Sis­ter Loy­ola still spark­ing af­ter a life­time of ser­vice

Talia Carlisle talks to 91-year-old Sis­ter Loy­ola Galvin about lit­tle mir­a­cles, be­com­ing a nun and gar­den­ing.

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

Why did you be­come a nurse?

When I was 3, I put my foot into the spokes of a bike. I de­vel­oped os­teomyeli­tis, which be­came quite acute when I was 10. I spent a lot of time in hos­pi­tal and fell in love with the nurses, so I thought I’d be a nurse when I grew up. And you did! Haw­era Hos­pi­tal didn’t ac­cept me into the nurs­ing pro­gramme be­cause they thought my foot wouldn’t stand up to it. So I tried Wellington Hos­pi­tal. When the doc­tor ex­am­ined me, there was a prob­lem with the Ja­panese pris­on­ers of war at the Wairarapa camp. They had a riot and some­one got shot. I was be­ing ex­am­ined and the doc­tor didn’t ex­am­ine me prop­erly be­cause he was in a rush. God must have meant for me to be a nurse be­cause I had that lit­tle mir­a­cle. Did you en­joy nurs­ing? I be­gan when I was 19. I met a lot of lovely friends, many of whom I still have. I re­cently went to the 96th birth­day of one of the girls in my class. I also met some­one very spe­cial who didn’t come back from the war. I met him when I was 23. That must have been hard. It was hard for lots of peo­ple. I spent a lot of time with peo­ple who had come back from the war in­jured. My cousin was a very so­cia­ble per­son be­fore the war, but when he came back he didn’t go out with girls much as he didn’t want to be pitied be­cause he only had one leg. I knew mine would be a very dif­fer­ent life to what I’d planned. What did you do next? I wanted to make a new life for my­self. I had a dis­tant rel­a­tive who was in­volved with the Sis­ters of Com­pas­sion. I thought about it a lot. The idea of putting your whole heart into it and do­ing it for the rest of your life. Af­ter I thought and prayed a lot I de­cided to do it. I chose the Sis­ters of Com­pas­sion be­cause they worked with peo­ple who didn’t have much. Have you al­ways been re­li­gious? Dad and Mum didn’t al­ways go to mass, but they did some­times. We weren’t pushed to go – it was our choice. I ad­mired a lot of peo­ple in the church deeply.

What changes have you seen in Catholi­cism?

It has be­come more ac­cept­ing of other de­nom­i­na­tions. The church was also very male-ori­en­tated. And uni­forms have changed. Yes. In the early days you had to wear a pleated skirt, blouse and lit­tle cape to be recog­nised as one of the or­der, but Mother Aubert wanted the sis­ters to wear the or­di­nary clothes of or­di­nary peo­ple.

Where does your name come from?

When we joined the or­der, we took the name of a saint. I chose St Ig­natius Loy­ola be­cause as a child I’d read sto­ries about him. I saw a pic­ture of him and he had a bandage on his leg like I did. I had a fas­ci­na­tion with him af­ter that. How did you get into gar­den­ing? I grew up on gar­den­ing. My fa­ther was a great gar­dener. He al­ways got up very early be­cause we had cows in Taranaki. I’d trot along be­hind Dad. He was the most pa­tient man in the world – who wants a 2-year-old trot­ting be­hind them when they’re try­ing to milk cows? What are your other in­ter­ests? I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics and gar­den­ing. I have a great in­ter­est in read­ing. As part of liv­ing a re­li­gious life you’re sup­posed to read some­thing sen­si­ble for 20 min­utes a day. I love re­ally clas­si­cal mu­sic. I like to watch the news. I’m very keen on cross­words.

I see you were made a mem­ber of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit last

I laugh about it. It’s very kind of them, but there could’ve been a num­ber of peo­ple who de­served it more.

Were you sur­prised by the suc­cess of the doc­u­men­tary

It’s some­thing I never would have dreamed of. So many peo­ple have said to me they’ve got an idea of what it means to be a nun be­cause of that film. Since that film came out I’ve had over 100 let­ters from peo­ple who had known me. Did you en­joy mak­ing the film? One of the lovely things is that I’ve met so many lovely young peo­ple. I re­ally feel for the young peo­ple of to­day. There’s so many pres­sures on them. There weren’t drugs and things when we were young. But there’s so many young peo­ple do­ing good things.

Is that why you started the com­mu­nity gar­den group?

First I wanted to grow stuff that didn’t have poi­son in it. Grad­u­ally I re­alised there was so much in­ter­est in it, so I started the Com­mu­nity Gar­den Group at the Home of Com­pas­sion in Is­land Bay. Peo­ple are grow­ing their own veg­eta­bles and re­al­is­ing it’s a good idea. A young man at the univer­sity asked me if he could have a lit­tle plot. He hoped to teach hor­ti­cul­ture. He had a few friends who wanted to do the same thing.

So many young peo­ple are now re­al­is­ing it and get­ting on the gar­den­ing band­wagon.

Gar­den­ing with Soul,


Sis­ter Loy­ola Galvin:

‘‘I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics and gar­den­ing.’’

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