Sister Mary Hock, MM

Born: August 30, 1909
Entered: October 15, 1930
Died: May 12, 1998

On May 12, 1998 at 4:45 a.m., after eighty-eight years of life, sixty-eight of which had been lived as a Maryknoll Sister, Sister Mary Margaret Hock, M.M. died peacefully in the Maryknoll Sisters Residential Care Unit, Maryknoll, New York.

Mary Margaret Hock was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania, August 30, 1909, to Elizabeth Moffitt Hock and Henry A. Hock. She had one brother, Lawrence R. Hock.  Sr. Mary graduated from St. Agatha’s High School in 1927 and obtained her Registered Nurse’s Degree from St. Joseph’s Hospital, Elmira, New York.

Toward the end of her nursing studies, her supervisor asked about her future and Mary told her, “I plan to go to China.” The woman told Mary that if she wanted to go to China, Maryknoll was the place for her. She gave Mary The Field Afar magazine and Mary applied to Maryknoll in July 1930. She received her acceptance on her graduation day, September 8, 1930 and entered on October 15 that same year. Many years later Mary would write, “I saw a real Maryknoll Sister for the first time when I stepped across the door into the convent there. I knew I belonged and I knew I was home.”

Mary received the religious name of Sister Mary Augusta and on June 24, 1933 made her First Vows. At dinner that very evening, she received her assignment to China. Writing about it Mary said, “It was an exciting day believe me. Any wonder that I couldn’t finish my dessert and coffee.”

At first Mary was assigned to Yeung Kong, China where there was an orphanage and clinic, but by the time she arrived, the assignment had been changed and she joined five other Maryknoll Sisters assigned to a new ministry in Bishop Francis Xavier Ford’s Mission in the Kaying Kwantung Province. However, three months into language study she received word that she had been transferred to yet another new ministry opening up in Shanghai–a hospital for the mentally ill called Mercy Hospital where she spent three years in psychiatric nursing.

Maryknoll withdrew from the hospital in 1938 and Mary was once again assigned to Kaying where, at the beginning of her ministry there, she took care of Bishop Ford who was ill at the time. Here she spent the next twelve years in direct outreach in rural parishes in Tungshek and Siaoloc. She later said of this period of her life, “I lost my heart to the country Chinese, the Hakka people. Their homes, their food, their joys and sorrows, their tears and laughter were mine.”

In 1948, fifteen years after she had left for China, Mary returned to the states and had her first furlough taking a refresher course at her alma mater in Elmira, New York. In January 1950, she was assigned to the Philippines to wait for an entrance visa to China. While there, she worked in the hospital for the sugar cane workers in Manapla. However, after two months, word came that there was to be once again another change in Mary’s destination and she was assigned to Korea. While disappointed in not being able to return to her beloved China, she stated, “When I arrived in Korea I knew this truly was what God wanted for me.”

Mary worked in the Pusan Clinic and at one point had to be evacuated to Kyoto, Japan when fighting broke out close to Pusan. Nine months later the Sisters were allowed to return to Pusan and they found it flooded with refugees from the north and the countryside. Mary was in charge of the Pediatric Clinic which served one thousand patients a day. Many of the infants died due to malnourishment and smallpox. Remembering these times, Mary wrote, “One day scorched into my memory when we counted five deaths of children, mostly malnourished babies. We grieved with the parents and felt the loss keenly.”

Mary loved and respected the Korean people. In Korea to greet someone in the morning you have to stop, make a slight bow and give the good morning greeting really acknowledging them. One of the Sisters talked about having overheard some of the employees at the clinic talking about Mary who always stopped and greeted them each day. This action meant to them that Mary not only acknowledged them correctly, but that she acknowledged them as persons.

Mary served in various leadership positions in Korea, such as Assistant Vicariate Superior, Mission Superior, Local Superior and Regional Superior, as well as attending the 1964 and 1968 Chapter of Affairs. While Mary served for many years as Superior, when the Sisters in the Korea Region decided that the Region would be best served by a team approach to governance, which was a new idea for Korea and for Maryknoll, Mary expressed her willingness to open her leadership role to become part of a team effort.

Mary was one of the Korea Region’s delegates to the 1968 Special Chapter of Affairs. Speaking about her experience there, Mary stated, “Retirement, aging, burial hadn’t entered too much into my thinking until 1968 when I was at the General Chapter working with the Personnel Commission on Health and Retirement. We had received a number of proposals concerning retirement and I did much research, studying, reading, listening and discussion about what was being done in society and in religious communities.” Mary, although wishing to return immediately to Korea, selflessly volunteered to spend the next two years at the Center to help establish the Senior Region for those of retirement age. Mary saw this time as “A whole new world of evolving into golden years opened up for me — good thoughts were building up on some treasured words a Priest had said when talking about the resurrection. He had stated, ‘We are always moving forward, evolving toward the Light, the Resurrection.’ For me, this came to mean living, dying, death and resurrection and I wanted to shout it from the housetops for all those feeling sad, depressed and ashamed of the slowing down process. I wanted to let them know that there is joy and happiness and many ways to continue serving as we evolve and grow toward Eternity.”

Mary returned to Korea in 1971 accepting a position as pediatric consultant to the Holt Adoption Program. In 1976, Mary, along with her longtime friend and companion, Rita Bonnin, said goodbye to Korea and moved to San Diego, California where she began her ministry with the County Hospice program. Here she participated in training programs for volunteers as well as workshops and television programs to promote awareness of Hospice work. Later, she also worked in Rachel’s Women’s Center, a day shelter for women with limited or no resources who were within the downtown area of San Diego. Mary often talked about her ministry at this Center and with her characteristic sense of humor enjoyed telling the following story on herself: “When I go to Rachel’s Center, I wear simple clothing. In the early days of my ministry, I stood in the doorway with my plastic bag, carrying a few articles I might need in my day’s service. Four women, strangers to me, were sitting at a table near the door. They looked me over and one said pointing to the coordinator at the opposite side of the room, “If you are new here, better see the one in charge!!!!” Mary continued in San Diego until March 1994 when she returned to the Center for retirement.

On July 12, 1974, Mary wrote the following words which I think speak to us of her life as a Maryknoller. She wrote: “Just as I accept my conception, birth, growth, my wonderful life, I accept aging, dying and death, grateful always to my companions for their love, patience and understanding and grateful to my God, my Spouse, who loves me and Whom I love with every pulsation of my heart and fiber of my being.”

On Mary’s application for transfer from Korea to the Western US Region, she stated: “I want to express my deep appreciation of the privilege of serving overseas for forty-two years of my life as a Maryknoll Sister. I love and believe in my community. I love the Chinese people and the Korean people — and in a special way I love my Sisters in the Korea Region.”

Today, as we say goodbye to Mary, we, too, can say that we were privileged to know her and love her. We thank her for all that she has been and is for Maryknoll and for each of us.

We extend our sympathy to Mary’s family and friends. We also wish to welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father Michael Duggan, for being with us today to preside at this Eucharistic Liturgy to celebrate Mary’s resurrection.