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Sister Eileen Galvin, BVM (Matilda)

Sister Eileen Galvin, BVM (Matilda), died July 24, 2014, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Visitation will be from 9–11 a.m. on Monday, July 28, 2014, in the Marian Hall Chapel followed by a prayer service at 11 a.m. Funeral liturgy will be at 1:30 p.m. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born July 13, 1921, to Thomas and Brigid Cahill Galvin. She entered the BVM congregation from St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Kansas City, Mo., on Sept. 8, 1937. She professed first vows on March 19, 1940, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1945.

Sister Eileen was an elementary school teacher and administrator in Cascade, Iowa; Chicago; San Francisco; Kauai, Hawaii; Memphis, Tenn.; and Kansas City, Mo. She was also a nurse at Marian Hall, Dubuque, Iowa; Evanston and Chicago, Ill.; Bakersfield, Port Hueneme and Oxnard, Calif.; Weirton, W.Va.; and Kansas City, Mo.

She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers: John Joseph, Thomas Martin and Rev. James M. Galvin, CM; and sisters Margaret Mary, Agnes Therese and Ann Galvin, BVM (Syra). She is survived by sisters Mary Catherine (James) O’Connor, Overland Park, Kan.; and Frances Galvin, Kansas City, Mo.; nieces; nephews and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 76 years.

Sister Eileen (Matilda) Galvin, BVM
Funeral Welcome
Marian Hall, July 28, 2014

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Eileen Galvin.

Eileen Galvin was born on July 13, 1921, in Kansas City, Mo., the third of nine children born to Thomas Galvin and Brigid Cahill. Her parents were both born in Ireland and her father worked as a blacksmith. She had two older siblings: a brother John and a sister Ann who also entered the BVMs. Sister Ann (Syra) died in June 2011. Eileen had six younger siblings: Thomas, James, Margaret, Agnes, Mary and Frances. Her brother James was a priest in the Congregation of the Mission.

Eileen’s elementary school had only seven grades instead of the traditional eight and she was also promoted two grades one year. So, after graduating from St. Vincent High School at the tender age of sixteen, Eileen entered the congregation on Sept. 8, 1937. In her letter requesting entrance she wrote, “Ever since I can remember, I have had the desire to enter and felt it is the life God intends for me to lead.” She received the name Matilda upon her reception on March 19, 1938, professed her first vows on March 19, 1940, and lived 76 years as a BVM.

Eileen spent the first 25 years of vowed religious life as an elementary teacher. She was missioned in Chicago at St. Gertrude, St. Dominic, Holy Family, Holy Cross and St. Dorothy, where she served as superior and principal. She was also missioned at St. Brigid in San Francisco; St. Vincent and St. Francis Xavier in Kansas City, Mo.; St. Thomas in Memphis, Tenn.; St. Martin in Cascade, Iowa, and was one of the first BVMs to serve in Hawaii. It has been said that she was very conscientious, a fine teacher with an excellent knowledge of mathematics.

Eileen was a very traditional Catholic who loved to pray the Our Father, the rosary and the Divine Office. She was a strong advocate for Right to Life, especially the protection of the unborn. The Second Vatican Council resulted in many changes in the church and religious life that were difficult for her. However, when the congregation adopted TOPA (Totally Open Personnel Application), it provided her with the opportunity to pursue a nursing ministry.

After working one year at Marian Hall, Eileen entered the nursing program at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Ill., and earned a degree as a registered nurse. Her heart was truly in nursing. For the next 21 years, she provided good, loving care as a nurse in Chicago; Bakersfield, Hueneme and Oxnard, Calif.; Weirton, W.Va.; and Kansas City, Mo. She lived in Oxnard after retiring in 1992 until moving to Mount Carmel in 2004.

Even though in later years she lived a quiet, almost reclusive life, Eileen still cared deeply for and was greatly concerned about her BVM sisters. She was extremely grateful for even the tiniest kindness and she accepted her diminishing eyesight and eventual blindness with amazing grace. Eileen had a great devotion to Mary and considered herself to be a “handmaid of the Lord.” Included in her funeral plan was a note that read, “The only ‘empowerment’ a true BVM Handmaid seeks is to do God’s holy will more fully, swiftly and lovingly each moment.”

Eileen did not seek nor did she desire accolades. One of her favorite prayers was “O, Lord Jesus, let not my tongue . . . speak well of myself or ill of others so that no uncharitable word will be recorded of me on the Day of the Last Judgment.” This and other similar gleanings that Eileen collected over the years reveal a call to a life of guarded speech and silent prayer. The scriptural passages from the first letter of Peter that Eileen selected for her wake and funeral also reflect this call. “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep the tongue from evil and the lips from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it.”

The day before Eileen died, Sister Catherine Jean Hayen sat in Eileen’s room holding her hand while they listened to the Mass. Eileen remained silent until it was time to pray the Our Father and then she received communion one last time. Eileen did not comment in her final directives about how she would like to be remembered. She only made one simple request: “Pray for me.” So now, as we gather here, we honor her request. We pray for Eileen and we celebrate her entrance into eternal life.

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