Laetitia Crawford)
Sr. M. Francis (Elsie Frances Davis)
Sr. M. Agatha (Ellen Frances Davin)
Sr. M. Anthony (Nora Conway)
Sr. M. Rose (Anna Rose Leifels)
Sr. M. Patrick (Elinor Maher)
Sr. M. Elizabeth (Anna Regina Thompson)
Sr. M. Dolores (Mary Ann Cruise)
Sr. Margaret Mary (Katherine A. Slattery)
Sr. M. Paul (Grace Anselm McKenna)
Sr. M. Michael (Mary Ann Conlin)
Sr. M. Thomas (Brigid Mary Bresnahan)
Sr. M. John (Mary Ellen Troy Cahill)
Sr. M. Rita (Elizabeth Bodkin)
Sr. M. James (Louise Regis Rogers)
Sr. M. Philomena (Catherine Flanagan)
MMJ Visits Los Angeles and Seattle
In March of 1921, MMJ was able to receive permission from Archbishop Hayes for the four Sisters on the West Coast to make their vows. She boarded a train bound for the Pacific Coast.
MMJ attended the Profession of Vows of the two Sisters in Los Angeles and the two in Seattle, and acquainted herself with their work. The Sisters in Los Angeles had been directed by Bishop Cantwell to take over the Home for Japanese Children which was formerly in charge of the "Sisters of the Visitation," a Japanese religious community but without any canonical status.
On March 19, 1921, First Profession of our two Sisters in Los Angeles took place: Sr. M. Magdalen Doelger and Sr. M. Aloysius McDonald.
On April 13, 1921, First Profession of our two Sisters in Seattle took place: Srs. M. Gemma Shea and Sr. M. Gerard Gallagher.
In June 1921, when Mother returned from the West Coast to Maryknoll, she brought with her Sr. Marianna Akashi, the first Japanese Sister, born of Catholic parents, who had been a Novice in the Japanese Community mentioned above. Permission was granted by the Chancery to receive her privately into the Maryknoll Novitiate. On June 28, the eve of the Maryknoll Society's Tenth Anniversary of Foundation, Sister Marianna Akashi received the habit of a Maryknoll Sister in St. Teresa's Chapel.
Before Benediction, Fr. James A. Walsh gave a brief reflection for the occasion. He had a small piece of paper in his hand that MMJ had given him, and then he began to read the June 28, 1921 Assignments:
To the Venard: Srs. M. Thomas Bresnahan, M. Veronica Hartman, M. Stephen O'Donnell.
To Los Angeles: Srs. Elizabeth Thompson, M. Michael Conlin, M. Rita Bodkin, M. Philomena Flanagan, M. Gerard Gallagher, M. Teresita O'Donnell, M. Clare Miltenberger, and Postulant Ellen McMahon.
To Seattle: Srs. M. Anthony Conway, M. Aloysius McDonald, M. John Cahill.
For Nursing Training in Providence Hospital (Seattle): Srs. Marie de Lourdes Bourguignon; M. Ursula Kenkel, M. Mercedes Cusack.
And the First Pioneers to China:
The First Departure Ceremony - 1921
This historical ceremony took place on September 12, with Archbishop Hayes presiding. Bishop-elect, Monsignor John Dunn attended and Bishop Cassidy of Fall River, MA, was the speaker. The ceremony was planned as a small private affair. However, old friends like Julia Ward and some of the Sisters' relatives and friends crowded into the small fieldstone Chapel of St. Martha. As the six Sisters went up to the altar to repeat their vows, and to receive from Fr. Walsh their mission crucifixes, symbolic of their dedication and sacrifice, the hearts and eyes of their Sisters followed them.
In the weeks before the pioneers left, it seemed that MMJ could not do enough to show them what they meant to her. She planned little programs to give them pleasure, helped to prepare special meals, gave them little gifts, went with them to New York City to shop and to secure their tickets and passports.
