CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Missionary to China and Hong Kong bids final farewell

Maryknoll (SE): Maryknoll Sister Julia Hannigan died on 15 August 2015, at the age of  99, just six-and-a-half weeks shy of her 100th  birthday. 

A missionary to China, Sister Hannigan was born on 30 September 1915 in Brooklyn, New York, and was one of five children: three daughters and two sons.  

She joined the Maryknoll Sisters on 8 December 1933 with a desire to minister in China.

Following her final profession on 30 June 1939, Sister Hannigan was sent to China where, following a year of language studies, she worked in Guangdong province, spending time in Hingning, from 1941 to 1946, and Kaying City, from 1948 to 1951. 

She was placed under house arrest in 1950 by the Communist regime and taken with other members of Maryknoll, including Bishop Francis Xavier Ford, to a Guanzhou (Canton) prison in 1951, prior to being deported to Hong Kong. 

In September 1951, she went to the island of Mauritius, off the African coast, after a request for help in the mission to the Hakka people, who had fled there from China. 

From 1952 to 1955, Sister Hannigan was at the Maryknoll motherhouse in Ossining, New York, doing promotion work before undertaking catechetical and parish commitments in Walterboro, South Carolina, in 1955.

She then joined the chaplaincy apostolate at Queen of the World Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri, visiting patients and instructing catechumens from 1956 to 1958.

Returning to Hong Kong in 1964, Sister Hannigan began parish ministry for the Catholic Welfare Centre, teaching religion to refugees at the Hong Kong Refugee School until 1971.

She also taught religion classes at a government school in Kowloon, where she organised a children’s recreational centre, serving at both from 1971 to 1974.  

In 1974, she returned to the United States of America, where she worked with refugees and taught English as a second language in Boston, Massachusetts, New York City and Monrovia, California, between 1975 and 1981.

She then took up a commitment to a Chinese parish and school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1984 to 1985. 

She returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Centre at the end of 1985, where she assisted in the house pharmacy and in the International Gift Shop, which she managed in 1986. 

A vespers service was held for Sister Hannigan on August 20 in the Chapel of the Annunciation at the Maryknoll Sisters Centre.  


A Mass of Christian Burial followed on August 21. She was interred at the Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery on the Maryknoll Sisters Centre grounds.

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