Sister Maureen Corr, MM

Born: November 14, 1932
Entered: September 2, 1959
Died: February 24, 2023

Lau Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, once said, “The snow goose need not bathe to make itself white, neither need you do anything but be yourself.” That was Maureen – she was herself, her own woman and she lived life according to the high standards she set for herself as a Maryknoll Sister.

Maureen was born on November 14, 1932 in New York City. Her parents were Kathleen Marron and Thomas Corr, and she had one sister and two brothers, all of whom predecease her. After graduating from high school, she worked for the NY Telephone Company for eight years before entering Maryknoll on September 2, 1959 from St. Nicholas of Tolentino parish in the Bronx. She made her first vows on June 24, 1964 at Topsfield, Massachusetts. Her final vows were made on July 4, 1971 in Taiwan.

Maureen was assigned to Taiwan in 1965 and there began her deep appreciation of the Chinese, their culture, and their language, in which she became quite proficient. After language study, she worked in a hostel for young girls in Miaoli making for them, as Maureen said, a home away from home.

In 1972, Maureen began teaching at the National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei and on weekends visited a Government Rehabilitation Center for young girls who had been lured into prostitution. She wrote a letter to the then Archbishop of Taipei, relating her experience and urging the Church to get involved in this important ministry.

In 1979, she returned to the Centre for family ministry and spent each weekend with her aging and sick parents. During the week she supervised an ESL program at the Maryknoll seminary. After the death of her parents, she did promotion for the Maryknoll Sisters on the West Coast.

In 1985, Maureen began her education ministry in China heeding the words of Confucius, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart … and remember where you go, there you are.” For the next 21 years, except for brief semester breaks spent in the US or Hong Kong, Maureen and her heart were in China. First in Hefei, followed by Beijing, Xian, and Chongqing where she taught advanced English language skills in top universities and won numerous awards for excellence in teaching, from her universities as well as the provincial government. She was nominated for a prized green card, which gave permanent residency in China to foreigners.

Maureen took every opportunity to learn more about China and the Chinese church. She took overnight trains to visit Kunming and other places of interest as well as former Maryknoll missions in Wuzhou and Guilin. Getting off the train, she would ask for directions to the Catholic Church for which she usually got no response, or she would be directed to a Protestant church. Not one to be deterred, Maureen set out – in these cities of millions of residents – with a map in hand and after several queries, Maureen would reach her destination.

Maureen was very active in helping the local church if and wherever it was possible. In Xian, she was a good friend of the bishop and often carried money from the Hong Kong diocese to the bishop who would have a car meeting her at the airport. Since the Bishop was under government surveillance, Maureen was very prudent in her contacts with the church in Xian. However, she did visit the bishop in the hospital the night before he died and was present at his funeral.

Maureen’s letters record some of the most tumultuous years in China. She was in Beijing on June 4, 1989 for the Tiananmen Incident as it is known in China. In her letters of May 1989, she describes walking through Tiananmen and witnessing the thousands of students demonstrating.  Her university classes were cancelled for two weeks as most of her students were at Tiananmen. After June 4th, all foreign teachers were advised to leave Beijing and Maureen told of the chaos at the airport. When it was safe to return, Maureen was one of the first teachers back in the classroom.

On May 7, 1999, she was in Xian when the US bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade resulting in huge anti-American demonstrations. The American teachers were advised not to venture out until things calmed down.

At Northwest University a simple language department presentation turned deadly when the Chinese students resented the presentation of the Japanese students. Rioting ensued for several days and the foreign teachers and students were moved to safer hotels. When they returned to their apartments some Chinese students tried to get to the Japanese students’ dorms. Maureen stood arms outstretched at the top of the stairs yelling in Chinese for the Chinese students to get off the stairs and return to their dormitories, which they did.

In 2006, due to her age Maureen retired from Northwest University and planned a three-week tour of Northern China following the Silk Route of old, together with a friend also finishing teaching in China. After the trip of a lifetime, Maureen returned to Hong Kong and was immediately asked by the Columban Fathers to go to Chongqing to finish the contract for a teacher who had to return home due to a family emergency.

After the year in Chongqing, Maureen worked part time at the at Holy Spirit Research Center in Hong Kong helping to translate the histories of women’s religious congregations in China into English. She also wrote several articles for the China Bridge published in the Hong Kong diocesan paper. At the same time, she responded to a request to give a three-minute meditation several times a week on a daily Hong Kong radio program.

After years of total self-giving, Maureen’s energy began to waver and in 2017, she left Hong Kong and on August 1, 2017, she was assigned to the Chi Rho Community at Maryknoll. Later she moved to the Eden Community where she went to her final reward on February 24, 2023.