What must it be like to start on a new path; to say goodbye to your old life and begin anew?  What was it like for the first ladies of Maryknoll, the “Secretaries” as they were called, when they arrived in Hawthorne, New York to assist Fathers James Anthony Walsh and Thomas Price in their fledgling Society?  Luckily, Mary Louise Wholean (later Sr. Mary Xavier) kept a diary and recorded their very first day at Maryknoll.

January 6, 1912:

“It was on the Feast of the Epiphany that we left New York for Hawthorne.  Once on the train, we felt that now indeed our hopes were to be realized, that we should not wake up and find that we had only dreamed of this opportunity to devote ourselves to the work that we had for so many years longed to do…One moment we were filled with eagerness, the next, we were almost overcome with awe, and then – ‘Hawthorne, Hawthorne,’ shouted the conductor, and looking out the window we saw Father [Walsh] waiting for us.

We walked through the little village until we came to a cottage perched on the top of a snowy terrace – Maryknoll, our new home.  At the door we were welcomed by Father Lane and a moment later Father Price came to greet us.  Then we looked around.  Uncovered floors, bare tables, cheerless rooms in which the furniture had been stacked, not arranged, and over all the failing light of a cold, midwinter sun.  I do not know what the others thought but I know that I almost stopped thinking for a while and merely repeated over and over the words that Father had given us for a motto, “For God and souls.”  Somehow I had not realized that we were not going into a ready-made house, all furnished and settled and waiting to receive us, and I had never before faced the prospect of bringing order out of disorder in household manners.  The motto worked its magic…and …some minutes later, I found myself making beds.”

First 4 secretaries

Pictured here are the first three “Secretaries,” as they were known then, who came to Hawthorne to assist Frs. Walsh and Price in their new venture. Mary Louise is pictured here on the right.

First Convent Hawthorne 1912

The first home of Maryknoll.