Sister Etsuko Ogo, MM

Born: January 12, 1928
Entered: August 29, 1951
Died: September 10, 1998

As we gather here this morning to celebrate the life of Sister Etsuko Ogo, we are mindful of Etsuko’s very special love of nature and all of God’s creation. “Morning Has Broken” was specially chosen by her House Group (Out-To-Lunch Group) as our gathering song, recalling how she had “praised every morning as God’s re-creation of the new day!”

On September 10, at 7:45 p.m., Etsuko died peacefully in the Residential Care Unit surrounded by several Sisters who lovingly kept vigil with her during the last few weeks.

Etsuko Ogo was born in Kyoto, Japan, January 12, 1928, the only child of Setsu Date and Tomonosuke Ogo. She graduated from Koka Girls High School, Kyoto, in 1944 and the Women’s Medical College in Osaka in 1950. While she was a student in Osaka, Etsuko accompanied a friend to the Catholic church near the school. A French priest welcomed them and soon they began studying the faith. Etsuko was baptized on her 19th birthday – January 12, 1947.

When the Maryknoll Sisters who were working in Blessed Mother Mary Parish in Kyoto established the Legion of Mary, Etsuko was one of its first members. She was also active in the Catholic Students’ Federation. As Etsuko became friends with the Sisters and often visited them at home, her desire to become a missioner grew. In July 1950, she began a year of aspirant-ship in Kyoto under the direction of Sister Veronica Marie Carney. One year later Etsuko entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation and at Reception she received the religious name of Sister Louise Marie. After making her First Profession in 1954, she took a refresher course in medicine at Marquette Medical School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In 1957, Etsuko began her thirty-six-year service to the church and people of Taiwan. For eleven years, she served in the clinic in Changhua and in the mountain village of Busia where she worked with the aboriginal Taiwanese people in the town and surrounding villages.

She cared for both the medical and spiritual needs of the people dispensing medicine, rehabilitating polio victims, teaching catechism, working with women’s and student groups as well as doing home visiting. After giving a detailed account of the activities that filled a typical week, she said, “There are always visitors and parish activities and meetings to make our routine interesting and exciting. No two days are alike!”

Undoubtedly stemming from her deep gratitude to God for the gift of her conversion to the Catholic faith, Etsuko had long desired to focus on pastoral outreach rather than continue her medical work. In order to be better prepared for this new ministry she obtained a Master Degree in Counseling at Loyola University in Chicago in 1972. After returning to Taiwan she became involved in giving marriage encounter workshops, family counseling, individual religious instructions, and conducting prayer groups.

Throughout her life in mission in Taiwan many people came to see her to share with her their problems and struggles. She had more than just good listening skills. She made each person feel that they were special. From the depths of her own spirituality she could see their goodness, their specialness, and was able to radiate this back to them in her own gentle way. Her wonderful interpersonal skills, that made her a joy to live with, were recognized by those outside the community as well and she was asked by the Columban Fathers to work with them on their community-building skills over a two-year period.

In 1984, she and Sister Agnes Virginia moved to Lukang, in southern Taiwan, where they dedicated the next nine years to pastoral and pre-evangelization programs. At this time, Etsuko was also involved with the Populorum Progressio Institute where she was a consultant to the Family Guidance Department.

In preparation for returning to the Center for Congregational Service in 1993, Etsuko had to say many goodbyes which was very hard as she and Agnes Virginia turned over their mission to three Korean Sisters and she prepared to leave Taiwan. In her 1993 Christmas letter to her friends, Etsuko described the departure in these words: “When the actual time came to say goodbye, it was very difficult for all of us. I shall never forget the love and care we received from our friends, specially our Catholic women. Although the parting was so painful after 35 years in Taiwan, I was able to leave Taiwan in peace and with a sense of completion of my mission there.”

From 1993 to 1996, Etsuko gave congregational service in the Congregational Health Unit. Describing this ministry she wrote: “I get so much affirmation here as the Sisters are so appreciative of little things I do for them. When I think of all the great work they did in the missions, I feel so privileged to serve them.”

In April 1997 Sister was assigned to Monrovia, CA but it was an assignment that would never be realized. Health problems prevented her from going there.

Throughout the last months and weeks of her illness, Etsuko continued to be gracious and uncomplaining. She was more concerned with the needs of her visitors than with her own. She kept up with what was happening in peoples’ lives and her questions to them showed her keen interest in them. She had a steady stream of visitors to her room after she could no longer go down to the dining room.

Everyday she asked that the scriptures be read to her as she was truly nourished by the Word of God. Her expressed desire to have noise makers resounding in the foyer after her funeral Mass to “send her on her way” to her last mission manifests not only her deep faith in the resurrection and the life of the world to come but her wonderful sense of humor and love of Maryknoll traditions. She also had a deep love for Mother Mary Joseph and weeded the garden around her grave. One of her last wishes that was not able to be realized was that before her death she be wrapped in a blanket and taken to Mother’s grave and placed on the stone bench where she could look up at the beauty of the sky.

We offer our deepest sympathy to Sister Agnes Virginia, Etsuko’s best friend and mission partner, and to all the Sisters in Taiwan and Japan with whom Sister had shared life and mission. We welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father Emile Dumas, who graciously accepted Etsuko’s personal invitation to celebrate her Mass of Christian Burial.