Sister Mary Ann entered Maryknoll in 1952 from Archbald, Pennsylvania. Assigned to the Philippines in 1960, she began teaching in elementary and secondary schools, and studied the Ilocano language. She founded the Diocesan Adult Training Center for the Vicariate of the Mt. Provinces, fostering adult education and community development. This still exists as an independent NGO, The Development Agency for the Tribes of the Cordillera. Her years in the Philippines launched her search for justice and concern for the integrity of the environment, a search and concern which continue today.
At the Center in NY she contributed to the Research and Planning Office. Then after being assigned to the Eastern US Region in 1982, she served as staff for the Seminar and Environment and Development Programs that presented international environmental and development workshops for CODEL, Inc., a consortium of ecumenical organizations whose goal was to assist development activities among disadvantaged people overseas.
Following this, she was on the staff of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby, serving as Education Program Coordinator.
She co-authored: Learning About Taxes: Toward a Just and Fair System and the Popular Education Series: Voter Education. She edited Shaping a New World: The Catholic Social Justice Tradition.
For over ten years she served as board member and was the president of ECPAT-USA, an international movement in more than eighty countries focusing on commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Sister Mary Ann currently serves on the board of the Maryknoll Mission Institute and volunteers at the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.
Recently, Sister Mary Ann said, "Sounds like a great life and it is!
Sister Patricia Murray, MM
Sister Patricia Murray is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and joined the Maryknoll Sisters in 1959. Following are some of the highlights from her life as a Maryknoll missioner.
“During my early years in Maryknoll, I studied at Rogers College and earned a degree in Community Service while working as secretary to the Father General of the Maryknoll Society. In 1969 I was assigned to Central America to do community development work. Along with several other Maryknoll Sisters, I headed for Guatemala to study Spanish. Following this, my first major assignment was to El Salvador, a country I quickly came to love. For four years I was fully engaged working with communities and youth and women’s groups in the city of San Salvador, the capital. I did not know then that I would later witness great upheaval and sorrow in this same city.
Reminiscences of these early days in El Salvador bring to mind subsequent experiences in the Chinandega Valley of Nicaragua. I remember how lush the countryside was so that even though the people were very poor and often hungry, at least there was plenty of fruit available just for the picking. Then, in the seventies everything began to change. Developers arrived and land use changed drastically and rapidly. Small family tracts of land became parts of large-scale development projects. Where fruit once grew cotton and coffee were now planted. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides ruined the soil and contaminated the water. There was no time to consider how things might have been developed in a way consistent with the history and needs of the people. Nor were the people sufficiently educated or experienced to make good decisions. Unfortunately, the same development trajectory was pursued throughout Central America. Everywhere, the extraordinary beauty of the land was greatly diminished, its resources exploited by outsiders and frequently exported to other countries. Everything was viewed in utilitarian terms; in terms of what could be produced for profit. It is no wonder that eventually civil war ensued throughout the area.
In those days I reflected a lot on the importance of the land as sustainer of life. I began to see my mission call through a wider lens as it became clear to me that work for justice in defense of the land and in defense of the people without a voice had to undergird our all our ministry as Maryknoll Sisters. It was at this time too that I began to understand the link between consumerism in developed countries and exploitation in developing countries.
During those years, one certainty in our lives was that we would regularly find ourselves doing the totally unexpected. One such unanticipated ministry that fell to us was rescuing young girls from prostitution and helping them to relocate and find work in safe places. This experience would have a bearing on later work against human trafficking.
Meanwhile, I returned to the States for renewal and to undertake graduate studies in counseling at the University of Georgia. Upon completion of my studies, I returned to Central America intending to join other Maryknoll Sisters in El Salvador; however, circumstances beyond our control took us to Nicaragua, where Marshall Law had been declared as the Samosa government struggled to maintain power. These were extremely tumultuous times and we did what we could to attend to the people in one place after another. We got separated from our belongings and found ourselves practically in the same situation as the people: planes overhead, bombs falling, everything shaking, people disappearing, no safe place to be. At the height of this we set up a refugee camp in the city of Leon in western Nicaragua. The number of refugees fluctuated continuously, reaching 400 people at its peak. This was a really hard time. We kept our balance through the regular chores required to maintain order and cleanliness in the camp, to say nothing of apportioning the food and settling disputes.
After some degree of calm was restored to the country, the camp was closed and we moved back and forth between El Salvador and Nicaragua. We grieved the loss of friends due to assassinations and disappearances. Finally, we set up a mental health team to help the people who had been traumatized by all that they had lived through. I think my greatest challenge from those days was expressed by a young priest who had joined the guerrilla movement. He said, “Associating with the poor teaches you to see with their eyes. They love differently, have different needs, different values.”
After 15 years in Central America, I returned to New York, where I worked first at Maryknoll and then at a resource center for abused and trafficked women. Later, I again offered my services at Maryknoll where I am still engaged.
On the side, I enjoy entertaining the Sisters and have acquired a host of costumes to aid my performances, all of which are great fun and border on the zany.”