The Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program

About Maryknoll

Maryknoll is a Catholic mission movement. Based in the United States, we have missioners in Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Eastern Europe. The Maryknoll movement consists of three different groups: The Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, The Maryknoll Sisters, and the Maryknoll Lay Missioners. The Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program is a collaborative project of all three groups in Bolivia.

The Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers, formally called the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, were founded on a hill named for the Virgin Mary in Ossining, NY in 1911.  Fathers James Anthony Walsh and Thomas Frederick Price had already been writing about overseas missions. Fr. Walsh had founded the magazine The Fields Afar, which would later become Maryknoll Magazine, still read by thousands of Catholic families today. The Vatican and the U.S. bishops agreed that the US church was ready to start training and sending missioners abroad, and tapped the two to found what would become Maryknoll.Maryknoll's first overseas mission was to China. In 1942, Maryknoll was ready to expand its mission beyond China, and the first place they went was Bolivia. For over 70 years, Maryknoll priests and brothers have been accompanying the people of Bolivia, forming local leaders, and working for peace and justice throughout the country.

The Maryknoll Sisters, formally the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, were founded by Mary Josephine "Mollie" Rogers – later Mother Mary Joseph. Mollie Rogers had worked with Fr. Walsh on The Fields Afar magazine, and in 1912, joined a group of women working together with the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. The women would become a religious congregation, part of the Dominican family of sisters, and eventually a Pontifical Institute. A global congregation of women, the Maryknoll Sisters in Bolivia have included sisters from Tanzania, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Bolivia, and the United States. Many people know the Maryknoll Sisters through the story of martyrs Ita Ford, MM and Maura Clarke, MM, who, along  with Ursuline Sister Dorthy Kazel and lay missioner Jean Donovan, were murdered by the Salvadoran military on December 2, 1980. The martyred churchwomen's commitment to working with the poor and defending the rights of the most vulnerable in society are trademarks of the Maryknoll Sisters' work in Bolivia and around the world. 

The Maryknoll Lay Missioners were founded in 1975 as a program of the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers and Maryknoll Sisters. In 1994, they became the Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful, an independent organization for lay people in mission. Maryknoll has a long, trailblazing history of lay leaders in mission. Lay missioners have been working alongside Maryknollers since the 1930s, and the Maryknoll Lay Missioners offer a unique opportunity for lay Catholics, including families, to live out the vocation of cross-cultural mission in community with others. Lay people were already serving with Maryknoll in Bolivia, providing medical attention to remote communities along the rivers of the Amazon jungle, in the 1960s, and the first group of official Maryknoll Lay Missioners in the 1970s included some of these pioneers. Nurses, lawyers, teachers, doctors, engineers, artists, and human rights activists; men and women, single and married, and a number of families with children – Maryknoll's "mission kids" – have shared their gifts with Bolivians through the Maryknoll Lay Missioners over the years, and continue to accompany indigenous groups, street kids, people with disabilities, prison inmates, and others in Bolivia and in seven countries around the world today.

Maryknoll is well known in the United States and internationally for various other mission endeavors as well:

  • People throughout Latin America are learning about mission and about Maryknoll through the mission and leadership formation programs of the Maryknoll Mission Center in Latin America (CMMAL, by its Spanish initials), located right here in Cochabamba, Bolivia. The Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program works closely with CMMAL.

  • People in the halls of power in Washington, DC and at the United Nations in New York know and respect Maryknoll for the work of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, the justice and peace office of the Maryknoll missioners. The office tells the stories of people in Bolivia and all the other countries where Maryknoll works, connecting global policy issues to the human faces of people most affected by them. Check out their website and sign up for updates on current events and campaigns for peace, justice, human rights, and ecology.

  • The Maryknoll Affiliates are people who identify with the Maryknoll family and their vision, spirit and charism, while remaining active in their work at home and in their own communities. Early on, the Maryknoll Affiliates defined the four pillars of Spirituality, Community, Global Vision and Action as the elements that brought them together. Two chapters of Maryknoll Affiliates were recently formed right here in Cochabamba! It is inspiring to see Bolivians identify so deeply with Maryknoll's work, and take on the commitment to global mission as partners with Maryknoll missioners everywhere. Volunteers with the Maryknoll Bolivia Mission Immersion Program are often asked to share their experiences with groups of Maryknoll Affiliates upon their return to the U.S.  Look to see if there's a chapter near you, and get involved!

  • Orbis Books is the publishing arm of the Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers. Orbis publications address a broad readership exploring the global dimensions of faith, inviting dialogue with diverse cultures and traditions, and serving the cause of reconciliation and peace. You may have heard of Orbis through books like the English-language edition of Gustavo Gutierrez's groundbreaking A Theology of Liberation, or the popular Modern Spiritual Masters series, or beautiful works of art such as Fritz Eichenberg's striking Works of Mercy wood engravings.

  • Maryknoll may have visited your parish, hosted an event at your school, or you or someone you know may have participated in another immersion program.