Maryknollers from Boston
As the Maryknoll Mission Archives staff prepares to attend the “Envisioning the Future of Catholic Religious Archives” conference in Boston this week, we thought we would explore the deep connection between Boston and Maryknoll. Many Maryknollers have come from the Archdiocese of Boston and its parishes, especially during Maryknoll’s early years. With this in mind, let us travel back in time and visit some Maryknollers who called the city home.
Sister Mary Theophane Shea was born in Randolph, a Boston suburb, in 1880 and was one of the first “Secretaries” of the Society. She began working with Fr. James A. Walsh in The Field Afar office in Boston in 1909, helping to produce the magazine and circulate its mission and purpose. While Frs. Walsh and Price were in Rome seeking permission to begin the Society, Sister Mary Theophane managed the office and all magazine business. Sister joined the fledgling Congregation and made her vows to Maryknoll in 1920. Sister was often called upon to serve as a pioneer in the newest mission locations, and served at the Venard, in Scranton, Seattle, Los Altos, and the Motherhouse.
Father J. Francis Flynn was born in Boston in 1926 and joined Maryknoll in 1952. Fr. Flynn spent his entire mission career in Tanzania and Kenya, eventually learning three languages and leading parishes across both countries. After several years of work in the Musoma minor seminary, Fr. Flynn began specializing in evangelization to underserved areas. He organized several missions with Kuria-speaking communities first in Tanzania then in Kenya to address the lack of Kuria-speaking pastors among the people. With these communities, he built churches, provided pastoral care, and promoted education for the youth of the congregations. He was known as an exemplary pastor who was deeply committed to the welfare of his community.
Sister Alice Ryan was born in Boston in 1910 and joined Maryknoll in 1934 after teaching in Boston’s elementary schools for three years. She used her certification from Teachers College of the City of Boston throughout her life, serving as a teacher for her entire mission career. She was missioned in Hawaii, Panama, Mexico, and Guatemala, where she spent her last twenty years of active mission. She served as an elementary school teacher and also began short course series for her students’ mothers and women in the community focused on the Church and current events. Sister Alice was beloved by her students and the communities she served – as one of her colleagues in Guatemala said, “Sister Alice’s testimony has left us strong!”
Brother Blaise Coffey was born in Quincy, a Boston suburb, in 1924 and joined Maryknoll in 1956 after serving in the Navy and becoming a pharmacist. He was known for his religious conviction and dedication to the Maryknoll mission. He served in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile as a teacher of science, English, and religion, a coach, and a youth counsellor. He felt that he could do the most good in the foreign missions, and used his gifts as a teacher and mentor to shape the next generation of Church members. Brother Blaise was regarded as a team player, a hard worker, and dedicated community supporter.