Christmas is once again upon us.  As we wind down 2021, this post hopes to send you way back to 1912 and the first Christmas celebrated by the Teresians at Maryknoll – those intrepid women who left home to help the new Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America (and who later would become the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic).  The diary entry below, written by Mary Louise Wholean, details how the Teresians spent their first Christmas at Maryknoll 109 years ago.  Please click on each photo for its caption.

Society's first Seminary, 1912

The First Christmas at Maryknoll.  It began with a Midnight Mass sung by Father Price with Father Walsh playing the organ and the boys chanting with the simple impressiveness that is far more effective than the “Christmas Programs” of city churches.  As we walked over to the Seminary our path was lighted by the clear brightness of a full moon and stars that sparkled with joyful radiance.  The spirit of Christmas was in the air…

At sunrise we had two Masses here.  Father said them both and the first one we sang three hymns, Holy Night, Adeste Fideles, and Judea’s Sacred, Silent Hills.  After the second Mass, Father had his breakfast in the room next to the chapel that we had arranged as a sacristy and we repaired to the dining room for our feast – properly so-called because we had grape fruit.

These are the outward facts, and they are easy to describe.  The rest – the greater part – is hard to put into words.  It can only be summed up in the glorious reality that the Holy Sacrifice had been offered in our own house, that under the very roof where we were dwelling and would continue to dwell, God Himself had come to visit us.  We were filled too, with the thoughts that Father suggested to us before Mass, a deep gratitude that we were allowed to be here and a keen appreciation of his privilege and ours – his, to be Mary by bringing forth Jesus into our midst and ours, to be the shepherds, by offering Him our love and adoration.  He spoke also of his need of prayers and his confidence, which was surely well-founded, that we would continue our constant remembrance of him.

After breakfast, Father came out to wish us each a Merry Christmas and not long after Fr. Lane and Fr. McCabe telephoned their greetings.  With our usual facility in blundering, we arrived at the Seminary chapel at 9:15 for a Mass which we were quite sure was to begin at 9 or 9:30.  We were in time, however, for the Sanctus, which was so beautiful that we could only rejoice that we had not missed it.  We had a Christmas dinner that would have horrified a real missionary, with surplus place-cards that Sara had made – each with a telling graph of the victim, and each bearing an appropriate sentiment.

The Teresians' first residence, St. Teresa's, 1912
Chapel inside St. Teresa's, 1912

After dinner Mary Joseph and Nora left for their allotted days at home.  Bradford drove the ‘barge’ and Mary Augustine rode with them to the car-line.  They were waved away from the house with brooms and feather-dusters, and at the Seminary gate they were bombarded with snow balls by the students who were having a snow-frolic.

In the afternoon we had a walk, and later, through Father’s thoughtfulness, Bradford took us for a drive over the hills, just as the sun was lighting the winter sky with its brightest sunset colors.  We reached home before Father had left the office and so had the opportunity to ask for his blessing.  Then we went to chapel for the best of all blessings – the Benediction that was a fitting close to what someone called ‘a perfect Christmas day.’

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Maryknoll Mission Archives!!