Walsh Returns to the U.S.

His airport arrival after 22 years was greeted by 200 people - Part 9

On August 31, 1970, Bishop Walsh arrived at Kennedy Airport, New York City. He had last been in the United States in 1948. Greeting him were 200 people, including Terence Cardinal (now Servant of God) Cooke of New York, Lawrence Cardinal Shehan of Baltimore, seven more bishops, members of his family, New York Lt. Gov. Malcolm Wilson and New York Mayor John V. Lindsay.[1]

After spending some time at Maryknoll’s headquarters, he returned to New York and on September 13 assisted, in a black cassock, at a concelebrated Mass in thanksgiving for his safe return at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, attended by 4,000.[2]

On September 18, Walsh spoke at Maryknoll headquarters on a day of thanksgiving for his return to 900 priests, religious, and lay associated with Maryknoll. “In a voice which faltered at first but became stronger and more animated,” he told them, “I thank God for giving me what I call a privilege…a privilege to stay with my people in China during their troubled time…” He said his imprisonment was an even greater privilege “to share in my slight little degree in the hardship…in the cause of Him Who took our sins upon Himself and suffered so much for me and for all men.”[3]

On October 15, Walsh returned to his hometown of Cumberland, Maryland, for festivities welcoming him.[4] On October 16, Bishop Walsh was the guest of President Richard Nixon in the White House. (The presidential diary shows that Bishop Walsh’s party included his brother William, his brother William’s son (also named William), Fr. John Stankard, M.M., Maryland Congressman Glenn J. Beall, and Special Counsel Harry S. Dent.[5]) For those readers who want to know how the timing of this visit fit with Nixon’s visit to China, the chronology of the latter is:

  • April, 1971: American ping pong players visited China
  • July, 1971: U.S. Secretary of State Kissinger paid a secret visit to China
  • July 15, 1971: Nixon announced visit to China
  • February, 1972: Nixon visited China

On May 22, 1971, the 44th anniversary of his consecration as a bishop, Bishop Walsh ordained 14 men at Maryknoll.[6]

Bishop Walsh spoke at Maryknoll’s 1971 Departure Day. His words included these:

You do not go alone to your field of labor, for God Himself goes with you. And your Maryknoll family will also be with you by its God-given vocation. You are privileged men. For to you is given this grace – to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. There is no greater privilege than that among human vocations and occupations. There is no work so important. To preach Christ everywhere is the hope of the world. And now you enter upon that work. You go to take part in it and thus make a return to God for the grace of your vocation. You depart for the missions to find the other sheep for the Good Shepherd, to preach the Gospel to the souls whom He has redeemed by His cross. You are given a cross as a sign of your mission, for we preach Christ crucified. Go, then, with God. And go the whole way with God.

In November, 1971, the Catholic University of America awarded him its highest honor, the Cardinal Gibbons Award. At the awards dinner, he said he had done nothing special to merit the award. He had stayed with his people during time of trouble. Danny Thomas (1912-1991), a previous awardee, a comedian and founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, responded that “You are a beautiful man…What you went through is far and above the duty of any priest…Your humility, your goodness, your holiness—I pray to God it will touch us all.”[7]

In the 18 months between the date of his release from prison until March 4, 1972, Bishop Walsh toured the Maryknoll missions in Africa, South America, and Asia in three trips.[8] After concluding his month-long tour of Asia, he left on March 4 for the United States. During the tour, he broke ground for a new school in Hong Kong by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Chinese Order he had founded in 1934.[9]

By April 1973, the National Society for the Propagation of the Faith had developed a film about Bishop Walsh entitled Portrait of a Missionary.[10]

Bishop Walsh died July 29, 1981, age 90, at Maryknoll, New York, and his remains are interred there.


In Part 10, I provide some “concluding thoughts,” a chronology of Bishop Walsh’s life, and a list of his writings.


[NOTE: A link to Part 8 is here]


[1] “Bishop Walsh Comes Home,” NC News Service, Sept. 1, 1970, https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=cns19700901-01.1.3&srpos=8&e=——197-en-20–1–txt-txIN-%22james+e+walsh%22——-

[2] “Bishop Walsh Blesses Congregation at St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” NC News Service, Sept. 14, 1970, Catholic News Service – Newsfeeds 14 September 1970 — The Catholic News Archive

[3] “Bishop Walsh Cites ‘Privilege,’” Catholic Transcript [Hartford CT], Sept. 18, 1970, p. 8, col. 1, https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=CTR19700918-01.2.58&srpos=19&e=——197-en-20–1–txt-txIN-%22james+e+walsh%22——-

[4] “Bishop Walsh Welcomed,” Catholic Advocate [Newark], Oct. 15, 1970, p. 1, col. 1, The Catholic Advocate 15 October 1970 — The Catholic News Archive

[5] Nixon Presidential Library, https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/sites/default/files/virtuallibrary/documents/PDD/1970/038%20October%2016-31%201970.pdf#page=3

[6] “Bishop Walsh Ordains,” Catholic Transcript [Hartford CT], June 4, 1971, p. 18, col. 5 (photo), The Catholic Transcript 4 June 1971 — The Catholic News Archive; “Bishop Walsh at 80,” Catholic Transcript [Hartford CT], May 7, 1971, p. 14, col 3, https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=CTR19710507-01.2.83&srpos=6&e=——197-en-20–1–txt-txIN-%22james+e+walsh%22——-

[7] Sue Cribari, “‘Don’t Deserve It’, Bishop Walsh Says of University Honor,” NC News Service, Nov. 9, 1971, Catholic News Service – Newsfeeds 9 November 1971 — The Catholic News Archive and Catholic Transcript, Nov. 12, 1971, p. 24, col. 4, https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=CTR19711112-01.2.134&srpos=35&e=——197-en-20–21–txt-txIN-%22james+e+walsh%22——-

[8] “Bishop Walsh Is Ending Month’s Tour of Asia,” St. Louis Review, Feb. 25, 1972, p. 8, col. 2, https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=SLR19720225-01.2.47&srpos=30&e=——197-en-20–21–txt-txIN-%22james+e+walsh%22——-

[9] “Breaking New Ground,” St. Louis Review, March 10, 1972, p. 6, col. 1,


[10] “Mission Films Available to Schools and Groups,” Catholic Commentator [Baton Rouge], April 6, 1973, p. 6, col. 1, https://thecatholicnewsarchive.org/?a=d&d=CAC19730406-01.2.32&srpos=26&e=——197-en-20–21–txt-txIN-%22james+e+walsh%22——-


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.

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