Sister Gabriella Mulherin, MM

Born: May 19, 1900
Entered: September 24, 1923
Died: May 12, 1993

We are gathered here today to celebrate this Eucharist in thanksgiving for the long life and very peaceful death of our Sister Gabriella Mulherin.

Sister Gabriella, nearly 93 years old, died here at our Maryknoll Sisters Center on May 12, 1993 at 10:06 a.m. surrounded by her Sisters and some of our Health Care Staff.

Loretta Rose Mulherin was born on May 19, 1900 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Thomas and Bridget Gibbons Mulherin. Loretta was one of seven children – five brothers and one sister. John Mulherin, Sister’s surviving brother is with us today.

Loretta Mulherin received her early education in Scranton attending St. Patrick’s Grade and High School. It was while attending St. Patrick’s High School that she was inspired to enter Maryknoll, having heard a talk by one of Maryknoll’s Founders, Father Thomas Frederick Price.

Upon graduation from St. Patrick’s High School in 1916, Loretta became a Secretary at the International Correspondence School. She attended evening classes for two years at the Technical High School for Advanced Stenography and Spanish. Loretta then moved to the Hudson Coal Company where she was employed as a Legal Secretary and Title Searcher in the Real Estate Department.

Loretta Mulherin entered Maryknoll at the Venard on September 24, 1923. She was professed on April 30, 1926 and the same year was assigned to Korea. On April 30, 1929 Sister Gabriella made her Final Vows in Korea.

From 1926 to 1942, Sister Gabriella was assigned to our missions in Korea: first to Yeung Yu as a Language Student, then Directress of the Industrial Department and later as a Language Teacher. She served in Gishu, in Pyang Yang and Yeng Yu.

After Pearl Harbor, Sister Gabriella was interned in Yeng Yu with other Maryknollers and was eventually repatriated to the United States on the Gripsholm in August of 1942.

From 1942-1948, Sister worked for the Maryknoll Society – first in general administration and then she was the Secretary for the Superior General, Bishop James Edward Walsh.

In 1949, Sister was assigned to Hawaii and worked in Catholic Social Services until 1952 when she returned to Korea.

This time, in going to Korea, Sister Gabriella landed in war-torn South Korea. Having spent 16 years in the north, she was particularly struck by the devastation of the country; the poverty and sickness of the people. She felt great pain in seeing this once proud and dignified people — people she loved deeply — now refugees in their own country.

Sister worked in the Arts and Crafts Project at the Nazareth House on the Maryknoll Sisters Compound in Pusan. Her purpose was to gather, organize and train the young, displaced war widows and other women in skills which would enable them to earn a living for themselves and their families.

During this time 1952 – 1957, she networked with other Voluntary Agencies working in Korea. Together with her good friend, Msgr. George H. Carroll, M.M., she was a founding member of KAVA – the Korean Association of Voluntary Agencies. KAVA had formed to share information and resources; collaborate on projects; and generally support one another in efforts to assist the Korean people.

Returning to the United States in 1957 for Renewal, she spoke with Sister Victoria Francis regarding the plight of the people and the likelihood that some of the Voluntary Agencies would begin withdrawing from Korea. Sister Victoria Francis arranged for her to attend the meeting of the American Council for Voluntary Agencies in Foreign Services in NYC. From this meeting it was arranged that Sister go to Antigonish, Nova Scotia for an intensive short course on the Antigonish Movement. Msgr. Moses M. Coady, Professor at the St. Francis Xavier University worked out the tutorial. He introduced her to the Antigonish Movement – a program of adult education – using leadership training in Credit Union organization and formation as one means of promoting democratic values; of imbuing people with a way to trust and unite with one another in taking responsibility for their own lives. It is the first step in the Cooperative Movement.

When Sister Gabriella returned to Korea in January of 1958, she picked up her work with the war widows. She continued her active participation in KAVA and in 1959 arranged for a four-day workshop on Cooperatives for the KAVA Members.

By early 1960, Sister had concluded her work with the Arts and Crafts Project. On March 19, 1960 she gathered a group of 30 participants and launched a six-week evening leadership training seminar on the philosophy and principles of the voluntary Credit Union Movement. In the middle of the seminar, April 19, 1960, in the wake of the Students’ Revolution, the Rhee Government collapsed and the country was left in a political vacuum. Sister Gabriella was not to be deterred by the collapse of the Government and the leadership seminar continued.

On May 1, 1960, the first Voluntary Credit Union was formed in Pusan on the compound of the Maryknoll Sisters. There were 28 members with a total savings equivalent of $30.00 USA. By 1988, membership in the Korea Credit Union numbered 1.3 million persons. In this same year, 1988, the Korea Credit Union Members erected a lovely monument on the former Maryknoll Sisters compound — marking the occasion, acknowledging the site of the first Credit Union and recognizing Sister Gabriella’s contribution.

Sister Gabriella then went on with a handful of pioneer women and men and set up the Cooperative Education Institute in Seoul – – the education arm for the  cooperative movement.

She helped to organize the Korea Credit Union League, served as its first Managing Director for one year, and then turned this over to Korean Leadership.

In 1967, Sister retired from the Cooperative Education Institute and turned it over to two of her pioneer leaders, Xavier Hee Sup Park who succeeded her as Director, and John Sung Ho Park, the Assistant Director.

Returning to Maryknoll in 1967, Sister assisted with the planning and preparation for the 1968 General Assembly; then the setting up of the Research and Planning Office; and finally concluded her active ministry with part-time work in Archives.

Having retired from Korea in 1967, Sister Gabriella spent the next 25 years at Maryknoll. Over these years, there was a steady stream of Credit Union Leaders coming to visit with her. Early on she was like a mighty wind – plying them with a well-prepared battery of questions regarding the development of the movement. How many Credit Unions? How many members? What are the assets? How was the League functioning? Was education still the foundation of the movement? How was the Credit Union Law developing? What was the relationship with the Ministry of Finance?

When her young pioneers continued to visit — having added 10 – 15 – and 20 years to their own lives — the tenor of the meetings changed. They briefly brought her up to date on the developments in Korea. Then, they initiated the talk on the early days. They talked about the challenges she put before them again and again. They talked about the struggles they shared. Frequently, she would ask – ‘Was I too hard on you?’ These men would pause, smile and looking at this outstanding woman say to the effect: No, Sister. We struggled with you. It was not always easy, but it was worth it. We needed your courage to fire our courage and it did!

There is a Korean proverb which says it well –

A tree is harmed by taller trees
But a person profits from great people.

The forcefulness and dynamism of Sister Gabriella’s personality mellowed significantly over these last 25 years. She was a very prayerful woman who knew her need for prayer and counted on its efficacy. Sister Gabriella challenged everyone. If you could accept the challenge – she knew you accepted her – and for this she longed.

Sister Gabriella was very close to the Mulherin Family. She kept in touch with them on a regular basis and they, in turn, have been very supportive of Sister Gabriella and Maryknoll for these 70 years.

Sister Gabriella loved Maryknoll as she loved life – mightily! In November 1988, as she planned for this day, she said: “Please tell the Sisters that I have loved them dearly; that I have prayed for them daily; and that I have been grateful for my life as a Maryknoll Sister!”

We welcome our Celebrant, Father John Patrick Meehan, a very close friend of Sister Gabriella.

And now we invite you to enjoy this Eucharistic Celebration!