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MKLM history collage

Left to right. Top row: Harry Blaber and Artemio Bagalawis, 1930s; Sending of George Gieselman and Josie and Frank Cuda, MKLM’s first official Class of 1975; Founding of the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, 1994; Merwyn De Mello and Wynnie-Fred Victor Hinds (Class of 1994); John and Phyllis Gauker with Fr. Bill Woods, 1976 (John and Fr. Bill were martyred later that year). Middle row: Angel Mortel, 2008; First co-director team, Sr. Mary Anne O’Donnell, Fr. Jack Sullivan and Chuck Lathrop, here at 15th anniversary in 1990; founding assembly, 1994; Jean Donovan, who was part of the Maryknoll lay missioner Orientation and Sending in 1979 and was martyred in 1980. Bottom row: “Bosse” (one of the first Maryknoll lay missioners) and Carolyn Bosse; Ann Greig; Fr. Charlie Dittmeier; Susan Nagele; three of the seven members of the second Class of 1975: Ernestine Lam, Lyn Kirkconnell and Patty Boyd.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners will mark the 50th anniversary of its official founding with a yearlong celebration starting this August 2024 and culminating in an in-person celebration Aug. 14-17, 2025 on the Maryknoll campus.

The year of celebration will kick off with a webinar on nonviolence and peacebuilding in August 2024 (details to be announced) and will feature additional events throughout this “Golden Jubilee” year.

Mark your calendars now for the
50th anniversary celebration
Aug. 14-17, 2025.

Lay missioners have participated in Maryknoll’s mission endeavors since August 1930, when Dr. Harry Blaber, a young physician, sailed with a group of Maryknoll priests to serve for eight years in China. He was the first Maryknoll lay missioner and in subsequent decades was followed by dozens of other women and men who collaborated with Maryknoll priests, sisters and brothers throughout the world.

But it was on June 1, 1975 that the Maryknoll lay mission program was officially launched as a joint program of both the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers and the Maryknoll Sisters. From 1979 to 1994, the lay mission program evolved into an “associate” relationship with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Then in 1994 the lay mission program became a separate but interdependent entity within the Maryknoll family, which it remains today. At that point it received its still-official name as the “Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful,” but it is today more commonly referred to and known as “Maryknoll Lay Missioners.”

As of May 2024, 43 Maryknoll lay missioners are serving in nine different countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. They are long-term missioners and missioner families who are committed to nonviolence through the prevention, intervention, reconciliation and restoration of all creation.

“How profound it is to contemplate where we came from and where we are going,” said Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ executive director, Elvira Ramirez. “Only the wealth of stories of the 964 men, women and children who have served with Maryknoll Lay Missioners in 35 countries could begin to recount the history that is MKLM.”

Reflecting on that rich history, Elvira quotes Mother Mary Joseph (Mollie Rogers), the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters: “As happens so often when we stop to regard God’s work, there is nothing to do but wonder and thank God, realizing how little we planned, how little we achieved and yet how much has been done.”


For more on Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ 50-year history, visit our history archives and history page

Meinrad Scherer-Emunds
Meinrad Scherer-Emunds is Maryknoll Lay Missioners' director of communications.