Sister Maureen (Moe) Mitten
Current Ministry Location – Japan
Maureen (Moe) Mitten was born April 21, 1930 in Staten Island, NY to Elizabeth C. (Brennan) Mitten and Peter Francis Mitten. She had 1 brother, Gerard Joseph. Moe graduated from St. Josephs Hill Academy, Staten Island in 1940.
Maureen (Moe) entered the Maryknoll Sisters at their Center in Maryknoll, NY from Staten Island, NY September 4, 1948. She pronounced First Vows March 7, 1951 at the Center and Final Vows March 7, 1954 in Japan. Her first assignment was Congregational Service doing clerical work at the Center. Years later, one time on a visit, Moe remarked, “This is where I came from—it recalls a lot of wonderful memories but Japan is definitely home now.”
In 1953, after 2 years working at the Center, she was assigned to Japan
Sister Moe is fondly known by her Sisters as living fully a characteristic that Mother Mary Joseph Rogers encouraged, “A saving grace of a sense of humor.” One of her stories was about one of her students in Japan. “While I was in the States,” she said.” The student sent a postcard addressed to Sister Maureen, Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery, Maryknoll, NY. The student had copied the address from a postcard of the cemetery! Finally someone tracked me down among the living!”
From 1983 to 1991, Sister Moe was full-time Executive Secretary of AMOR, an acronym for the Asian Meeting of Religious Women, a forum of women religious of Asia and Oceania. In those years AMOR represented over one hundred thousand Women Religious from seventeen nations. Its purpose was to coordinate efforts toward ongoing renewal of religious life with the vision of a world built on justice, peace and universal love. Sister Moe found the work of coordinating the communication among the women of these countries to be a wonderful challenge. Every two years Sister Moe attended an international meeting in one of the countries of the membership.
On February 29, 2008, Sister Moe moved into the rectory of the Yamashina Catholic Church, a priest less parish in Kyoto. After Easter Mass, the parishioners organized a celebration to formally welcome her. The choir and Sunday school students sang; kindergarten children danced and a child presented a lovely bouquet to Sister Moe. Her activities ranged from Introduction to Christ classes for people preparing for Baptism; private lessons for a pregnant mother wishing to be baptized with her new baby; talks on Spirituality and Christian Values for choir members, some of whom were not Catholic but loved to sing to God and Talks about God to the kindergarten children aged 3-5. Sister Moe also had a Bible Study Women’s Group.
Past experiences served Sister Moe well in her new ministry. She had been involved in pastoral work in Otsu, Ueno, Hikona and Kyoto. Sister Moe completed her college studies begun at Mary Rogers College at Maryknoll, at Sophia University, Tokyo. She earned a BA in Asian Studies, and worked in the Kyoto diocesan catechetical center for three years. In Yamashina, Sister Moe also continued her professional outreach as an English teacher.
Among other talents, Sister Moe is a licensed bus driver! She had driven mini buses on occasion at Maryknoll, and in Kyoto Sister Moe was one of the drivers for the physically challenged and elderly of the Kohitsuji Kai Group with whom she worked.
Sister Moe traveled with companions from Kyoto to Nagasaki for the November 24, 2008 Beatification ceremony of the 188 17th century Japanese martyrs. “In the procession women dressed in lovely kimonos carried urns containing soil from the respective places where the Christians were executed in various cities throughout the country. These were placed under the altar with some relics. It was very touching, and such an honor to be present.”
This Beatification ceremony was memorable for Sister Moe because of a pilgrimage she made. Every year Japanese Christians and persons of other faiths joined a pilgrimage from Kyoto to Nagasaki, walking the entire six hundred miles or doing it in stages over a number of years. Starting in 1988, Sister Moe joined the pilgrimage thirty times over a four year period walking about twenty miles each time. “During my pilgrimage I felt like a farmer…dropping seeds of prayer and physical tiredness…and hoping that the seeds of the Gospel would bloom there some day.”
Sister Moe retired in Japan in 2015 but continued with some pastoral work.