Times change… mission changes. But one thing stays the same: Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers’ commitment to witnessing the Gospel.
This September our Society celebrates the 100th anniversary of our first mission sending. Back then, four young missioners left home to bring the message of salvation to the people of China.
When our first Maryknollers arrived there, their goal was to develop a native Church with its own clergy and religious. Over the years, more Maryknollers arrived with the same zeal of our founders and first missioners. Remember in 1908, Pope Pius X had declared the United States no longer a missionreceiving country but a mission-sending one. And Maryknoll complied!
As our Fathers and Brothers gained understanding of the Chinese people, they moved away from Western approaches to evangelization. But no sooner had this phase begun that it was cut short by the government’s decision to remove all foreign missioners. Maryknollers suffered during the purges. Some lost their lives. But the seed of mission was planted.
In recent years, Maryknollers have served on the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong as educators and teachers. Then in the 1990’s, God opened another door. Through Maryknoll’s China Educators and Formators Project, Chinese priests and religious come to the United States to earn advanced degrees at our nation’s Catholic universities.
“Maryknollers helped address the need for housing, healthcare, education, and job training—and we still do.”
Once their studies are completed, participants return home to better serve as seminary teachers, superiors of religious communities, and pastoral ministers. Imagine this: Five graduates of our program have been appointed bishops by the Holy See!
With our early missions in China developing as circumstance allowed, God continued to reward us with other blessings. Many young men answered the call to priesthood and brotherhood by becoming Maryknoll priests and Brothers. This enabled us to begin sending missioners to Latin America and Africa.
Before long these men also became beacons of hope, especially for the poor and marginalized. Maryknollers helped address the need for housing, healthcare, education, and job training—and we still do. We respond when natural disasters strike. And in recent years, we are helping communities address powerful interests that are causing harm to the environment.
Eventually, Maryknoll would send missioners to 47 countries. That legacy continues in many outposts where parishes and community life remain vibrant even though Maryknoll missioners no longer serve there.
When I think about my own mission work in Kenya and Tanzania—experiences that deepened my faith—I realize how indebted I am to the four men who left home in 1918 to begin Maryknoll’s first 100 years. I am grateful to you, too, because your constant prayers and support are “the wind beneath our wings.” May God bless us all as we begin our second century of mission, proclaiming God’s love to the world.
~ Father Robert A. Jalbert, M.M.