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Maryknollers, then and now

Sunday's New York Times featured a sweet essay on the Maryknoll Sisters, based in Ossining, NY, but found ministering to and standing in solidarity with suffering people all over the world. Even better are the photo gallery and audio clips that accompany the story at the NYT website.

There are some terrific archival photos, including images of Mother Mary Josephine Rogers, who founded the order in 1912. I'm used to black-and-white photos of nuns looking solemn, even dour (and not just nuns; anybody photographed pre-1950 is likely to look a bit grim). But in these pictures, Mother Mary Josephine and her sisters look joyful. They look like people you would want to know and work alongside. And they are pictured doing their work and witnessing to the faith in some remarkable settings.

About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.



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The founder's name was Mother Mary Joseph, not Josephine.

I liked the article and the pictures, too.  

Here's an obituary of a Maryknoll sister who was one of the fifty who were imprisoned in Japanese concentration camps during the war.  From that:

Maryknoll's founder, Mother Mary Joseph, worried for the safety of her more than fifty sisters imprisoned for the duration of the war. Amazingly all the sisters did return, with a dozen or so needing more time to recuperate at the Motherhouse in Ossining, New York.  That is, they were so emaciated they needed to get back to looking like themselves again lest they shock their parents. While most sisters left to see their families - Sister Beata, who had refused a ride to the beach but walked behind the amtracs, was one of those told to wait at the motherhouse.  

(Scroll down a little for the amazing story of the rescue of the prisoners at Los Banos.) 

The birth name of the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters is Mary Josephine Rogers.  The NYTs writer, Lawrence Downes and Mollie Wilson O'Reilly were not wrong to refer to her as Mother Mary Josephine.

Mother Mary Josephine was an amazing woman (Smith grad) and it is wonderful that she (and the Maryknoll Sisters by extension) is being honored with induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

Sr. Maddie Dorsey, MM, featured in the audio link is a living saint.  So pleased that she received some attention in this wonderful piece.

Jack - I of course prefer to think of Mother Mary Joseph[ine] as "Mollie" -- The first St. Mollie, maybe? It would take so much pressure off me. ;-)

Google Mother Mary Joseph Rogers.  You'll see well over a million references.,or.r_qf.&fp=26f39b038c8c2541&q=mother+mary+joseph+rogers

Mother Mary Joseph is called by her name in religion at Smithipedia and by the National Women's Hall of Fame. 

She's called by her name in religion by members of her order on their various publications about her including her latest  biography.

If you prefer to use another name for this renowned woman, that's your choice, of course.  Odd and disrespectful, imho, for the editor of Commonweal to make that choice.  Not "sweet" at all.

I'd like a patron saint to pray to when I am tempted to make intemperate or unfair comments in the blogosphere.  I nominate Mother Mary Joseph, MM, aka Mary Josephine Rogers. aka Mollie.

Saint Mollie -- pray for us.

By the way -- I note that Nancy Pelosi and feminist Kate Millett are also being inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in the same ceremony with the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters.  Chances for protest and controversy seem high.

Again, Saint Mollie, pray for us! 


Beautiful photographs!

These are the women who do the real work of the gospel while more than enough of our hierarchs do anything but!  Beautiful people.  The sisters, that is.

The smile was a scandal at the time.  People who were photographed generally adopted a serious demeanor.  A photo was a big deal in those days, and the norm was to adopt a suitably grave appearance so as to lend an impression of dignity.  Mollie Rogers's exuberant joy was...countercultural.  I've used her photo in class as a way to provoke student to think about change in history, how a scandal many years ago looks quite normal to us now.

My Maryknoll sources also tell me...though I cannot independently confirm it...that she was an enthusiastic card player.  The word "poker" comes up now and then.  Though, her photo gives the impression that her poker face must not have been very good.  Perhaps winning was not the point?

I can't imagine doing missionary work in hot, humid climates clad in those early habits. 

There is an amazing movie in production about the Maryknoll Sisters.  You can see some great clips and photos and text at this website.

Looks like a good movie, Jack.  Nice to see Queen of the World Hospital at 1:51.  The Maryknoll Sisters took over the old St. Vincent's Hospital from the Daughters of Charity in 1954, one of many maternity homes in Kansas City, and renamed it and turned it into a general hospital.  (Gone now.)


Disagree, Steven, that Mother Mary Joseph's "smile was a scandal at the time."  Who was scandalized?

I've seen many smiles on many nuns' faces in pictures from those days.  (And many frowns, too, of course.)  Some people didn't smile in pictures because the exposure time was so long that it was hard to hold the smile.  Many had bad or no teeth.  

As to card playing?  Many nuns in many orders played cards.  (And Scrabble and Monopoly and mah jong etc., etc.)  

Elmore Leonard chose the Maryknoll Sisters for memorial offerings in his honor:

Jack - An excellent choice. I've seen so many tributes to him in the past couple days - I hope all those fans look up the Maryknoll sisters. And thanks, Steven, for your comment - very interesting.

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