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Features » International

New film highlights heroic work of Maryknoll Sisters

Film features pioneering sisters in China and Taiwan

New film highlights heroic work of Maryknoll Sisters

Picture: National Catholic Reporter

Sr Rose Pacatte for National Catholic Reporter International

October 22, 2013

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....Filmmaker Nancy M. Tong graduated from a Maryknoll school in Hong Kong (the first of two schools for girls opened there in 1925 -- both continue today) but only came to realize the extent of Maryknoll's work while doing research before accepting this undertaking.

"Then I realized the scope of the sisters' work in social justice and their work with the poor in all parts of the world," Tong said in an interview. "That became the inspiration for 'Trailblazers in Habits.' "

This 65-minute documentary is filled with wonderful footage, photos and interviews about "extraordinary women doing extraordinary things," beginning with the foundation of the Maryknoll Sisters in 1912, just a few months after the beginning of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

As one of the sisters attests, these missionaries to China initially were thought to be "Nice women in strange outfits," and anything they did for the poor was judged to be subversive, especially their work to save abandoned baby girls and to assist women.

As the years go by, we learn that these sisters would be sent to prison, placed under house arrest and murdered for their good deeds, yet they would continue to serve.

The advantage to being founded in the 20th century in the United States is that people took photos and movies early on. The footage of the sisters with Mother Mary Joseph Rogers (1882-1955) in the early years at the motherhouse in Ossining, N.Y., and the description of arriving in their first mission in Hong Kong, read by narrator and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, engage the imagination still.

Early on, the Maryknoll priests and sisters realized that their spirituality was one of contemplation in action and that the way to evangelize in China was through the women rather than the men. This meant that the sisters would go outside the convent and travel two by two into distant villages to visit the homes, to assess the needs and provide assistance. The one thing the sisters asked for on their visits was a bedroom for themselves, but they still had to share the family bucket to relieve themselves during the night.


Full Story: 'Trailblazers in Habits' documents great women doing great things

Source: National Catholic Reporter

"Trailblazers in Habits" is available on DVD at 


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