Maryknoll windows in dire need of replacement

It’s one of life’s simple pleasures.

The temperature is in the 80s, it’s a little on the sticky side and you don’t have air conditioning. What to do?

Open a window and go “ahhh,” as you catch a nice little breeze and breath of fresh air.

Unless you’re one of the 200 Maryknoll Sisters at the “Motherhouse,” the convent building where members of the Catholic order live after spending most of their lives doing missionary work in the neediest corners of the globe.

In that case, you very well might be out of luck.

Records show that the 92-year-old building’s windows haven’t been replaced since the 1950s. Many are cracked and damaged and most will only open a few inches, if at all. While they are spiritually strong, the nuns — many in their 70s, 80s and 90s — don’t have the muscle power to open or close windows that have been stuck for decades. Backs have been thrown. Muscles have been pulled. Arthritis has been aggravated.

And no one complains.

“We’ve all spent our lives working toward the betterment of our missions,” said 84-year-old Sister Jeanne Houlihan says, in explaining the prevailing attitude. “We tend to accept what is, and hope something will change. We don’t complain about our own discomforts. I may want something, but I ask myself if I really need it. If I find that I don’t, I won’t ask for it.”

But even Houlihan, who spent 46 years running a school for girls in Hong Kong, now acknowledges the need to replace the convent’s 403 windows, at a cost of about $1,200 each. The order has produced a YouTube video describing the need.

“It will take a lot of hands and a lot of hearts to make this a success,” she said of the new effort to raise the money. “But one thing we have plenty of here is faith. It would be a great comfort for us to be able to open and close our windows.”

Sister Noelle Doescher keeps her window open a few inches in the summer. If she opens it more and it starts to rain, she has trouble closing it. The heat doesn’t bother the 89-year-old too much. After working with the poor in Kenya for 38 years as a nurse, she’s used to it.

The cold, however, is another story. And winter is coming.

“It’s very drafty,” Doescher said of the large opening, which measures about 6-foot high and 3-feet wide. “When you’re older you don’t notice the temperature so much, but in the wintertime it can get freezing in here, even though I leave the window closed.”

Maryknoll officials are hopeful that their lower Hudson Valley neighbors will do what they can to help pay to replace the windows. Of particular concern are those on the fourth floor, which serves as a nursing home for the sick and frail sisters, and the third, which is used as an assisted living facility.

“The sisters aren’t going to put themselves first,” said Maryknoll spokeswoman Chelsea Waller. “I think it’s our job, as a community, to step up and try to help them and take care of them, for all the good they’ve done in the world. They certainly deserve to have their basic needs taken care of. Any donation helps, no matter how small. And the sisters will be grateful for any amount people can give.”

Twitter: @RichLiebson

Ways to donate:

Visit their website at and clicking the “Support Us” link

Click on the “Donate” tab of the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc. page on Facebook.

Checks, made out to “Maryknoll Sisters” with “window renovation” noted in the memo line, can be mailed to: Maryknoll Sisters, 10 Pinesbridge Road, Ossining, NY 10562.