Collection: Mother Mary Joseph Rogers

ARTIST: Julie Lonneman


In 1905, a Smith College graduate named Mollie Rogers wrote to her high school newspaper: “We leave college with a sense of self-reliance and responsibility to take up our work in the world.” Little did Rogers know how far-reaching her work would be as she went on to become Mother Mary Joseph and the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters — the first order of Catholic nuns in the United States dedicated to foreign mission.

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Mary Joseph Rogers was the founder of the Maryknoll Sisters, the first congregation of Catholic women to organize a global mission in the United States. Rogers attended Smith College and was inspired in 1904 by graduating Protestant students preparing to leave for missionary work in China.

Mary Josephine, known as “Mollie" in her family, was born in 1882 in Boston, Massachusetts, the fourth of eight children. Her paternal grandfather, Patrick Henry, had emigrated from Ireland and was determined that his family would fit into Boston society, overcoming the prejudices to which Irish Catholics were so often subjected in the nineteenth century. To this end the Rogers children, as well as the subsequent Rogers generations, were educated in public rather than Catholic schools. At home, Mollie's parents reinforced the faith their children learned weekly in Sunday School. They also promoted an understanding of the church's foreign missions through the Societies for the Propagation of the Faith and the Holy Childhood.