“Our life is a song, isn’t it? Different melodies based on what we go through. It is a beautiful song indeed.”

Fr. Rodrigo Ulloa-Chavarry

Music is universal. It is found in every part of the world, through instruments, songs, and dance. Music unites people beyond spoken language or shared culture. Maryknollers have experienced the power of music for more than 100 years. They have brought their own musical traditions to mission and have learned new traditions from their mission communities. Music plays a huge role in Maryknollers’ lives. It is a creative outlet and a means of worldwide communication. It’s no surprise that many missioners leave evidence of their musical experiences in the Archives.
The Archives holds musical material from missioners like sheet music, recorded songs, photos, stories, videos, and more. Music appears in so many different areas and formats within the Archives collections. However, until now we have never done a deep dive into Maryknollers and their music. In this exhibit, we take a closer look to see how missioners use music to connect with each other, God, and their communities.
This exhibit focuses on three elements of musical expression – composition, teaching, and performance. We also share missioners’ reflections on the role of music in their lives and ministries. Click on the buttons below to explore missioners’ experiences of music around the world.
Sr. Kathleen Ryan hanging a sheet music poster

I sort of feel like music is everyone’s first language. It often connects beyond thought and beyond the barriers of culture.

Vicki Armour-Hileman, former Lay Missioner

Music provides a unique opportunity to communicate with God both individually and as a community.

Fr. Michael Snyder


Music is the sound of eternal love,
the rhythm of wind, divinely rushing
through our veins, our bodies, our brains,
announcing beauty to our ears,
liberating joy on our lips,
opening universal notes of hope in our hearts.
Music draws our spirits into the surround of
God’s embrace
dancing in each strand of DNA, and
circling in the millions of cells
that make us utterly human,
that tell us we are eternally loved.

by Sr. Ann Hayden

The Maryknoll Seminary choir rehearses, 1945

Music connects us to God, ourselves, and our neighbors in ways that the spoken word cannot. When we feel connected to humanity and the gamut of emotions that we experience as humans, we feel connected to God. And music allows us to make those connections through beautiful melodies and lyrics. It is a universal language that touches the body and soul. When we make music together, we share something deep, something real, and something true.

Steven Chinnavaso, former Lay Missioner

Music Around the World

Click on the photos to enlarge and use the arrows to see each photo