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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reflection Day Part One)

Maryknoll Sisters, employees, Brothers and Fathers regathered in the main one day after our opening liturgy for the centennial. I write them in that order since that was the order in which they arrived, with the Sisters starting to come in around 7:30 a.m. (for an 8:30 start) then the employees, followed by the still-trickling in Society members.

This morning's speaker was historian Sr. Angelyn Dries, Franciscan Sister from Milwaukee, who spoke on the historical context that formed the vision of Bishop James A. Walsh, Fr. Thomas Frederick Price and Sr. Mary Joseph Rogers.

Sr. Janice McLaughlin, president of the Maryknoll Sisters, shared a story from the earliest years when then Molly Rogers, along with her "chauffeur" (Fr. James A. Walsh) passed herself as a woman of means (read: WASP) to negotiate the purchase of farmland in Ossining. Despite the seller commenting on the "lawsuit against John J.Rockefeller by that curious priest" trying to buy land for his religious community, her ruse worked and the rest is history.

Sr. Angelyn spoke of the "gifts of time and place" 1866-1911

The ecclesiastical environment in the 50 years before Maryknoll's founding. Right after the U.S. Civil War the bishops met in Council in Baltimore. Could American Catholics be Catholics? Who will hold property deeds? The bishop? The pastors? The laity?
Marriage with non Catholics were discouraged as a dangerous watering down of the faith. Catholic education was emphasized. Parish missions were encouraged. Catholic newspapers were started. There was an exhortation to evangelize the newly freed slaves.

Twenty years later when the bishops met again. The Baltimore Catechism and parochial schools shaped subsequent generations of Catholics. (A show of hands in our chapel should the vast majority of Maryknollers had studied the Baltimore Cathechism.) Catholic Sisters who had nursed Civil War wounded helped eleviate some suspicion of Catholics. Although hundreds of new congregations arose in the later 19th century, Sisters and Brothers were still considered "auxiliaries" to priests.

Price's birth in 1860 sets his formative years in the rural south (North Carolina) through the Civil War and Reconstruction eras when antiCatholicism was rampant. The appointment of the "northerner" (Maryland) Bishop Gibbons gave means to explain Catholicism, especially our veneration of the Blessed Virgin.

In 1896 the Paulists formed the Catholic Missionary Union and Thomas Price joined. The conversion of Americans to Catholicisms was their goal.

The experience of Catholics in the North was quite different. Riots broke out after the Emancipation Proclamation because immigrant workers feared Blacks would take away their jobs. Bishops encouraged priests to actively suppress any "fractious" gatherings.

James A. Walsh's birth in 1867 has him growing up in a majority Irish community with growing, German, Canadian, Italian, Polish and Portuguese populations---with subsequent tensions. (James E. Walsh considered James A. a "Boston Brahmen".) Bostonian Protestants held an exposition to encourage mission outreach to all the nations represented in these foreign communities. World evangelization was in the air that James A. breathed.

Protestant missionary efforts became a prod to ignite Catholic mission zeal.

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