Sister Marie May

Sister Marie was profiled in our Sharing in Mission newsletter in June 2007.

“Witnessing the goodness of the people with whom and among whom I live and work is life-giving. It is humbling and inspiring to have someone insist on giving, from the very little they have, some fish or taro that was intended to feed the family.” This is one of Sister Marie May’s comments about the Yapese people who have ministered to her and she to them for more than 30 years.

Sister Marie May is from Brooklyn, NY, and earned a B.A. in Science from St. Joseph’s College for Women before entering the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation in 1950. She was assigned to Hawaii from 1953 to 1974, where she taught in high school and did social work with a Catholic social services agency, including family counseling in the rural areas of Oahu. During this time, she also earned an M.A. in Biology from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles and an M.A. in Social Work from Washington University, St. Louis. In 1974, Sister Marie was assigned to Yap in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean, part of the Federated States of Micronesia.

Yap has four major islands with a total land size of about 38 square miles, a dot in the Pacific, home to Maryknoll Sisters since 1953. After language study, Sister Marie had a social-pastoral ministry and was a youth coordinator. In this ministry, she had a Yapese friend, Tim Moon, whom she met while he was studying at the University of Hawaii, and Tim became her language mentor and worked with her to reach restless youth on the Yap islands. Sister Marie helped organize a successful agricultural cooperative which provides a new vision for Yapese youth.

In recent years, Yap has experienced a transition from subsistence to a money economy and changes in attitudes toward education and work. Sister Marie helped young adults adjust to changing circumstances as they prepare to start their own families. Because of deep friendships with the Yapese over more than three decades, Sister Marie had been very much at home in her island mission.

Sister Marie returned to Maryknoll, NY in early 2011, then resided at the congregation’s convent in Monrovia, CA, until December 2014. She is currently part of the Eden Community at Maryknoll Sisters Center, Ossining, NY, where she has resided since January 2015.