Kowloon and Yeungkong, South China
The first Sisters to China disembarked at Kow-loon, Hong Kong, on November 3, 1921. When more sisters were assigned to China in 1922, a group of sisters went to Yeungkong, arriving on November 20, 1922. Fr. Francis Ford put them in charge of what had traditionally been the responsibility of Sisters all over China: a school, an orphanage, a house for a few old folks and blind girls, and some dispensary work. However, something happened which he had not anticipated. The Sisters' arrival aroused much more interest among the local population than the presence of the male missioners.
In 1923, on the occasion of MMJ's first visit to China, Fr. Ford described the special attraction the women and children had for the Sisters, and alluded for the first time to the important role religious women could fill in apostolic work with the women in the villages. When Fr. Ford shared his views with MMJ, she too envisioned her Sisters' pioneering a new approach of going out to the people. Her approval opened the way for the Maryknoll Sisters' direct apostolate in China, which blossomed in the 1930's.
The First Spiritual Conferences
On the Feast of All Saints, 1921, MMJ expressed her thoughts in what was the first of many letter-conferences sent to her Sisters at he Venard, Los Angeles, Seattle and the six arriving in Hong Kong, and shared with all at Maryknoll, NY. She desired unity. MMJ wrote: As I told you recently, I hope to send you each month a few words of counsel on the same matters we shall consider on retreat day here so that we may all be united in our efforts to attain the love God requires of us.
MMJ fostered a loving spirit of unity in her ever constant and consistent exhortation to live day by day in the presence of God. She concluded: "And if we do all for love of God, direct our intentions well, and consciously live in God's presence, we shall find that our day's acts show forth the other characteristics desired - zeal, devotedness, love for the sublime work to which we have been called - and we shall find nothing too hard, no sacrifice too great in the performance of our daily duties."
Each community had already received a copy of the "Exercises of St. Gertrude the Great," the writings of the medieval Benedictine scholar and mystic. The texts MMJ suggested for reflection from Exercises 6 & 7 are filled with feelings of intimacy, longing, and desire to serve God "with life-sustaining love." The following is an excerpt from Exercise Six:
O unifying Love, God of my heart, love, praise, and jubilation of my spirit, my cherished One, let my spirit cling to You in one spirit, one breath, one will, one charity, until it becomes one spirit with You for eternity.
In these letter-conferences, MMJ hoped to continue the bond of a family spirit among her Sisters no matter how far the Maryknoll Center in New York might be from wherever we are in mission.
By January 1, 1922, the Community numbered 115 members: 38 Professed Sisters, 44 Novices and 33 Postulants. By January 1, 1923, the Community had 146 members: 58 Professed, 72 Novices, 16 Postulants.
First Three Sisters to Die
On February 19, 1917, Sr. M. Xavier (Mary Louise Wholean) died of cancer at the age of 35. On May 9, 1923, Sr. M. Emmanuel Donohue, a novice, died at the age of 23. Both professed their vows before they died, and were buried in St. Augustine Cemetery in Ossining, NY. On August 21, 1923, Sr. Gertrude Moore, a nurse, while caring for typhoid patients in Yeungkong, died at the age of 28, and was buried in Yeungkong, China.
From The Field Afar - 1919 January
General George Washington
Fr. James A. Walsh writes: We have been told that no less a personage than General George Washington, the first President of this truly great Republic, spent the night at what is now St. Teresa's Convent!
A Reflective Moment
MMJ carried in her heart incredible concerns for housing and feeding the growing community, and at the same time, her spirituality deepened through her trust in God's Providence and her selflessness in creating a family spirit.
The above Reflections were adapted from Maryknoll's First Lady by Jeanne Marie Lyons, MM; To the Uttermost Parts of the Earth by Camilla Kennedy, MM; Maryknoll in China by Jean-Paul Wiest; and #5 Spiritual Heritage of MMJ by Barbara Hendricks, MM.
Maryknoll Contemplative Community and the SistersCentennial Retreats-Reflection Committee
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