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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fr. Kevin Hanlon on Bishop James A. Walsh

Fr. Kevin Hanlon gave the second talk on our co-Founder. Decades after leaving the Boston clergy, James A. Was all but forgotten by the priests then living. Thus, gatherings like today's are all the more important to keep the memory of the Founders alive as we rekindle the spirit of mission.

Daniel Sargeant wrote the definitive biography of James A. Walsh. He noted that early on his very Catholic and very Irish patents say him early on as marked for priesthood. He lost his mother when he was 11. His father's business ventures soured and the family resettled in Cambridge. In a debating class he argued against women's suffrage, his debating skills compensating for his lack of conviction for the position.

He did doubt his vocation for awhile and wondered if he should abandon his path to help alleviate his father's financial burden. Walsh was raised by a second family, the Shea's, which brings to mind Christ's words in the gospel of John: "I will not leave you orphans."

In 1892 Walsh fulfilled his dream and was ordained a priest. As pastor he was given charge ior organized many sodalities and mission groups. He especially cherished bringing the Eucharist to the sick. It was on one such call he had a mystical experience. Visiting a dying woman he realized she was growing blind but was at the brink of seeing Christ face to face. This formed the base of his poem and later song "Only a veil." This poetic side reveals the passionate heart and romance behind the otherwise outwardly stern appearing facade Walsh usually presented to the world.

Walsh reveled in his appointment as SPF director. After a day's deliberation this became his assignment, setting the stage for fund-raising on behalf of overseas missions. He wanted to educate Catholics about the missions, telling them about realities there and doubling the income for the SPF. He maintained a practice of visiting a different parish every weekend. He started the Field Afar in 1907 that became MARYKNOLL magazine. Among his assistants was the young Molly Rogers who was to become the foundered of the Maryknoll Sisters.

At a conference in Washington he first encountered Father Price. The link between Eucharist and mission strengthened.

The vision that multitudes in every land be fed with the Body of Christ directed his steps.

Walsh and Price nourished their new friendship with correspondence in the following years.

The thought that other European groups might come to the States to open a missionary seminary gave impetus to their idea that America should have its own mission seminary.

The stage was set for their historic encounter at the Eucharistic Conference in Montreal at which the idea for Maryknoll would first express itself. "The flame intensifies as it spreads."

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