As we look forward to celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the first Mission Sending of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America that took place on the evening of September 7, 1918, a feeling of anticipation fills the air. Which makes one wonder – if the approaching celebration of this sending’s 100th anniversary is causing this much of a stir, what must the atmosphere have been like leading up to this momentous first mission sending for Maryknoll? What information were they sharing through their magazine, The Field Afar? What was it like the evening the first four missioners were announced? What was the overall feeling of the Society as this new adventure approached? Here you will find a few excerpts found in our collections from writings and events that took place in June of 1918, as the time for the first sending drew near.
Where were they going to mission?
“But where is the field you will naturally ask…
We do not wish to burden our readers with too many fantastic names or sink them too deeply in geography, but we are anxious to prove that the land which the Maryknoll Mission will occupy is recognized by map-makers.
Look, then, at the map of China and note the well-known English city of Hongkong. Just to the west is the province of Kwangtung, one of the eighteen provinces of the Chinese empire. The Maryknoll Mission will occupy for the present a small slice of that province[…] The Maryknoll Mission will run from the South China Sea to the West River.”
~ “Maryknoll Mission in China” – The Field Afar, June 1918, p. I
The announcement of the first four Maryknollers chosen to be sent to mission:
“The stillness was awful as the Superior read out the names of those who are privileged to be the pioneers. For weeks and months there had been conjectures and every possible candidate had been trying to convince himself that he would be in that first group. Some, however, were bound to be disappointed, and all knew that only four out of Maryknoll’s priests could be spared from the home establishments in New York, Pennsylvania, and California.
The four named are:
Rev. Thomas Frederick Price of North Carolina, Archdiocese of Baltimore
Rev. James Edward Walsh of Cumberland, Maryland, Archdiocese of Baltimore
Rev. Bernard Francis Meyer of Stuart, Iowa, Diocese of Des Moines
Rev. Francis Xavier Ford of Brooklyn, New York, Archdiocese of New York”
~ “Maryknoll Pioneers” – The Field Afar, July, 1918
“Later – 10 p.m. – At Spiritual Reading this p.m. the Superior made the announcement of the ‘First Group’ which was ‘Fr. Price, Walsh, Meyer, & Ford,’ the first-named being the greatest surprise of all. — I promptly paid over the Eight Dollars I had bet on my being in the ‘First Group’ […] The ‘First Group’ are to sail from Frisco[…] – I was quite prepared for the announcement that I was not to go – but at the same time it came with a certain amount of shock, when it was definitely announced. However ‘Fiat Voluntas Dei,’ who alone knows what is good for us.”
~ Bishop William O’Shea – Diary, June 16, 1918
Remarks by Maryknoll’s Superior General on Foundation Day in 1918:
“Last of all then, we are thankful for the opportunity presented to us now as a Society, for the field given to us. Our path is perfectly clear now. God has made known the way and all is in readiness. The consciousness of God’s presence, guidance and bounty is so strong that we should fail miserably if we did not recognize it. All this is a source of thanksgiving today, and I know you join me in thanking God…”
~ Bishop James A. Walsh, “High Mass – Foundation Day,” June 29, 1918