Bishop Walsh, Man of Zeal

Concluding thoughts and a chronology - Part 10

The day will come when the lands of China (and Muslim lands) will open to evangelism. China has been closed since 1949, 74 years. Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe collapsed in 1989 after 72 years. The Roman Empire legalized Christianity under the Edict of Milan in 313 AD after nearly 300 years of off-and-on persecution. In 1829, Great Britain passed the Roman Catholic Relief Act and in 1850 the pope established dioceses, after nearly 300 years of persecution and suppression. This last event was celebrated by then Father John Henry Newman, a convert to the Catholic Faith, in his “Second Spring” sermon preached to the first synod of Catholic bishops in the United Kingdom in 300 years. Its words should give hope to every Chinese Catholic, indeed to every Catholic in every time in every land. (Many websites have the full text of “Second Spring.”[1]

Just as Africa has been evangelized over the past century, I dream and I pray that China, India, and the Muslim world will be majority Christian in this century, and that North America and Western Europe will be re-evangelized in the same time. While the Church can think long-term, there must always be a sense of urgency, always a short-term agenda, always a current sense of mission, because no one should live and die without hearing the Good News. Will there be zealous men like Bishop Walsh willing to go to these lands and these peoples?

I’d like to share with you how good the Good News is. Bishop Walsh wrote the following in his Blueprint of the Missionary Vocation, written in 1956 while under house arrest:

The joys of the apostolate are hardly equaled by any other on earth; they are deep, real, and lasting. No doubt it is fitting that they should be won only after hard effort, because they transcend all human joys by the whole heaven. The artist derives satisfaction according to the labor expended and the beauty captured in his painstaking production. But only one artist can ever know the singing in the heart that comes from forming and shaping the image of Christ in the souls of His other sheep; this joy is reserved for the apostle. The missioner forgets all the sacrifice that went before, when a stubborn village family responds to his efforts and his new children come into the family. He hears the music of their stumbling prayers go up to God, and he needs no other sound to make him happy. The labor seems as nothing, because he knows that their simple, toilsome lives have at last been crowned with mercy, and that their children’s children will be blessed to generations…

Apropos of these remarks: Bishop Walsh had been asked once, by a Buddhist Chinese magistrate who recognized his priestly goodness, to visit with a village that had been a continuing problem for the magistrate. About 18 months later, the entire village of 500 converted.

Finally, I’d like to remind readers of the words I used at the beginning. When you are considering how you will spend your life and when you are burdened during your adult life, consider the life of Bishop Walsh of Maryknoll, a life filled with slow and arduous transportation, a difficult language to learn, infectious diseases, bandits, warlords, civil war, enemy occupation, Communist persecution and imprisonment. Pray to him for guidance, strength and perseverance.



1891                April 30. James E. Walsh is born in Cumberland, Maryland, the second of nine children, four of whom entered religious life. His brother John (1897-1966) joined Maryknoll.[2] Attended St. Patrick’s School, walking one mile to and from school, morning, lunch, and afternoon.

1905-1906       Attended Mount St. Mary’s, Emmitsburg, Maryland, for one year of college preparation.

1906-1910       Attended Mount St. Mary’s College, Emmitsburg, Maryland. At 19, graduated as youngest member of his class. His father and paternal grandfather were also graduates.

1910-1912       Worked in foundry, Cumberland, Maryland.

1911                June 29. Vatican approved establishment of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America.

1912                August/September: Entered Maryknoll. For one year, he commuted to the New York archdiocesan seminary, St. Joseph’s, in Dunwoodie.

1915                December 7. Ordained at Maryknoll seminary, New York.

1916-1918      Headmaster, The Venard, Maryknoll junior seminary, Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania.

1917                December 25.  Maryknoll receives a mission territory in Kwantung (Canton, now Guandong) Province of China.

1918                May 21. Announcement of identity of first mission band which included Walsh.

1918                September 7. First departure ceremony of Maryknoll missioners included Walsh.

1918                December 20. Arrived in Yangjiang, Guangdong Province, population 30,000 (900,000 in area).

1919                May. Assigned to Loting (now Luoding), arranged for a new residence to be built on Joss Stick Alley). While building in Loting, he served in Tungchen (perhaps now Zhushazhen).

1919                September 12: Fr. Price died of appendicitis. Walsh was appointed to replace him as superior in China.

