The Nature and Symbols of Maryknoll

Maryknoll is a Society of Apostolic Life and not a Religious Institute like the Franciscans, Dominicans, etc. Consequently, Maryknollers do not take vows, but are bound together by oath.

Societies of Apostolic Life are not defined by the nature of the bond of the members to the Society—be it promise, oath, or private vow—but rather by the commitment to an apostolic goal.  Maryknoll ’s sole commitment and goal is foreign mission. It is this element which is of primary importance to her identity.

Since the common life of Maryknoll and her spirituality are directed towards the accomplishment of the apostolic goal which is mission, it is noted that although Maryknoll community life is central, it is not her primary focus since she is not an Institute of Consecrated Life.

Throughout her history, Maryknoll has adopted the chi rho, the first two greek letters of the word Christ as the symbol which defines her mission. This symbol is encircled and signifies Christ to the World.

In former years, members who made their first temporary oath were allowed to wear only the chi rho on their cinctures. After final oath, members wore the encircled chi rho. The chi rho symbol was depicted in red, the color of martyrdom which is the ancient meaning of witness to the gospel.

The Maryknoll sisters have a chi rho embossed on a ring which is presented to each sister when she makes first vows.

The Vocation Ministries Team has recovered the original Maryknoll symbol and uses it in all publications in order to focus candidates on Maryknoll's primary identity: a Society of Apostolic life dedicated to the mission of bringing Christ to the world.

Maryknoll Publications and print media use different symbols, either an with a chi rho superimposed or the name