Sister Luella Veile, MM

Born: December 17, 1904
Entered: December 7, 1932
Died: January 23, 1994

On January 23rd, at 89 years, Luella quietly and peacefully gave up this life on earth. She has now entered into Eternal Life where there are no shadows and darkness, where the Word is heard and understood and the Glory of God is seen.

Sister Luella endured a long period of suffering. It is not for us to understand such a mystery. We can only thank God for the person and example of Sister Luella, the love, joys, graces and suffering offered by her life. We have been witnesses to the devoted care given her by the staff in the Skilled Nursing Home. In particular, all of us here have long been edified by the daily, faithful and tender-loving care given Luella.

Sister Mary Luella was born on December 17, 1904 in Quincy, Illinois. She was baptized Matilda and grew up with her parents, six brothers and one sister.

After education at Notre Dame Academy, Luella lived at home until she was 28, engaged in housekeeping, cooking and sewing, all skills that later enhanced the lives of many Maryknoll Sisters and priests. At that time, she was active in parish works at St. Francis Church where she was Vice President of Our Lady’s Sodality, a member of the Catholic Womens’ Union and of the Third Order of St. Francis. Sister Luella entered Maryknoll in New York on December 7, 1932; made her First Profession on June 30, 1935 at Maryknoll and her Final Vows on the same date in 1938 in Kaying, China.

When Sister Luella went to China in 1935, she first arrived in Hong Kong and in a few days, went to the Tung Shek Language School to study Hakka for a year. Luella became fluent in Hakka and also learned some Mandarin. After language study, she went to Kaying, where Bishop Ford was initiating a new mission approach wherein the Sisters would engage in evangelization, live in two-Sister houses and travel daily, often by foot, into the mountains and villages to share their faith with women and children. That era of the apostalate in which Luella was active was fruitful. Many people were baptized and remained faithful even through the later persecution in China. Luella was in Kaying 16 years, including the later difficult period when the Japanese invaded China, the Communists took control of the country and fighting against the Nationalists was strong. Luella and other Sisters were under house arrest for 10 months before they were expelled to Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, Sister Luella worked with refugees from China for several years until she was assigned to Taiwan in 1954. Save for her decennials beginning in 1959, Luella was in the missions of Miaoli, Towfen and Tahu of Taiwan, engaged in social pastoral work, religious education among women and girls, home visiting, kindergarten supervision, group work and follow-up catechetical instructions with adults. During this time, our Sisters in Taiwan remember that Luella moved without effort from children to teenagers to adults and was an excellent teacher.

In China, Sister Luella was given the Chinese surname of Li, meaning advantageous, pleasing, favorable.  In Kaying, Bishop Ford sent the Sisters into homes of the area to “create or aid a favorable situation”. With young and old, Sister Luella had a knack for creating favorable situations that led to friendships and openings to the grace of God. Once the Sisters visited a large village to become acquainted with the women and tell them about a Catechumenate soon to open. Luella spoke to a particular woman and a few weeks later the woman came to the Sisters’ house. As the story goes, Luella was delighted. “You came”, she said and the woman replied, “You invited me.” Such was Luella’s approach.

Our Sisters and the people of China and Taiwan found Sister Luella easy to approach because of her willingness to listen, to be of service, her wisdom, humility and understanding. Our Sisters found her a comfortable person to live with, one who displayed a sense of humor and seldom was seen to be nervous or tense, except sometimes at the end of the month when she was trying to balance the petty cash. Once when she made pralines a Sister said to her that they were so good that what she would like for Christmas was a praline the size of a dinner dish. That Christmas each Sister in the house received a praline as large as a dinner dish.

Before leaving Taiwan in 1978, Luella had formed a prayer group of 7 Christian “grandmas” who met regularly with her to pray the Rosary, deepen their understanding of catechesis and enjoy conversation over a cup of tea. After Luella returned to the United States, the 7 women continued to meet. Six of the women lived to a venerable age and, despite family opposition, remained Catholics and requested Catholic funerals, which were given all of them. Many of our Sisters in Taiwan felt that it was through Luella’s prayers and suffering that such a grace was granted to these women. For the women who persevered in the faith amidst difficulties, we can only imagine the joy of reunion by this group of “grandmas”, as Luella joined 6 of them in their Eternal home.

Clearly, Sister Luella was a loved member in community, a great blessing, especially in isolated areas and in two-Sister Communities. Mother Mary Joseph had said: “If we have His simplicity which attracts souls and His gentleness, which knows neither subterfuge nor hypocrisy then, truly we are reflecting the love of Christ.” Throughout her life Luella often expressed her longing to bring Christ to the people, to reflect the love of Christ knowing that the work of grace remains with the power of the Holy Spirit. She was a person of simplicity, gentleness and reflected the love of Christ, a love that animated her whole life.

Sister Luella had a twinkle in her eye and a lovely smile. When she was able to say the Office, she kept in her book a small card with a painting of a bird perched on a tree and a verse from a Chinese proverb: “Keep a green bough in your heart and a singing bird will come.” This is the way we will remember our Sister Luella; we thank God for her long life among us and with the Chinese people.

To the members of Sister Luella’s family, all the members of the Taiwan Region, and her friends, we extend warm sympathy and assurance of prayers. We are happy to have with us this morning two friends who are from a Kaying village where Sr. Luella worked and where she helped one of them prepare for first Communion. Their presence with us is deeply appreciated. As we begin our Eucharistic celebration of the Resurrection, we thank our celebrant, Maryknoll Father Joe Towle, for being with us. Let us rejoice and be glad for Sister Luella and her release into God’s peace.