Sister M. Gerard Gallagher, MM

Born: July 20, 1899
Entered: September 17, 1918
Died: March 29, 1982

Together with our celebrants, Bishop Edward A. McGurkin, and Fathers Robert E. Sheridan, Norbert J. Rans and Joseph R. Lang, Maryknollers all, we gather to rejoice in the fulfillment of life of our beloved Sister Mary Gerard Gallagher. We extend our loving condolences to Sister’s relatives and friends. We welcome them to our Eucharistic celebration. Our hearts are one with theirs in faith and hope as we come to know Sister Gerard in a new way.

Anna Catherine Gallagher was born on July 20, 1899, in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Her parents, Edward and Jane McKenna Gallagher, had two daughters and four sons. Two sons became priests: John, a Maryknoller, and William, a diocesan priest in Denver, Colorado.

After completing her elementary and high school studies in Dorchester schools, Anna Catherine attended Radcliffe College and also Boston Clerical College for one year each. In 1918 she applied to the small group of Maryknoll pioneers, then known as the Teresians, and was accepted as the 39th member of the young community. She entered on September 17th, 1918. While still a novice, Anna, who had received the religious name, Sister Mary Gerard, was assigned to Seattle, where she was professed on April 13, 1921. While still in that mission Sister made her final vows on February 15, 1924.

Sister Gerard served the Japanese as a kindergarten and elementary school teacher in Los Angeles and Seattle from 1920 to 1931, and from 1933 to 1939. She was then assigned to work with the Japanese people in Manchuria where she remained until repatriation in 1943, a result of events of World War II. After a short respite, Sister ministered to the Japanese Americans in an internment camp in Poston, Arizona. Then, upon completion of graduate studies at Catholic University and at the University of Hawaii, she launched into social work in Hawaii and later in San Francisco.

In 1961, Sister Gerard was sent to Japan, where she served with characteristic dedication in pastoral work and adult education until last fall when she found it necessary to enter a Kyoto Hospital in September, 1981. Thorough tests showed that she had a serious illness and the doctors recommended that she return to America as soon as possible. Sister came back to the Center in mid-October and entered the Maryknoll Nursing Home where she remained until her peaceful death on March 29th, 1982.

Sister Gerard always maintained a wide variety of interests, even during her final illness. As long as she was able she studied five new Japanese characters every day. Many Sisters with whom she lived recall her lively enthusiasm for, and detailed knowledge about sumo, a unique type of wrestling, which is the national sport of Japan. She was also interested in classical Japanese dancing and attended each yearly performance. Music brought much joy to Sister and, in Hawaii, a favorite Christmas gift was two seasonal tickets to the symphony – the second so that she could share her enjoyment with a friend.

Sister Gerard’s appreciation of life ranged from the ordinary, such as a good mystery story or a challenging bridge game, to the beautiful, found in art and literature. She was especially attracted by Scripture and, shortly before leaving Japan, attended Father Carroll  Stuhlmuller’s Workshop on the Psalms. At the close of this session, Father said to her, “Sister Gerard, you have been an inspiration to all of us… Sixty-three years at Maryknoll and you are still so interested in new ideas.”

But love was the dominant feature of Sister’s life. She had a genuine love for people which was expressed in her relationships with people of all ages. Before returning to Japan at the age of 79, Sister Gerard shared with the 1978 Reception Group some reflections on love in our Maryknoll vocation. She said: “The love of God and one another is the center and core of our life as religious. With it our mission will be fruitful wherever we may be. Without it all is vain. In each of our vocations some things are common: It is God who has chosen us and sent us to make known His love for all. It is Jesus who is our model and who gives us His commandment to love one another as he has loved us. It is God’s strength and the guidance of the Holy Spirit on which we rely. But, in addition, He has given each of us certain unique gifts and qualities to be developed and used in His service… I ask your prayers as I return to my mission in Japan at the end of the month. I pray that each of you may find true happiness and joy in your new life and may experience ever more deeply the unmatched joy of sharing God’s love and peace with others. God love you!”