“Of all the work I do the type that I most enjoy is teaching catechumens. It is a rewarding and enriching experience to see peoples’ faith growing and developing.”
Sister Doretta Leonard, born in NYC and raised in Queens, entered Maryknoll in 1945. She had been studying education at Fordham and teaching at a local Catholic school when she felt the call to missionary life. The sacrifice involved appealed to her as a way of giving herself over entirely to the love of God, though she did not fully realize, at this point, the deep and passionate joy she would find in carrying out her vocation.
Sister Doretta began her education at Maryknoll’s own Rogers College before being assigned to Wuchow, Southern China, in 1948. She returned to the Center twenty years later to complete her degree, but in the meantime she studied Cantonese and then began a catechetical vocation that would last for fifty years. Sister Doretta wrote that, of all the work she did in China, she most enjoyed this catechesis: welcoming new Christians of all ages, from the young to the very old, to hear the Good News of peace and love.
In 1951 the Communist government placed Sister Doretta and her companions under house arrest and ultimately forced them to leave China. Moving her ministry to Hong Kong, Sister Doretta continued her generous life of teaching, this time among refugee children without other educational resources. Sister Doretta became involved in pastoral work which lasted, in various parishes in Hong Kong and Macau, until 2005. Before returning to the Maryknoll Center, where she continued her pastoral ministry for her fellow sisters, Sister Doretta served the Chinese people with grateful joy: teaching, visiting their homes and hospitals, giving spiritual direction, and working through the parish in many other ways.
Sister Doretta is currently a member of the Eden Community at Maryknoll Sisters Center, Ossining, NY.