Mother Mary Joseph Rogers, the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, is one of nine American women to be inducted this year into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the oldest national membership organization dedicated to recognizing outstanding individual American women and their achievements.
Mother Mary Joseph, whose “extraordinary achievements were recognized and applauded” by all the judges, will join 247 women who have been inducted into the hall since its founding during 1969. The hall is located at Seneca Falls, New York, and the induction ceremony will be held during October. Former First Lady of the United States Betty Ford also will be inducted into the hall this year.
“We are thrilled and honored by Mother Mary Joseph’s selection,” said Sister Janice McLaughlin, president of the Maryknoll Sisters, “and happy for the recognition it gives to our founder who achieved so much, not only for women religious, but for all American women, at a time when possibilities for them were far more limited than they are today. Mary Josephine Rogers, as she was called prior to joining religious life, broke through the negative stereotypes about the role of American Catholic women in church and society at the beginning of the 20th century. As founder of the first American mission congregation of Catholic women, she proved that women were equal to the demands of life and ministry abroad, particularly in places where poverty, physical hardship and sometimes, even safety during wartime, were commonplace.”
A graduate of Smith College, Mother Mary Joseph was gifted with natural leadership ability and a charismatic bearing that quickly showed others, among them Father James A. Walsh, the founder of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, that she was able to lead the first U.S.-based congregation of women religious dedicated to foreign mission.
Born on October 27, 1882, in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Mary Josephine “Mollie” Rogers, the fourth of eight children, was inspired by her Irish Catholic parents with a passion for the church. Following graduation from Smith, Mollie returned to the school to assist the instructor in zoology with lab experiments. At the same time, she began a missions club for Catholic women. It was while seeking materials to use for the club that she met Father Walsh and soon began assisting him with his magazine, The Field Afar, that today is known as Maryknoll magazine.
Following the congregation’s founding on January 6, 1912, Mollie took the religious name Mother Mary Joseph. As she oversaw the growth of the congregation and its expansion into mission, she also placed great value on diversity. She welcomed women from all nations. She also integrated prayer with apostolic ministry “so that no one would take us for anything but contemplatives in mission.”
At the time of Mother Mary Joseph Rogers’ death on October 9, 1955, the Maryknoll Sisters numbered more than 1,000 and they were working in 20 countries and serving minorities in several cities in the United States. Today, the Maryknoll Sisters serve in 26 nations, ministering to all people regardless of race, creed, or nationality, with a special emphasis on working with the poor, with women and with all those who struggle on the fringes of society. Their numbers include doctors, nurses, authors, artists, dancers, social workers, ecologists, peace activists, theologians and women affiliated with the United Nations.