Biographies

Sister Alphonsus Marie Gourlay, MM

Born: September 9, 1899
Entered: April 14, 1928
Died: March 7, 1987

On Ash Wednesday, Maryknoll Father Norbert Rans gave absolution and the Sacrament of the Sick to Sister Alphonsus Marie Courlay and at 1:35 p.m. on Saturday, March 7th, her life was transformed into glory as she peacefully surrendered herself to God.

Edith Veronica Gourlay was born 87 years ago to James and Catherine Kelly Gourlay, on September 9th, 1899, in Brooklyn, NY. Her father was a printer by trade, but had to retire early. Because of the financial difficulties occasioned by his long illness, Edith was urged by her mother to forego a regular high school education and she instead attended a 2-year course at Drake’s Business School. Early in life Edith had expressed a desire to enter religious life, but due to the family circumstances and on the advice of her confessor, she worked as a stenographer for seven years in the advertising department of a publishing house. Her salary helped her sister, Helen, pay off the mortgage on their home.

Edith led a very circumscribed life, preferring to use her limited free time in activities at the parish where she was sodality president. Her pastor described her as “open, frank, sincere and very self-sacrificing.” Being an avid reader enhanced her naturally keen intellect. Initially attracted to the contemplative life, she was dissuaded from this by a Redemptorist priest who strongly encouraged her to apply to Maryknoll. Mother Mary Joseph remarked after an interview with her, “Edith made a very nice impression on me. She seems to be frail but perhaps regular life will help to build her up.”

After entrance on April 14, 1928, Edith received the name “Sr. Alphonsus Marie” at Reception, made her First Profession of vows in 1930 and Final Vows in 1933. During that time Sister worked in the Sisters’ kitchen as well as at the Venard, and at The Field Afar office in various capacities.

Sister’s many creative talents were put to good use through bookbinding, mimeograph work, special sewing, gardening and typing. She worked long hours, often late into the night.

Sr. Alphonsus Marie would often do special little jobs and sew things for the Bazaar saying, “Don’t tell anyone I did this.” She enjoyed doing clerical jobs for the 1968 Special Chapter of Affairs and most liked the year she did secretarial work for the Center Superior. She excelled in the courses she took at Mary Rogers College in 1968.

She was admitted to the Maryknoll Nursing Home in 1983.

She eventually resumed attendance at the daily Liturgy, received Communion and showed her gratitude with simplicity and even affection. On February 14, Daisy Haynes, an aide who had cared for Sister in her early months in the Nursing Home, returned to visit her. Sister smiled and said, “You are my friend.”

The responsorial psalm in today’s Liturgy speaks to us in a special way as we reflect on this life, bound up with the pain and the promise of the Paschal Mystery:

“The Lord is close to the broken-hearted: those whose spirit is crushed God will save.”

There is much we do not understand. But this much we do: God’s love encompasses all. Let us celebrate that truth and rejoice with Sr. Alphonsus Marie, who is experiencing that love to the fullest in Heaven.

We express our sympathy to Sister Alphonsus Marie’s family and friends. We welcome Maryknoll Father Jack Corcoran who will lead us in this Eucharistic Liturgy of Resurrection.