The young faces gazing out from the old black and white photos were calm but expectant. It was hard for me to imagine what they must have been feeling as they embarked on a difficult and potentially dangerous trip. They would probably never see their family and friends again.
These were not the faces of soldiers, but rather of early Maryknoll missionaries, waiting to board a ship that would take them to their new life of service in a foreign land. Their pictures hang in a display on the history of Maryknoll missions in the group’s headquarters in Ossining, N.Y.
This year the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, officially named The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of the United States, are celebrating their 100th anniversary. Among those celebrating are Diocese of Erie natives Father Paul Masson from Rouseville, Father Ed Shellito from Erie and Father Tom Egan from Oil City.
Much has changed about mission life over the past century. Travel to places such as Asia or South America took weeks in the early 20th century. Letters written home could take months to arrive, if they made it at all. Today’s flights enable travelers to reach the most distant destinations quickly, and to make visits home. The Internet can provide daily communication with friends and loved ones.
Early missioners were mostly priests and religious. Today there is a growing trend of lay involvement. Individuals or even families serve in missions through lay organizations such as the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful. Retirees are joining the ranks of missionaries. Volunteers can choose short-term or long-term service.
Of course the basics of mission remain the same. Even though today’s missioners have options that would have seemed like unimaginable luxuries to early missionaries, mission life still requires much dedication, hard work and courage. Mission assignments in areas of political unrest or high criminal activity can be extremely dangerous. The rewards of being the bearer of the “Good News” cannot be measured in monetary terms, but still bring a joy that continues to call the faithful to a life of service.
Maryknoll has served people not only abroad, but also here in the United States by educating us about the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. My own earliest memories of learning about missionaries include the Maryknoll magazines our catechism teachers gave us. These publications still teach students and adults about mission today.
Congratulations to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers on 100 years of amazing service. Along with that go my own personal thanks for introducing me to the work that has become so central in my life.
Patricia Marshall directs the Office of Diocesan and International Missions for the Diocese of Erie
Article from page 23 of Faith Magazine – Jan/Feb 2011 www.FAITHerie.com
On Sunday, June 29, the Maryknoll Society will commemorate anniversaries of ordination to the priesthood or Final Oath as a Maryknoll Brother for 31 jubilarians. Ceremonies will be held at the Maryknoll Mission Center in Ossining, New York.
A number of the Maryknoll jubilarians have shared information about their work in mission in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the U.S. During the second half of June and continuing through the summer, all of the 2014 Maryknoll jubilarians will be celebrated in the Maryknoll Museum of Living Mission located in the Maryknoll Mission Center.
Father Lam Minh Hua, M.M., originally from Vietnam and now from Tacoma, Washington, is the newest Maryknoll Society priest. Father Hua, 28, was ordained into the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers on Saturday, May 31, 2014 at the Maryknoll Society Mission Center in Ossining, New York.
The Mass of Ordination at Maryknoll’s Queen of Apostles Chapel was celebrated by His Excellency Archbishop Bernard Anthony Hebda, coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. Maryknoll Superior General Father Edward M. Dougherty was a concelebrant along with more than 50 priests from the Maryknoll Society and other religious groups.
Later that same day, Father Hua received his missionary crucifix at the Maryknoll Sending Ceremony that presents Maryknoll missioners to the world. After the summer, he will be assigned to serve in mission in the Africa region. Father Hua hopes to join three other Maryknoll priests who already serve in mission in South Sudan.
Father Hua celebrated his first Mass at Maryknoll’s Queen of Apostles Chapel on Sunday, June 1. During June, he also celebrated Mass in English and Vietnamese in his home parish.
Learning About Maryknoll
Father Hua was born into a Catholic family in the hamlet of LaNang on the outskirts of the eastern coastal province of Da Nang in Vietnam. His parents were rice farmers. Years earlier, Father Hua’s own father had been a seminarian. But, this path ended during Vietnam’s war. The elder Hua served on the side of South Vietnam and became a prisoner of the north.
Upon receiving permission 21 years ago to emigrate to the U.S., the family, which included Father Hua’s younger brother, Vien, arrived in the Archdiocese of Seattle and settled in Tacoma. As a teenager, Father Hua volunteered in his local parish and learned about the work of missionaries who came to the U.S. during the 1800s. Seeing a copy of Maryknoll magazine, he also learned about the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and its work in foreign mission.
“The stories in the magazine motivated me to learn more,” said Father Hua. “As I learned more about Maryknoll, I also learned more about my own vocational calling. Since I went through the public school system all my life until college, I depended on weekly religious education and my church life to foster my faith, wherein I found strength through being an ‘active’ Christian.”
While completing his studies at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, earning a degree in philosophy with minors in history and religion, Father Hua participated in retreats and visited a Maryknoll mission in Cambodia. He witnessed outreach to people with AIDS in a program managed by Father James Noonan, M.M.
Soon after, while completing a master of divinity degree with a concentration in world mission at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Father Hua spent two years in Tanzania to learn Swahili. While there, he witnessed and participated in the mission work in Musoma of the late Father Ramon McCabe, M.M.
Building A Church
While in Tanzania, at a parish on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Father Hua was encouraged to venture out on his own by Father John Waldrep, M.M. Father Hua traveled to a village far from the regular parish. With his encouragement, the people cleared an overgrown plot of land in the middle of a field close to the village and then began bringing poles, tarps, sticks and wood to build their own church.
“Every Sunday, when I got there, I’d see they’d added more poles, more tarp. It was a really beautiful way to pray, out in the middle of nature. They were people of great faith. They came every week, bringing their own chairs and mats. The beauty of this experience is that because I said, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ they were able to build that little outpost church. If I hadn’t gone out there, they would have had no one to say ‘yes.’ That’s all they were waiting for. They were all ready.”
As the newest priest in the Maryknoll Society, Father Hua now is ready to begin his work in mission.
To learn more about Father Lam Minh Hua, please read the article “The Road to God” that appears in the May/June 2014 issue of Maryknoll magazine.
We are a Catholic Society of priests and brothers based in the United States. We are dedicated to missionary work overseas in over 20 countries. Additionally, we animate Catholics in the United States to follow their own baptismal call to share God’s compassion and love with the poor, the sick, and all those in need.