A Brief History of Maryknoll Lay Missioners

Founding Day

Early Lay Missioners

Maryknoll's first lay missioner, Dr. Harry Blaber

Maryknoll’s first lay missioner,
Dr. Harry Blaber

1930  Maryknoll’s first lay missioner, Dr. Harry Blaber of Brooklyn, New York, begins his service in China where he eventually opens a hospital.

1934  Dr. Artemio Bagalawis joins Dr. Blaber in China; he later serves in Korea. He remains a lay missioner for 31 years.

In the ensuing decades, laity in mission remain the exception; missionary sisters, brothers, and priests are the norm.  Other individual lay persons serve overseas with Maryknoll, but not as part of any organized program.


Maryknoll Acts on the Vision of Vatican II

In the years following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Maryknoll took seriously the Council’s teaching that “the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God” (Ad Gentes §35).

1969  Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers undertake studies for the establishment of a Lay Missioner Program.

1970  Maryknoll Sisters vote to facilitate the presence of lay persons in mission.

1972  Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers authorize an experimental program for lay missioners.

The Lay Mission Program is Launched

Maryknoll Lay Missioners - Bethany House

(Illustration by Maryknoll Lay Missioner Maria Montello)

1974 Four lay people undergo preparation for overseas mission at Maryknoll Sisters’ Mission Institute.  They sign formal agreements and are assigned to Hong Kong, Venezuela, and Peru.

1975  Official founding of Maryknoll Lay Missioners as a collaborative effort of Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers and Maryknoll Sisters.  The first formal orientation program for lay missioners takes place.  The first lay mission family heads overseas.

1979  The Bethany Building is designated for the Lay Missioner Program.  The first Orientation Program at Bethany is offered that fall.

Jean Donovan

Jean Donovan

1980  The first formal return/renewal program for lay missioners is held.

December 2: Cleveland Lay Missioner Jean Donovan, who prepared for mission with Maryknoll, is martyred in El Salvador with Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, and Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel.

In the 1980s, Maryknoll begins conversations with the Vatican regarding the canonical status of the Lay Missioner Program.  Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers start to include a lay missioner option in some of their vocations outreach.

Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful

St-Peters-Basilica1992  A core committee consisting of Maryknoll lay missioners, priests, and sisters is formed to investigate founding a new mission association.  The Lay Mission Director and Superior General of Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers visit various offices in Rome to explore the process for the founding of an Association of Christ’s Faithful under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

1993 The Lay Missioner Program sponsors its first mission immersion trip (to Oaxaca, Mexico).

Founding Assembly, 1994

Founding Assembly, 1994

1994  The Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful (MMAF) officially comes into being on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15th, following the Founding Assembly held August 1-14 with lay missioner delegates from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States.  MMAF is not a program of other Maryknoll entities, but an independent organization.

1995  MMAF is incorporated under New York State law as a non-profit, tax exempt organization.  The first handbook is developed for Lay Missioners.

1996  MMAF initiates its first fundraising efforts.  The inaugural meeting of an Advisory Board, consisting of 9 members, takes place.

1997  MMAF’s first General Assembly (of Lay Missioner delegates) is held in May.  In collaboration with Maryknoll Sisters and Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, a Web site (Maryknoll.org) is established. Leadership teams from these three Maryknoll entities begin to meet regularly.

1998  MMAF adopts its first strategic plan.

1999 Returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner Fred Goddard joins Coordinating Team of Maryknoll Affiliates (becoming Executive Coordinator ten years later).

2001 First celebrations of 25-year Lay Missioner jubilees take place.  Three missioners:  Liz Mach, Bernie Butkiewicz, and Ronald Bosse are honored for each having spent a quarter of a century in mission.

2002  Maryknoll Lay Missioner Vicki Armour-Hileman receives the Kiriyama Prize for her book Singing to the Dead:  A Missioner’s Life among Refugees from Burma.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners

Print2004 The popular name “Maryknoll Lay Missioners” and a new logo are adopted.

2005   The acronym for Maryknoll Lay Missioners, “MKLM,” comes into use.

2006   An extraordinary General Assembly approves a new mission statement, a new vision statement, and the formation of a Governing Board (replacing the Advisory Board).
Voices of Compassion, MKLM’s newsletter/magazine is launched.
In Brazil, Maryknoll Lay Missioner Heidi Cerneka is nationally recognized at the Legislative Assembly of São Paulo with the Santo Dias Award for her human rights work in Brazilian prisons.

2007 First Board of Directors is installed.
– MKLM offers the first Maryknoll International Service Orientation (MISO) program for volunteers/missioners from other Catholic mission-sending organizations; 17 people participate.
– Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Leadership Team completes a canonical visit in Rome with the Pontifical Council for the Laity and other offices.
– MKLM’s mission priorities are named:  health, education, sustainable development, justice & peace and pastoral care.

2010 MKLM celebrates its 35th anniversary!  New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan presides at a festive Mass.  A dinner with 200 guests follows on the Bethany lawn.
MKLM is in 6 Regions:  Cambodia, Brazil, El Salvador, Bolivia, Kenya and Tanzania.

2011  In June, MKLM participates in the opening of the centennial of Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers.  MKLM items are placed in the time capsule to be opened again in 2061.  In December, MKLM participates in the “bridging ceremony” from the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers’ centennial to the beginning of Maryknoll Sisters’.

2012 MKLM initiates relationship with JustFaith Ministries by arranging immersion trips to our mission regions.
– MKLM participates in the planning and execution of Mission into the Future:  A Maryknoll Symposium.

Marj Kitale AIDS child with shingles

Director of Missions Marj Humphrey

 – Returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner and Board Member Marj Humphrey receives Gonzaga University’s DeSmet Medal.

 – Returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner Bob Short becomes Executive Coordinator of Maryknoll Affiliates.

 – Maryknoll Lay Missioner Dr. Susan Nagele is awarded the Medal of Valor by the American Medical Association.

New Home, New Horizons

2013 MKLM offices are moved from the Bethany Building to the Walsh Building.

– Executive Director Sam Stanton travels to Haiti and China to investigate their potential as future MKLM mission sites.

– Returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner Gerry Lee becomes director of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns.

-August 15th:  MKLM launches a new Web site and introduces a new logo on its 38th anniversary.  By this date, over 700 U.S. Catholics have served overseas as Maryknoll Lay Missioners.

2014 MKLM prioritizes a new strategic 7-year plan focused on growth: By 2022, Maryknoll Lay Missioners will have recruited, trained, sent and sustained 85 lay missioners in 7 Regions.

2015 MKLM suffers a deep loss at the start of the year. REGOTTI_0010Joe Regotti (’99 Mexico, US/ Director of Mission Services) passed away on January 3 after a valiant struggle with brain cancer. Joanne Blaney (’90 Brazil, US) returns from Brazil to assume the responsibility of Director of Mission Services.

– MKLM celebrates its 40th Anniversary with special events held at Maryknoll, NY on August 8. The occasion highlighted examples of Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ outreach and aid across our global mission sites and emphasized that all the Faithful are united to God’s mission in the universal Church. The celebration featured a presentation called Leading by Example: Shaping the Future of Mission, for which Dr. Susan Nagele was our keynote speaker.Dr.Nagele_closeup

2016 Elizabeth (Liz) Mach celebrates her 40th year as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner. Liz continues to confront injustices for women with her passionate ministry in Tanzania

-Marjorie Humphrey (’07 Kenya, Sudan, Africa Area Coordinator) is named Director of Missions