A life in mission - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Maryknoll Sister Mary Anne O’Donnell, Maryknoll Father Jack Sullivan and Chuck Lathrop collaborated as an ecclesial team in the leadership of Maryknoll Lay Missioners during its early years. Here they are shown at a Mass in 1990, celebrating the 15th anniversary.


We recently received this kind note from Chuck Lathrop, who was an early co-director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners in the 1970s. 

The recent 45th anniversary of Maryknoll Lay Missioners brought back so many memories, especially seeing the photo of Jack Sullivan, Mary Anne O’Donnell and myself — two of my dearest friends to this day, 45 years later. Oh, and we haven’t aged a day! :-)

I first met Jack and Mary Anne in January 1975, while attending the Maryknoll Mission Institute. At the time, I had been working with the Glenmary Home Missioners for six years in Appalachia and one year with the Catholic Worker in New York City — good schools all. Some months later, they invited me to provide some input on the training course for one of the first groups of Maryknoll lay Missioners (including Liz Mach). And then, some months after that, they invited me to join them — and so I did, in the first week of July, 1976.

That decision made all the difference. It was an amazing three years — part roller coaster; part flying by the seat of my pants at times; always a challenge and never boring, never; pushing boundaries; trying to listen and learn on the hop; working for/with/against the institution, all at the same time. It was all new, different, exciting and at times frustrating, but good.

In the third year, we were joined by Frank and Josie Cuda. I was surrounded by teachers, including Kathy Wright and Nancy Kleppel. God bless them all.

In autumn 1979, I emigrated to Ireland. And 41 years later, I still talk funny.

My last overseas assignment — with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs — was to take up the head of mission post at the Irish Embassy in Dili, Timor-Leste, as the Irish government representative there from 2006 until 2009. Another land of lessons and teachers. The only thing that made me nervous was being responsible for a three-year, 20-million-euro budget for the Irish government’s bilateral aid program in the country.

It also gave me pause to reflect on my job title — “head of mission” — that word again, “mission”! And wouldn’t you know, about 20 miles up the road (a two-hour-plus journey on Timor-Leste’s roads), were the Maryknoll Sisters, and who else? The Maryknoll Lay Missioners, of course. Small, good world indeed.

It was in October 2017 that my wife, Mary, and I made our last visit to Maryknoll, for a reunion with the six people mentioned above, and so many others. If we ever get around this coronavirus and the roads lead back to Ossining, we look forward to another visit. We must get back to the States anyway, as our three Dublin-born kids are living and working there — I guess that’s my fault, as they carry two passports.

I wish all Maryknoll Lay Missioners, past, present, those at home and those overseas, the very best.

Chuck Lathrop


Chuck Lathrop
Chuck Lathrop is a retired development specialist, who served with the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Agency for Personal Service Overseas. Before emigrating to Ireland, he was a co-director of Maryknoll Lay Missioners from 1976 to 1979.