Thursday, October 13, 2011

October 13 - Mollie Rogers, Missionary, Maryknoll Sister, Nun

"Love, work, prayer, and suffering will sustain us in the future as they have in the past. All who are here now, all who will come after us, will have no others tools than these with which to build."

Mollie heard singing outside of her window. It wasn't uncommon to hear large groups of her peers making noise or singing songs in the middle of the night at Smith college. It wasn't especially raucous but it was a collegiate lifestyle full of idealism and visions for a better future unimpeded by cynicism and experience.In other words, they hadn't yet been informed that they couldn't change the world. As she opened her window she heard their song:"Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before. Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see his banners go!" It was drifting up from the throng of protestant students exiting one of the campus buildings. She was able to surmise that they had made a commitment to go to China as missionaries. In their heart burned a passion for a largely unreached people and a desire to make a difference in the lives of those whom they had never met.

"At the sign of triumph Satan's host doth flee; on then, Christian soldiers, on to victory! Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise; brothers, lift your voices, loud your anthems raise."Mollie was excited to hear their passion and it caught in her heart like the contagion it was. However, she regretted that there was no similar Roman Catholic movement that she could covenant to serve. She went to a nearby church and knelt before the altar. The strains of the song fresh in her mind, she made a commitment that shook the foundations of hell--she committed to do God's work as a missionary and servant of Godregardless of what it looked like or how it worked out.

"Like a mighty army moves the church of God; brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity." Mollie began working with Roman Catholic priests to do the work of the people of God. She became very involved in a journal entitled Field Afar that focused on kindling greater interest for mission activity within the American parishes of the Roman Catholic church. Though America was, itself, considered a mission front until 1908, Mollie and the priests she worked with were able to convince the American bishops to allow them to found a mission seminary in America called "Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America" which later came to be known as Maryknoll.

"Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
but the church of Jesus constant will remain. Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail; we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail." Mollie became increasingly involved in the missionary lifestyle even though she never left American soil as a missionary. She realized that the participation in missionary life that she had committed to would likely require her to become a nun. And so, she did. She became known first as Sister Mary Joseph and campaigned for female involvement in the missionary life not just as assistants to priests but as workers of the Church by themselves. Eventually, this meant that she founded the Maryknoll Sisters and became Mother Mary Joseph. She was insistent that the Maryknoll sisters not be a cloistered group of women but, rather, a group that lived among the people and lived out the missionary life. At first, this meant being missionaries to the Japanese on the west coast. Later, Mollie would have the grand opportunity to see some of her own sisters go to China as missionaries. Eventually, they would go to Korea and the Philipines as well. She traveled to visit and survey their progress but it was not her calling to be among them. Rather, she guided and comforted them.

"Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng, blend with ours your voices in the triumph song. Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King, this through countless ages men and angels sing." Mollie was distinguished as being fairly atypical from the average mother superior of a missionary convent. She preferred women of adaptability and flexibility as nuns instead of women rooted in traditional ways of doing things. In this, she knew the missionary spark of becoming all things to all so that she might win some. She called countless sisters to join with her and others to reach a world that was desperate for faith, hope, and love.

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