Sister Esther Touchette, MM

Born: August 20, 1908
Entered: October 15, 1927
Died: February 17, 2003

On February 17, 2003 about 7:00 p.m. Sister Esther Marie Touchette entered eternal life from Maryknoll Residential Care IV. She had become visibly weaker in recent weeks and during her last two days Sisters watched and prayed at her bedside.

Marie Pauline Esther Touchette was born in Boston, Massachusetts on August 20, 1908 to Simeon and Marie Villemaire Touchette. She was their youngest child and the only girl. Five brothers, as she said, were available at her beckoning. She stated later that her mother said she had gone to the Convent because she was so tired of boys around the house. It seems that her own brothers were often hosts for their seven boy cousins.

Esther describes her family as very happy, very French and very Catholic. She goes on to say that everyone in her family was musically inclined. Each brother played some instrument. One became a professional musician giving concerts in the U.S. and abroad. She took piano lessons and on Sunday evenings the house resounded with French songs. When Esther was about eight it suddenly dawned on her that everyone was speaking English. As they all went to school the transition was gradual but Esther retained her French language ability throughout her life.

Her education was at Boston Latin and the Longee School of Music. Later she attended Business College for a year and after graduation worked for two years for the Cambridge Gas and Electric Company.

Despite her mother’s pleas that she not consider Maryknoll, Esther entered on October 15, 1927 but left in November of the next year. One of her brothers was ill and her mother needed help. The following year Mother Mary Joseph accepted her application for re-admission and Esther returned on October 11, 1929. Sister Esther made First Vows on January 6, 1932 and Final Vows on January 6,1938.

Until 1943 she worked as a secretary at the Motherhouse, then was assigned to San Juan Capistrano where she worked among poor Mexican people. Esther was there three years and went on to the missions of San Juan Bautista and Stockton until she returned East to Creighton House in 1949, beginning work for the Maryknoll Fathers as a secretary at the Field Afar.

In 1961 Esther was assigned to the Philippines with a specific task: to help raise money for the newly founded Philippine Novitiate. This task she worked at faithfully but after a year realized she wasn’t needed and began to teach music to all levels of Maryknoll College students. She delighted in this and had special fondness for the little ones. One day a week she went to a public high school to teach music and on Sundays she taught in the Barrio. Her own description of these years was that they were the happiest of her life.

In June 1976 she returned to the Center and a year later was sent to Monrovia where she remained until May 1, 1996. Throughout her years in Monrovia she could be seen at the organ, carefully preparing for liturgies. In 1984 she was elected a Delegate to the General Assembly. This was a highlight for her, a time that she said renewed her spirit of dedication to the work of Maryknoll toward achieving the freedom, equality and dignity of all people.

On her return to the Center, she entered as fully as possible into life here. All of us remember her walks around the halls with friends. Until recently she seemed to have unbounded energy.

Esther wrote this to describe her feelings about her life: “If I had life to live over again I would be a Maryknoll Sister. It has been a wonderful life for me – a life lived with beautiful people – my Maryknoll Sisters – a life of peace and joy in the Lord.” Esther is with our God now praying for us and all whom she loved. We thank God for her.

We are happy to have with us today our Maryknoll friend and brother, Fr. Carroll Houle, who will celebrate the Mass of the Resurrection.