Sister Louise M. Galligan, MM

Born: August 6, 1901
Entered: December 7, 1921
Died: May 19, 1989

On Friday, May 19, 1989, the Psalm opening the morning’s Liturgy began, “Listen O Lord, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy. Bring joy to the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.” At approximately 11:45 that morning, at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Tarrytown, New York, Sister Louise Galligan gave up her soul in the final, total gift of self.

Margaret Louise Galligan was born on August 6, 1901. She was the oldest of 6 children born to Louis Edward and Margaret Shea Galligan of Taunton, Massachusetts. She had two brothers and three sisters. Her sister, Mary Galligan, our friend and former novice mistress to so many in Maryknoll is here with us today. Margaret Louise finished her schooling in Taunton, Massachusetts, graduating from St. Mary’s High School in 1918. “The smartest girl in the school” according to her father! Very soon after that, her interest in the foreign missions began, sparked by the writings of Mother Lawrence, F.M.M., and  encouraged by Monsignor Morris, M.M., In March of 1921, Margaret Louise wrote to Mother Mary Joseph, “For 4 years I have been praying that some day I might devote my life to the cause of the foreign missions, but there seems to be no order of nuns, at least in this part of the country, which has as its direct aim, the Chinese missions.

Thus began the clear, unmistakable, irreversible response to the call to mission — a faithful response that would last for 68 years. For on December 7, 1921, Louise Galligan entered Maryknoll. [I would like to digress for a moment here. We can hardly speak of Louise without somehow including Mary Galligan. I promised Mary I would not tell all the family stories, but a few recollections are worthy of note. Mary Galligan was 6 years younger than Louise. When Louise was a postulant, the whole family could not afford to travel together, so they took turns visiting. When Mary’s turn came, seeing Louise at Maryknoll for the first time, she said, “This is it for me.” Mary recalled that her father was so proud of both of them, he presented each of them to Maryknoll himself, wearing a grey suit and a Chi-Rho pin!” That was the last time they would see each other until 20 years later when Mary went to meet the Gripsholm as it arrived in California in 1945 from the Philippines, for Louise had already left for the Philippines when Mary entered 5 years after her.] At Reception time, Louise was given the name “Sister Mary de Chantal” and made her first profession of vows on April 19, 1924. The dream of service to the Chinese missions was not to be realized, at least not right away. Sister de Chantal was assigned to the Philippines in 1926 where she made her final profession of vows on April 19, 1927. She was to spend a total of 24 years of her Maryknoll life in the Philippines.

After the repatriation in 1945, she was assigned to New York City’s Chinatown. How she must have smiled at the Lord for His sense of humor – her long desired wish of service to the Chinese mission realized in her own country, not far from the Motherhouse! During this period in the States, she finished her B.E. degree studies at Maryknoll Teachers College in 1946. But the assignment to Chinatown would not last too long. Four years later in 1949, restored in health, she was to return to the Philippines and remained there until the call to the General Chapter in 1952. After finishing 12 years on the General Council of the Maryknoll Sisters, in 1965 her response to mission was lived out in Hawaii. In 1970 she returned to the Center and served as Registrar for the College and in Archives. Sister Louise continued the remainder of her mission and life in Maryknoll in our Maryknoll Nursing Home from 1984 until the present time.

But how does one capture the essence or give life to 68 years of loyal, faithful service? I would like to go back and pick up what for me are three particular segments or life events that symbolize what it means to be called, to respond and to be sent as a Maryknoll Sister. Some of the characteristics or elements in her life that I suspect sustained her during good times and hard times were perhaps best articulated by her pastor in 1921. When Louise was getting ready to enter Maryknoll, he wrote these words, “She is talented, docile, lady-like and unaffectedly and genuinely pious.” Both Mary and I agree, that these words described her then and were as true for her throughout her life and at the end of her life as they were then when they were written in 1921. One significant event in her life, and in the lives of many Maryknoll Sisters, was the period from 1941-1945 in the Philippines. We remember well the war that devastated the people and the land of the Philippines. Because Sisters Trinita and Brigida had been taken already, Sister Louise had to assume the responsibility and leadership for those who were under house arrest and were moving from convent to convent and finally to the Internment Camp at Los Banos. Disease, hunger and death were their daily companions. For 4 years there was essentially NO communication to or from the Motherhouse. Through the sufferings experienced together, strong faith and strong bonds of friendship that would last forever were planted deep in their hearts. They were totally dependent on God and one another. What keeps one going in times like that? I suspect it could very well have been her way of life so well established as we recall Mother Mary Joseph’s words, “… living close to Christ is the whole secret of our Maryknoll vocation – the secret of our joy, of our happiness, the ability to smile when things are going against us, the ability to work until we are worn out, the secret of the spirit of prayer, the secret of Christ’s blessing to us.”

A second unplanned and unexpected event in her life came in 1952. The times when a Sister is not a delegate to and present at a General Chapter, but is elected from outside the delegation is rare in our history. In 1952, as the Chapter began, Sister Mary de Chantal was elected to the General Council and had to be called in from the Philippines. Her quiet, steady leadership, her talents and her strengths were recognized once again, and she was called to serve the Congregation as Secretary General for the next 6 years and was re-elected in 1958 for another 6 years. We celebrate her generous response to serve in whatever way, wherever the need. In 1981, the Central Governing Board wrote her a note in gratitude for the many years of devoted and efficient service. “You have served the Congregation and the mission of the Church in so many ways in your life. In these last years of taking care of our records, you have quietly offered a service to all. Our heritage is invaluable and you have helped to preserve it for future generations of Maryknoll.” She was overwhelmed by this expression of gratitude and responded by saying, “My sixty some years as a Maryknoll Sister have meant more to me than I could ever have anticipated.” We witnessed that, Louise, by the many ways in which you accepted the missions given to you.

And finally, most recently, we fondly remember the gentle woman in the Nursing Home. Always asking if there wasn’t something she could do to help; introducing herself ever so graciously and asking who we were and where our mission was. The time Louise and Mary spent in the Nursing Home was one of the few times they were together for any sustained period. A precious time for both of them in a special faith-filled way. It was only within the last several months that Sister Louise began to show symptoms of something other than “growing old gracefully.” Her physical condition deteriorated so rapidly that on May 5 she was taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital.

And so we remember, your courage, your faith, your dependence on God in accepting the call to mission with the suffering people during the War and years of internment.

We celebrate the gift of yourself as you accepted the call to mission through service to the Congregation in offering your time, your talents and your leadership for 12 years as a member of the General Council.

And we believe that in these last days of your life, all this and your final fiat were in turn lovingly accepted by your God, the God you served so long and so well through the people and events in your life.

Let us then unite in prayer, song and joy at this beautiful Eucharistic Liturgy of resurrection and thanksgiving.

We welcome Father Gerald Nagle, Maryknoll Missioner of the Philippines.

We extend our sympathy to Sister Louise’s relatives and friends. So, as we begin the Liturgy, we remember, we celebrate and we believe.