Last month I attended the “Global History and Catholicism” Conference at the University of Notre Dame. It was a great conference, and I learned about topics from Italian missionaries in Mozambique to collaboration between archives in post-war Germany. During one session, all three presenters gave papers on the Maryknoll Sisters!

Professor Christine Hernandez of Saint Meinrad School of Theology talked about the evolution of the Sisters mission model in Central America in the 1960s and 1970s. The Sisters realized that to best serve the people, they needed to meet the people where they were. As a result, the Sisters moved from an ‘institutional’ model of mission – schools, hospitals, orphanages – to a ‘community’ model, exemplified in their living amongst the people and spreading the “Family of God” program of catechetics across Central America.

Eileen Markey, journalist and professor of journalism at Lehman College, CUNY, discussed the Sisters’ work in the Philippines, specifically how the Sisters were working under the principles of liberation theology long before its formal introduction to the world. She argued the Sisters’ work with the poor began to influence their mission philosophy as they lived among these communities and experienced their hardships. Through their acceptance and support of liberation theology’s principles, the Sisters contributed to the development of revolutionary movements across the global south.

Professor Vivien Ng of SUNY Albany talked about her own experience attending the Maryknoll Convent School in Hong Kong and how it influenced her documentary film project on the Sisters, “Trailblazers in Habits”. She discussed how changes after Vatican II drastically changed the social and religious lives of the Sisters, causing feelings of sadness, encouragement, dismay, and hope in equal measures. In the years after Vatican II, the Sisters’ mission evolved as Sisters moved from their convents into the world to live among those to whom they ministered.

It was great to see these final products that come from so many hours of research in our Research Room. Presentations like these show us that archives really are at work in the world!