Maryknoll Sisters' founder named to National Women's Hall of Fame

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. - Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, has been named one of nine American women to be inducted in 2013 into the National Women's Hall of Fame.

The announcement was made March 7, the day before International Women's Day.

Hall of fame deputy director Amanda Bishop cited Mother Mary Joseph's "extraordinary achievements," which were "recognized and applauded" by all the judges.

The induction ceremony will be held Oct. 12 at the National Women's Hall of Fame headquarters in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

"We are thrilled and honored by Mother Mary Joseph's selection," said a statement from Maryknoll Sister Janice McLaughlin, the congregation's president, "and happy for the recognition it gives to our founder who achieved so much, not only for women religious, but for all American women, at a time when possibilities for them were far more limited than they are today."

Born Oct. 27, 1882, in Roxbury, Mass., Mary Josephine "Mollie" Rogers was the fourth of eight children. Her parents instilled in her a passion for the Catholic Church and its works but, according to a Maryknoll biography of her, it was while she was attending Smith College that she discovered how she could contribute to the work of the church.

She overheard the joyful praises of Protestant students exiting a service at Smith in 1904, during which they had pledged their lives to missionary service. "If Protestant women can do this," she wondered to herself, "why not Catholic women, as well?"

A year later, after she graduated from Smith, Rogers began a missions club for Catholic women there. It was while seeking materials to use for the club that she met Father James A. Walsh, the founder of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Rogers soon began assisting him with a magazine he had begun publishing, "The Field Afar," now known as Maryknoll.

She established the Maryknoll Sisters Jan. 6, 1912, taking the religious name Mother Mary Joseph. She oversaw the growth of the congregation and its expansion into mission. At the time of her death Oct. 9, 1955, there were 1,065 sisters working in 20 countries and serving minorities in several cities in the United States.

Today, Maryknoll Sisters serve in 26 nations. Their numbers include doctors and nurses; authors, artists and dancers; social workers, ecologists and peace activists; theologians and spokeswomen to the United Nations.

"Mary Josephine Rogers, as she was called prior to joining religious life, broke through the negative stereotypes about the role of American Catholic women in church and society at the beginning of the 20th century," Sister McLaughlin said. "As founder of the first American mission congregation of Catholic women, she proved that women were equal to the demands of life and ministry abroad, particularly in places where poverty, physical hardship and sometimes, even safety during wartime, were commonplace."

The National Women's Hall of Fame, the oldest national membership organization dedicated to recognizing outstanding individual American women and their achievements, selects a group of women every other year for its hall of fame with the help board of judges from leading national organizations, education institutions and diverse fields of human endeavor.

Other honorees include the late first lady Betty Ford; Ina May Gaskin, known as the "mother of authentic midwifery"; jockey Julie Krone; the late Anna Jacobson Schwartz, one of the nation's leading research economists; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970