On Arbor Day 1926, Fr. James Anthony Walsh, co-founder of Maryknoll, planted a red oak sapling on a large expanse of lawn opposite the front entrance of the main Seminary building. Maryknoll was only 15 years old at the time.
Later that year, during his Foundation Day address on June 29, Father Walsh used the idea of a growing tree to describe how the Society itself was growing:
“Fifteen years is a very short period…At that time we were as nothing; we were hardly more than an expressed purpose…We were a hidden seed that had been introduced by Almighty God and bidden to rest under the soil until such a time as in His goodness He might bring it forth. Today, we look out upon it and see it as a tree that has already borne flower and fruit: that has shot forth several branches. And it is good to look upon….This, as we glance backward quickly, is about all we need to refer to, and yet, I cannot stand here and glance momentarily over the past fifteen years without thanking God that the tree, the seed of which He planted fifteen years ago, appears to be healthy and strong in its roots, and in its branches, and that we record in every department of the work, and in every section of the tree, progress that is gratifying….
The one question we might ask ourselves is, – ‘How shall we keep this tree strong? What can we do to make it such that it will bring forth fruit in due season, that its leaf shall not fall off?’ The answer is a simple one. Here, at the root of the tree, we must be watchful, prayerful, loving labor, patient, opening our souls, each and every one of us, to God’s graces so that they may saturate its very roots…If we be keen here at home and in the outposts to think not of one portion of the tree but of the whole tree, all will be well.”