The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers had the first mission departure on September 7, 1918. At eight o’clock the ringing of the mission bell announced the departure of our first four men to the Orient. This tradition has been passed down from generation to generation creating the yearning to hear the sound of the bell. It is a 200 pound bell from an old Japanese pagoda that was given as a gift to our co-founder, Bishop James A. Walsh, M.M., by Fr. Deffrennes, a French missionary in Japan.
It is said that during a trip to the Orient, Bishop Walsh heard that this bell was rescued from a Japanese temple which burned to the ground. In the small town near Sendai, he was offered this bell by Fr. Deffrennes. Bishop Walsh arranged the bell to be transported from Yokohama to Maryknoll by ship. As he saw the bell for one last instance, Fr. Deffrennes wrote a letter dated in 1919:
“You can imagine how happy I was to know that my bell had sounded the hour of the first departure! May it sound many, many more times! Its voice is not beautiful but the ears of apostles must get used to unpleasant sounds.”
Being faithful to the tradition, this bell rang again on the first Friday of June 2022 at 3 PM when Fr. John Siyumbu, M.M., received his mission cross and was assigned to his first mission in Latin America. Will a priest or a Brother be the next one to go on mission? When will the bell ring next? These were some of the questions that you could hear after the ceremony.
Looking ahead, I captured a group of our newest seminarians studying the still legible Chinese characters engraved on the bell which narrate the story of its origins. This is a bell that sends people to announce Good News. Be part of this tradition. Be a Brother, be a Priest, be Maryknoll!