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Sister Mary Eleanor Galvin

Sister Mary Eleanor Galvin “… behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.’” Matthew 2:1-2

“Sister Mary Eleanor Galvin who was born in the Advent of 1926, she died during the nine day preparation for Christmas on Dec. 21, 2012 and will be laid to rest on the Vigil of Epiphany. She, too, has had a long journey; she too followed her star to the end,” said Sister Mary Roger Madden in her commentary on Sister Eleanor.

Sister Mary Eleanor was born Marilyn Barbara Galvin on Dec. 3, 1926 to Joseph and Mary Downing Galvin in Malden, Massachusetts. One of four children, she was preceded in death by brothers Lorimer and Neil. She is survived by one sister who is also a Sister of Providence, Sister Michaela Galvin.

Growing up, Marilyn was a member of Sacred Heart parish and attended Cheverus Elementary and High School. After graduation in 1944, Marilyn entered the Sisters of Providence and was given the name Sister Mary Eleanor.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and in 1970 a master’s degree in English from St. Michael University. In 1985 she earned a second master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Emmanuel College.

In her 67 years as a Sister of Providence, Sister Mary Eleanor ministered as an educator for 41 years, ten of those as principal. Many of those years were served in her native east: in Massachusetts at her own Cheverus in Malden, St. Rose in Chelsea and St. Polycarp in Somerville and at Lady Isle in Portsmith, New Hampshire and St. Clement in Landsdown, Maryland. In Indiana she served at St. Joseph in Hammond, St. John the Baptist in Fort Wayne, St. Ann in Terre Haute, St. Charles in Peru, St. Ann in Newcastle and St. Ann in Indianapolis.

In 1988 she began a new ministry in pastoral care at the Sisters of Providence motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

“For nine years Mary Eleanor served her sick and elderly sisters as Director of Pastoral Care. Her joyful disposition exemplified by her ever-present smile will be remembered as long as memory endures,” Sister Mary Roger said.

Upon retiring in1997, Sister Mary Eleanor volunteered in the office for the canonization of the Congregation’s foundress, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Since 2004, she dedicated herself totally to the ministry of prayer.

“To describe Mary Eleanor one says first of all that she was Massachusetts born and bred and forever connected. Her very speech did betray her. She was a joyous person; all those years of teaching little children had brought a light to her eyes, and an ease to her smile from which we all benefited,” Sister Mary Roger continued.

“She loved poetry and music and in her younger days she had composed the text for operettas to be performed by the students. With the heart of an Irish poet and a love of simplicity she found in photography a hobby through which she could express her interests. We all know how eager she was to introduce us to the lives of the Amish people, whom she found so irresistible. Perhaps she saw them as shepherds of our day living an uncompromising, countercultural life? Along the way to the Amish settlement we would surely have to stop to take pictures of an old red barn, long since abandoned by its owner but somehow eloquent to her.”

In the following farewell letter upon leaving her position in Pastoral Care, Sister Mary Eleanor tells the sisters and us how she saw herself.

I am minister
I come to give myself,
Whatever my limitations,
But with confidence.

I am minister.
I believe in what I am doing,
I live with open-ended love; and
I totally embrace those
for whom I minister.

Because I am minister,
I search for the sacredness of persons
to see their wonderful expectations
to touch their marvelous warmth
and to taste their loving memories

Since I am minister
I am sacramental—
for I am called to be
the Presence of Christ on earth
whether it be in the capacity
of welcome,
or growth,
or affirmation.

My very presence is minister
patterned in such a way
where I can expect to be
a suffering Christ
a dying Christ
and a resurrected Christ.

Yes, I am minister, and because I am,
I hope, like John, to say
of those to whom I minister
one can show no greater love
than to lay down her life
for her friends.
Sister Mary Eleanor Galvin, SP

“A child of Christmas, born in Advent, dying during the novena for Christmas, buried on the vigil of the Wise Men, now Mary Eleanor lives forever in that temperate valley where there are no seasons save the season of everlasting peace,” Sister Mary Roger concluded.

The Mass of Christian burial for Sister Mary Eleanor was celebrated Jan. 5, 2013, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one sister, Sister Michaela Galvin, SP.

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