1919                Mission territory expanded to include the prefecture of Maoming, including the city of Kochow (now Gaozhou), to which Fr. Walsh relocated.

1920                Mission territory expanded to include part of Province of Kwangsi (now Guangxi), including city of Wuchow (now Wuzhou), to which Fr. Walsh relocated.

1923                Started to recruit Chinese for the priesthood.[3]

1924                January 31. The Vatican made Maryknoll’s mission territory independent of other geographic jurisdictions, making its area a “Prefecture Apostolic,”[4] and named Fr. Walsh its head (“Prefect Apostolic”) and a monsignor. The Vatican made Kongmoon (now Jiangmen) the geographic headquarters. Walsh was head of Jiangmen from 1924-1936.

1927                February 3. The Vatican made Maryknoll’s mission territory a Vicariate Apostolic.

1927                May 22: Msgr. Walsh was consecrated a bishop on Sancian Island.

1931                Opened novitiate for Chinese order of nuns he founded.[5] Vatican approval was given February 1936.[6]

1936-1946     Served 10-year term as superior of Maryknoll.

1940-1941      November 1940 to December 1941: Served as unofficial secret liaison between the United States and certain high officials of the Japanese government.

1942                Four months scouting prospective mission territory in Latin America. Sends Maryknollers to Latin America for the first time.

1944                Over nine months traveling to, and in, China unoccupied by the Japanese.

1946                Reestablished after World War II missions in East Asia. Established new missions in Africa.

1948                August: Appointed head of Catholic Central Bureau, Shanghai.

1958-1970      Imprisoned in Shanghai.

1970                July 10. Walked across Lo Wu Bridge to Hong Kong after having been released from prison without notice, and expelled from China.

1970-1972      Toured Maryknoll missions in Africa, South America, and Asia in three trips.

1981                July 29. Died at Maryknoll, New York. August 3 funeral Mass celebrated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Terence Cardinal Cooke as principal celebrant and Msgr. William McCormack, National Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, as homilist.



Numerous contributions to Maryknoll’s periodical The Field Afar, especially “Shine on Farmer Boy,” Sept. 1939, p. 138

Mission Manual of the Vicariate of Kongmoon (1937)[7]

A catechism in Cantonese (1937)

Description of a Missioner (19 pages; written 1937; published almost in its entirety in Kerrison’s biography, pages 217-233; published in Zeal for Your House (1976)

Tales of Xavier (1946)

Maryknoll Spiritual Directory (1947)

Biography of Fr. McShane entitled The Man on Joss Stick Alley (1947)

The Church’s World Wide Mission (1948)

The Young Ones, re: Chinese children (after 1949)

Mary, Mother of Mankind (after 1949)

Blueprint of the Missionary Vocation (1956; written under house arrest)

Zeal for Your House (1976)


[NOTE: A link to Part 9 is here]


[1] One such website is


[3] John-Paul Wiest, “The Spiritual Legacy of Bishop James E. Walsh of Maryknoll,” Tripod (Holy Spirit Study Center, Hong Kong), 1989, pp. 56-67, 61, 1989 No3 6 Tripod 51.pdf (


[5] John-Paul Wiest, “The Spiritual Legacy of Bishop James E. Walsh of Maryknoll,” Tripod (Holy Spirit Study Center, Hong Kong), 1989, pp. 56-67, 61, 1989 No3 6 Tripod 51.pdf (

[6] “History of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” n.d.,

[7] John-Paul Wiest, “The Spiritual Legacy of Bishop James E. Walsh of Maryknoll,” Tripod (Holy Spirit Study Center, Hong Kong), 1989, pp. 56-67, 62, 1989 No3 6 Tripod 51.pdf (


James M. Thunder has left the practice of law but continues to write. He has published widely, including a Narthex series on lay holiness. He and his wife Ann are currently writing on the relationship between Father Karol Wojtyla (the future Pope) and lay people.

From The Narthex

Capital Punishment in Context

I’ve just reconnoitered a website that lays out seventeen well-argued essays on whether capital punishment…

Poetry: Ally of Our Faith

Catholics and other Christians have had enormous influence on the life of the mind and…

Proposals on the Economy

When the coronavirus pandemic subsides, and if we keep our wits about us, we’ll begin…