Sister Paulita Hoffmann

“Lord, with every step I take, give someone the gift of faith.”

Sister Paulita was born in Cincinnati in 1914. A small woman with vibrant tenacity and attentive hazel eyes, her desire to minister to the Chinese was what first brought her to Maryknoll in 1933. It was thus with great joy that she first set set out for mainland China in 1938.

Here, however, after twelve years of zealous service in pastoral, catechetical, and vocations work, Sister suddenly found herself pushed to the limits of endurance. For in 1950 the Communist regime placed Sister Paulita and her fellow missionary, Sister Edith, under house arrest, where they spent fourteen months under conditions of fear, malnourishment, and abuse. Throngs of curious and hostile people milled through their once-private cloister. Their possessions were repeatedly searched, and the women were even marched through the streets, targets for mud, stones, and shouted accusations. Yet despite the terrible, wild energy of the mobs, Sister Paulita and her companion strove to remain silent and trusting, and in 1951, on the death of the imprisoned American Bishop, the women were released into Hong Kong.

After spending the next two years at the Maryknoll Center recovering her severely strained health and editing her memoirs (published under the title Red China Days), Sister Paulita returned to missionary work with renewed and energetic determination. She would spend the next fifty years, except for a two-year assignment at the Center, living and working in Taiwan.

There Sister Paulita embraced the missionary challenge as eagerly as ever, serving through direct apostolate, catechetical, social and pastoral work, and the formation of Christian Communities. She accumulated such a wealth of friendships during these years that she is never without a story or a memory to share. Indeed, the people of Taiwan so appreciated this open-hearted quality that before her return to the Maryknoll Center in 2004, she was granted her Taiwanese permanent residency.

In 2012, Sister Paulita was assigned to the congregation’s retirement community at Maryknoll, NY.

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