Sister Regina Johnson, MM

Born: January 14, 1917
Entered: June 10, 1935
Died: August 2, 2009

Our Sister Regina Johnson will always be remembered for her gifts, her ability to enable others, to reach for their potential, to be fully active members of our Christian Communities – Regina a missioner to her core.

Regina died peacefully in our Residential Care Unit at the Maryknoll Sisters’ Center at 4:50 p.m. on August 2, 2009. She had been a Maryknoll Sister for 74 years.

Regina Martha Johnson was born on January 14, 1917 in Brooklyn, NY, to Loretta Cecilia Daly and Thomas Henry Johnson. She had 6 brothers and 6 sisters. Five of the girls became religious Sisters. Two joined the St. Joseph Sisters of Brentwood and one became a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament. Sister Virginia Therese and Regina joined the Maryknoll Sisters. Her parents, four brothers and three sisters have predeceased her. She is survived by her brothers, Clement and Thomas and two sisters, Sr. M. Cornelius, CSJ and Loyola Johnson.

Regina attended St. Saviour’s High School in Brooklyn, NY graduating in June 1934. She entered Maryknoll on June 10, 1935 from St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish. She received the religious name, Sister Thomas Marie, and made her First Profession of Vows on January 6, 1938 and her Final Profession of Vows on the same date in 1941, in Seattle, Washington.

She attended Maryknoll Teacher Training School from 1938-1940. After receiving her Teaching certificate, she was assigned to teach first grade in the Japanese School, in Seattle, WA.

In 1942, she accompanied the Japanese people in the Relocation Center, Camp Minidoka in Idaho. At the 1995 reunion of those interned in the Camp, Regina said: “The experience of working with the Japanese was my ‘gateway and initiation into my life as a Maryknoll Missioner.”’

Sister Regina was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua School in the Bronx, NY, from 1944 to 1950. While there, in 1945, she completed her studies for the degree of Bachelor of Education degree from Maryknoll Teachers College.

In 1950, a group of parents in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, eager to have their daughters receive a quality Catholic education, invited the Maryknoll Sisters to establish a school for girls. Not permitted by the Mexican government to wear religious habits, Regina recounts their arrival in lay clothes in Merida. “We flew into Merida from Mexico City. I was wearing a pink suit, Mary Scanlon a blue one, Carmen Fernandez, a print dress and Elvira Selgas a dark suit. Dofia Uxa one of the patrons who brought us to Mexico, was obviously dismayed. She took our colored clothes and had them dyed dark colors. When we bought new clothes, we had to “to buy long skirts and long sleeve blouses.”

Sister Regina was assigned to Guatemala City in 1953. There she helped establish Colegio Monte Maria. Six years later, she opened a parochial school in Jacaltenango, Huehuetenango, where she enabled sixth grade graduates to become effective classroom teachers. Years later, some of these original teachers obtained their degrees from the university extension in Jacaltenango, Guatemala.

Transferred to San Antonia Huista in 1963, she set up an experimental school of accelerated education for young village adults as part of the pastoral thrust of the parish. She returned to Guatemala City at Villa Guadalupe Parish in 1966.

In 1968, Regina returned to New York to study at Manhattan College where she received her Master’s degree in Theology. On her return to Guatemala the following year, her mission thrust took a new direction. She worked as a team member with Maryknoll Fathers Ed Moore and Dan Jensen at the Centro Apostolico, a diocesan program to prepare lay catechetical leaders in Huehuetenango. Years later, Regina remarked, “Those years were the most fruitful and satisfying in my mission life.” Yet those were difficult years for Guatemala, for Maryknoll, as well as for Regina. She said: “ I have been very disturbed over events in Guatemala and perhaps particularly so because I was close to the people involved.. .even our little convent (in San Antonia Huista), opened so lovingly and hopefully, is closed. My trouble is that I can see both sides so well that I find it exceedingly difficult to make a judgment. It is causing me many sleepless nights. I think my contribution will have to be helping all people appreciate their own dignity as human beings and as Christians.”

Called to Congregational Service at Maryknoll, NY, in 1974, she served as Education Director for three years. She returned to Guatemala at the request of Archbishop Prospero Peilados to administer the parish of San Jose del Golfo in El Carrizal with Sr. Mildred Payne. Millie and Regina were faithful companions on their mission journey. Today, Millie looks back on those years and says: “Regina made me the missioner I am today.”

In 1982, the Archbishop of Oaxaca, Mexico, invited Regina and Millie to form and guide basic Christian Communities in the parish of San Juan Chapultepec. This apostolate continued for 21 years until Regina joined the Chi-Rho Community at Maryknoll, NY in 2003. After 29 years in Guatemala and 24 years in Mexico someone asked Regina, “How do you foresee yourself continuing in mission? She replied, “Just living is being in mission.”

In 2004 she was assigned to the Eden Community, where, until her death, she took Oaxaca, Mexico as her Prayer Ministry.

We wish to thank our celebrant, our Maryknoll brother, Father Ernest Lukaschek. We welcome all her family members present with us today.

Thank you, Regina, for being our sister in mission.