Biographies

Sister Mary Magdala Bangs, MM

Born: December 20, 1905
Entered: October 15, 1928
Died: November 17, 1983

We come together in this season of Thanksgiving to celebrate, with gratitude in our hearts, the life and faithfulness in mission of our Sister Mary Magdala Bangs. After a long period of suffering from illness, Sister died as she had lived these last years, very quietly and unobtrusively in our Maryknoll Nursing Home, last Thursday evening, November 17, 1983.

Loretta Olive Bangs was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on December 20, 1905, the only child of Frank and Laura (Silva) Bangs. Loretta attended schools in Cambridge and Salem, Massachusetts; and at the completion of her teacher training studies, she taught for several years before coming to Maryknoll in 1928 (October 15). A vivacious, happy young woman, Loretta entered wholeheartedly into her new life, making friends easily with the other young women in the group – and was often the life of the party. When formally Received on April 30, 1929, Loretta was given her religious name: Sister Mary Magdala.

Like many Maryknoll Sisters in the early days of our foundation, Sister Magdala worked at the Seminary kitchen. Her special assignment was with Sister Mary Anthony in the breakfast room of the Maryknoll Fathers. This was a difficult task, but Sister Magdala worked diligently and often entertained others with accounts of her experiences.

After first profession on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1931, Sister Magdala was assigned to the Maryknoll School in Los Angeles. She taught for just a short time when it was discovered that she had developed tuberculosis. After treatment and rest at our then Maryknoll Sanatorium in Monrovia, California, Sister returned to Los Angeles, and served as secretary to Sister Mary Martina (Regional Superior); at the same time she was also “house Mother” for the girls in the Japanese Home for Children. She was genuinely loved by the children and had a great deal of influence on them. Following World War II, she was assigned to Stockton, California, where she taught Catechism.

Sister Magdala returned to the Center in 1948, and for more than 20 years gave secretarial service in a variety of offices of the Maryknoll Society and in the General Council Secretariat. In her last years before retirement in 1974, Sister worked in our own Promotion and Direct Mail Offices. All who shared life with Sister Magdala were constantly aware of her warm, generous spirit, and her delightfully dry sense of humor.

In the early 70s, her chronic illness began to manifest itself. At first it was difficult for her to accept the reality that she had become a victim of Parkinson’s disease, and that she could no longer work. Gradually, through the affirmation of her friends in community and the faithful members of her group, she began to recognize and to embrace suffering as a true ministry of Christian life and witness.

Sister was always grateful for the kindnesses she received from the Staff of Maryknoll Nursing Home and, occasionally, a glimmer of her innate sense of humor would shine through to the enjoyment of those attending her.

Sister Magdala loved the Feast of Easter – especially Jesus’ appearance to her patroness, Mary Magdalen. What a joy it must have been for her when she died quietly on November 17th and went to her own personal encounter with the Lord! With her we can rejoice today that, like Mary Magdalen, she need no longer weep and seek the Lord, but can truly say to us–as Mary Magdalen joyfully announced to the first disciples, “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!” Sister Magdala truly knows now the full meaning of her life of faithful giving in service and in suffering.

We extend our love and sympathy to Sister Magdala’s family and friends. We welcome you, and invite you to celebrate with us and, together, thank the Lord for the life of Sister Magdala and her gift to all of us and to the Church in mission.