James Edward Walsh
Class of 1910
Mount St. Mary's
Bishop emeritus James Edward Walsh
Outside Maryknoll Seminary (undated, but after 1970)
December 7, 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of the ordination of Bishop James Edward Walsh. So? You Catholic teenagers and young adults are in the process of deciding what to do with your lives. What education or training you will pursue. What line of work you will choose.
Eventually whom you should marry. These decisions go to the core of your being. They mark your way to your eternal destiny. They should be the subject of frequent and deep conversations with God in which you seek to discern His call to you, your vocation.
During this time, you might well 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. So, later in your lives, when you feel any burden from caring 24/7 for your children, any burden from caring for your elderly parents, any burden from your job (or lack of a job), any burden from being Catholic, you might bring to mind Bishop Walsh and pray to him for strength and perseverance.
Although his vocation was that of a priest, and a missionary to a foreign land, and therefore unlike the vocation of 99.999% of us (one in 100,000), we all share our common vocation from baptism, as described by Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans:
How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Rom. 10:14-15)
Bishop Walsh has been deceased since 1981, 34 years, but we should remember his name and his story. December 7, 2015, is a good time to bring his name and story to the fore since it marks the hundredth anniversary of his ordination to the Catholic priesthood. The most salient part of his story is the 12 years he spent imprisoned by the Communist Chinese, but there’s much more to commend him to you.
I first learned of Bishop Walsh when a Maryknoll priest, the late Robert V. Tobin, M.M., (1927-2013), gave me, then a high school freshman, a copy of the full-length biography by Raymond Kerrison, Bishop Walsh of Maryknoll (1963). At the time, Bishop Walsh was imprisoned. Father Tobin rendered me the inestimable privilege of introducing me to Bishop Walsh in the spring of 1974 at Maryknoll, New York, and I then had a private conversation with him.
In researching this essay, I obtained a copy of Bishop Walsh’s 1976 collection of his talks and writings. Imagine my surprise when the copy was stamped as having been in the collection of his alma mater, Mount St. Mary’s, and my further surprise when I opened it and saw his autograph!
I wish to share the story of Bishop Walsh’ life with you. There is a difference though. There was not a single image or picture or illustration or map in his biography. This illustrated essay will fix that! I will proceed as follows:
Part I: Before Maryknoll . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 3
Part II: In Active Ministry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 6
Part III: In Contemplative Ministry (Prison) . . page 33
Some Concluding Thoughts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  page 35
Chronology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. page 37
Writings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. page 39
Appendix –Newman’s “Second Spring” . . . .  page 40
Spero News columnist James Thunder is an author and attorney. To see his new booklet, "Illustrated Story of Bishop Walsh of Maryknoll for Catholic Teens and Young Adults," click here.


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