Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Maryknoll Sisters 100 Years of Service

Starting today, October 24, Maryknoll Sisters will hold a week-long celebration commemorating 100 years of service to those in need, a worldwide service that has been praised recently by Catholic media as their "All Weather Apostolic Ministry."

Many events have been planned for the week, beginning with a symposium on "Mission: A Way of Showing God's Love," and having on hand the illustrated book, in comic-book format, of the life of the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters, Mollie Rogers.  Talks will be given during the week by sisters discussing their work in North Korea, the labor apostolate, their medical work, and their work with women in society. On display will be photographs of the 123 Maryknoll Sisters who have worked in Korea for the past 88 years, and an exhibition of paintings by a Korean Maryknoll Sister working in Hawaii.

The Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic: M.M.--the full name of the congregation--was started by Mary Joseph Rogers with three sisters in 1912, becoming the first American women's missionary society. Today, there are 550 members in 30 countries of the world.

The Sisters began their missionary journey in the country in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 1934, working as teachers, doing parish and medical work, and founding a vocational school for women. They were also involved in starting the first Korean Sisters Community: the Sisters of Perpetual Help, in 1932. Because of the Second World War and the Korean War, the sisters who were American had to leave the country. One of the Maryknoll Sisters,a Korean, remained behind and  is presumed killed by the the Communists during the  ordeal in the North.

On the return of the sisters to Korea after the war, they started the Maryknoll hospital in Pusan, a clinic in the Chongju diocese and a hospital in Kangwha in the Inchon diocese.  They worked in welfare, in the labor apostolate and in education. The first credit union in Pusan, an innovation in Korea, which was started by Sister Gabriela, spread throughout the country. In 1968 the sisters turned over the Maryknoll Hospital in Pusan to the diocese, and in 1978, the Nursing School to the diocese.

As the society began to flourish, the sisters went to the country and farming areas to help, while continuing their medical work on a number of islands. The sisters who remained in the city were involved in justice and peace issues, the labor apostolate, building communities, teaching English, and helping battered women. About 10 Koreans are now working with the Sisters as affiliates.

The sisters have played a significant role in building the Korean Catholic community and now, having turned over most of their works to the Church in Korea, have moved on to other countries where their ideals and charisms are more needed.