|September 21, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 16 • Oakland, CA|
Maryknollers, more than a century of reaching out
In April, when a devastating earthquake hit Nepal, Maryknoll Father Joseph Thaler was among one of the first responders. For the priest, who has spent three decades in Nepal, his mission was not only just about disaster relief. He was there to help the people and communities he had lived with and served over the years. He was checking up on friends.
The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America Inc., the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, was founded in Westchester County, New York in 1911, The first group of missioners was sent to China on Sept. 8, 1911. The team included Maryknoll co-founder, Father Thomas F. Price, who led three young priests, Fathers James E. Walsh, Francis X. Ford and Bernard F. Meyer.
The order's archives reveal that first mission was no vacation, said Mike Virgintino, communications manager at the New York based Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. The territory where the team served consisted of two unconnected districts in rural China. There was 680 Catholics, residing in small villages, dispersed in a larger population of 1 million Chinese.
According to the archives: "The missioners faced long and harsh winters, typhoons during the summer, a variety of vermin and disease, poor living conditions and eventually the Communist takeover."
Gaps in the order's archives make it difficult to put together a narrative of the community's move west. On Sept. 13, 1917, the San Francisco "procure" of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers was established. The procure served as a hostel for Maryknoll missioners and others passing through on their way to the "Far East Missions."
Later the order supported a prep seminary in Los Altos. Today Matt Dulka, a permanent deacon for the Diocese of Oakland, serves as director of the Maryknoll Regional Center in San Lorenzo. The center is a mission education and promotion site where people can learn about the work of the missions both in a classroom setting and on mission "immersion" trips to various countries like Haiti or Jamaica.
In addition to Maryknoll magazine the order also operates Orbis Books (www.orbisbooks.com). The publications range from books on prayer and spirituality to theology and mission.
For more information: www.maryknoll.us, or locally, 510-276-5021.
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