Year Joined MKLM: 1987
City: Maryknoll offices
Focus: Director of Missions, Leadership Team
Oversee lay missioners and their ministries around the world, providing organizational direction and leadership
As the Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ director of missions, Marj oversees lay missioners and their ministries around the world. She works closely with the overseas Regional Directors and the USA Operations team to achieve organizational goals and ensure lay missioners have the support and resources they need to minister to those they serve. Marj is a member of the Leadership Team.
Through her work as Director of Missions, her passion for mission is nurtured daily in conversations with, or in the presence of, people who journey together, in pursuit of a more just and loving world. Marj reflects, “Almost every day I hear inspiring stories of the lives of the people we serve, of their great dignity amidst tremendous suffering, loss, and fear. It is an unbelievable privilege to hear our stories, and at times bear witness to them, as they unfold in El Salvador, Haiti, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Sudan.”
Marj is originally from Nampa, ID, and recently lived in Spokane, WA. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Religious Studies, and a Masters Degree in Education from Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA. She studied to be a Physician Assistant (PA) at St. Vincent Catholic Medical Center, Staten Island, NY. Marj taught journalism and religion at Gonzaga Preparatory School, Spokane, and coordinated the student community service program. She worked as a clinical PA at Bellevue Hospital, New York City, in a clinic for homeless people. In Nampa, ID, and Spokane, WA, she worked as a Physician Assistant in Community Health Centers, serving uninsured and underinsured patients. Marj lived and worked in the New York City Catholic Worker community from 1976 through 1984.
Marj’s vocation as a Maryknoll lay missioner was heavily influenced by Maryknoll Sister Mercy Hirschboek, the Maryknoll Sisters’ first doctor who, after several decades of serving as a Maryknoll Sister and physician in Korea during the war as well as in Bolivia, “retired” to the U.S. by joining with two other Sisters in a contemplative community in New York City. These three inspiring women lived just a few blocks from Marj’s Catholic Worker Community, in a five-story walk-up tenement apartment on Avenue C, a neighborhood known for extreme poverty, violence, and drug trafficking. These three Sisters ministered and prayed at an age when they could have been retired and living a well-earned comfortable life! Marj shares, “I got to know them well, especially Sr. Mercy, who became my “mentor” and told me about the lay mission program. I gain strength in the memory of her joyful, gentle, non-judgmental nature, and her absolute fidelity to Gospel values.”
In 1987, Marj joined Maryknoll Lay Missioners and served in Kenya. She worked in rural mobile clinics in Bura Tana and at Nangina Mission Hospital. She joined other Maryknoll Lay Missioners on a medical team in Displaced Persons Camps in South Sudan. Marj moved to Kitale, Kenya, did home-based care, and was a medical consultant and practitioner for the AIDS Program.
In 2007, Marj transitioned out of Maryknoll Lay Missioners to care for her elderly parents. She was honored by her alma mater, Gonzaga University, with the DeSmet Medal for Christian Service and gave the commencement address to the graduate students in 2012. From 2007 until 2016, she served on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Board of Directors. In 2016, Marj returned to Maryknoll Lay Missioners as the Director of Missions.