Maryknoll…A Worldwide & Community Resource
“Our Asian-styled building alerts us to other cultures and lands, and it reminds us that we are part of a bigger world, an interconnected world.” This is how Maryknoll Brother John Blazo describes the awe inspiring 210,000-square-foot Seminary Building on the Maryknoll Campus in Ossining.
The significance of the property is reflected in their name, as they are dedicated to Mother Mary’s mission, and the property sits high up on a knoll, majestically overlooking the Hudson River.
Originally called “Mary’s Knoll,” in time it became commonly known by the more simply stated name, “Maryknoll.”
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers were borne out of the vision of their founding Fathers, Father James Walsh and Father Thomas Price, to awaken the role of mission amongst U.S. Catholics and to cultivate mission as a responsibility of those dedicated to the Catholic faith. In 1911, the Fathers received the blessing of Pope Pius X to develop the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, which is now better known both locally and around the world as Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. The family of Maryknollers also includes the Maryknoll Sisters, Maryknoll Lay Missioners and Maryknoll Affiliates, who are comprised of prayer groups around the world that identify with and participate in the mission yet remain active in their own personal and professional lives.
It took close to three decades to complete the Seminary Building, as the construction was interrupted by the Depression, World War II and the Korean War. All of the stones in the concrete footing came from digging up the property and were laid by local stone masons. The stones were said to symbolize the ruggedness, strength and durability Maryknollers were looking for in missioners. The oriental roof is a tribute to their first missions in China and a reminder of their global reach and influence. As you walk in, you are stepping on cobblestones from the streets of NYC, ripped up when the streets on the East Side were paved. At the center of the lobby is a circle with the Latin words, Pax Intrantibus, wishing you “Peace to those entering” as you step in, and as you leave and face the opposite side of the circle, you are wished, Salus Exeuntibus, meaning, “Health to those going forth.”
Maryknollers warmly welcome visitors of all faiths to the Seminary Building and encourage all to enjoy the incredible architecture as well as the fascinating and inspirational history of the Society and its place in Ossining as well as the world. The Museum of Living Mission, located to the rear of the building, invites visitors to enjoy interactive exhibits and videos which share the experiences of missioners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and here at home. These often changing displays allow you to see for yourself how Maryknollers dedicate themselves to improving the lives of those in need around the globe with their efforts to combat poverty, provide healthcare, promote human rights, build communities and lend emotional and spiritual support in sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ and his dedication to offering assistance to the downtrodden. Visitors are also invited to create an Ema prayer plaque, an Asian tradition, writing their personal thoughts, wishes or prayers on a small wooden board to be hung on a prayer tree for the gods to receive them. The Gift Shop, also in the Seminary Building, offers unique, hand-crafted items from the many countries Maryknollers serve in, as well as a variety of Fair Trade food items from other countries.
“Our missionary outlook is one of inclusion, and we encourage others to be open to all forms of prayer and to have respect for other cultures, traditions and religions. The foundation of our missions is relationships,” explains Brother Blazo. He notes that the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers welcome the opportunity to be of service to their neighboring Hudson Valley communities as enthusiastically as they enjoy fulfilling their missions around the world. Maryknoll’s Pachamama Farm is diligently tended by the Fathers and Brothers.
Pachamama is the Peruvian word for “Earth Mother,” and a sign on the farm’s entrance reads “Harvest Food for People, Harvest People for God.” Produce from this farm is distributed to food pantries throughout Westchester, fulfilling Maryknoll’s mission to support those in need right in their own backyard. The Maryknoll Sisters and Lay Missioners are also active farmers at the 1.5-acre farm on Maryknoll’s campus.
The Brookside Elementary School is across the street from Maryknoll’s Ossining campus.The Fathers and Brothers have been called upon to help Spanish-speaking families who have only recently come to the U.S. and do not yet understand English well enough to navigate their children through the school system. The ability to translate for these immigrant families and their children, as well as the ability to share their international experiences and cultural understanding, has been a great comfort to these members of the Ossining community. The Fathers and Brothers have also partnered with the school in agreeing that their campus can be a place of refuge should there be an emergency on the school grounds. The school runs drills that include walking the children across the street and into the safety of the Seminary Building so they are familiar with the grounds.
Various other community groups benefit from the hospitality of the Maryknollers, regardless of religious affiliation. The fire department holds meetings in the Seminary Building and conducts training exercises on the grounds. Alcoholics Anonymous groups hold meetings there as well, and the hope is that all who come experience the warm embrace of the spiritual welcome extended to people from all walks of life.
The Maryknollers take great pleasure in presenting their annual International Film Festival, which allows all who come to experience different cultures and broaden their vision of the world. The film festival offers a wonderful assortment of international and intercultural films on one Friday evening per month, from September through May. Admission is free and all are welcome.
Other free community programs offered include the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Car Cruise & Drive-In Movie Night on September 24 and the upcoming Maryknoll Speakers Series (several dates scheduled throughout the year), the Maryknoll Christmas Concert on December 9 and the Maryknoll Mission and
Music Under the Stars scheduled for July 2017. This community outreach is an important focus for Maryknollers who believe, as Brother Blazo does, that “whatever we portray as individuals, we can say as nations around the world.”