The Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of St. Columban was founded in Ireland in 1924. Six years later, in 1930, eight Sisters arrived in the United States on Christmas Day to start their ministry in this country. Also arriving from the west coast of Ireland at the beginning of the last century were Joseph Malloy and Margaret Foley. They married, settled in Anaconda, Montana and raised their family. Theresa, their youngest of three boys and three girls, enjoyed the affection and attention of being considered everyone’s beloved “pet.” As the years went by, Theresa began to recognize in herself a strong passion for helping others. To pursue this desire to serve, she enrolled in nursing school and became a registered nurse. She worked at a local hospital for five years and then as a school nurse for many years in the rural mountains of Montana.
Throughout this time, however, Theresa heard God’s call to a vocation to the religious life. In answering this invitation, she joined the Missionary Sisters of St. Columban in Hyde Park, Massachusetts where she commenced her novitiate training. In 1958 she pronounced her religious vows. Having already completed her nursing education and training, Sister Theresa was ready for a mission assignment that took her to South Korea where she spent the next thirty years serving the poor and ill at the St. Columban’s Clinic in the city of Chunchon and in the Sisters’ clinic on the island of Cheju-do seventy miles off the south coast.
Sister Theresa was assigned to run the clinic’s pharmacy and acted also as in-house physical therapist to hundreds of needy men, women and children each day. Patients traveled many miles to seek medical treatment at what was endearingly known to the community as “the clinic for the poor.” The Sisters also brought care and medicine to local villages through their mobile clinic in partnership with American Soldiers. In fact, Sister Theresa recalls several times when she and other Sisters were issued soldiers’ uniforms in instances when there might be a chance of crossing paths with communist soldiers.
Sister Theresa and the other Sisters also devoted time to care for the terminally ill and dying in their homes. They would visit patients, pray with them and their families and provide comfort and support. They also dedicated time to the vaccination of children and the education of their parents. Sister Theresa had found God’s purpose in her life as a missionary at St. Columban’s Clinic and in the many opportunities for serving her beloved people in Chunchon and in Cheju-do.
Through her years in Korea, Sister Theresa brought joy in other ways as well. She was well known for her great talent as a jazz piano player. When the Sisters from St. Columban’s Hospital in Mokpo and other mission areas in Korea would assemble with the sisters in Chunchon, they were always entertained by Sister Theresa’s good humor, laughter and the Irish songs her parents had taught her as a child. An avid cat lover, Sister Theresa named all her cats “Precious,” and took them with her to greet those who visited the clinic.
Sister Theresa returned to the United States and was assigned to Silver Creek, NY in the early 1990s where she served as Director of Nursing at St. Columban’s on the Lake Retirement Home. As an Assisted Living Facility, the Home provides dignified and compassionate care to the elderly men and women of the local community. Sister. Theresa’s years of missionary service to the poor and ill now enriches the lives of the residents and staff of St. Columban’s as they find joy in her presence.
Now, in her retirement, she continues to help in many ways and takes an interest in the well-being of those around her.
At 91 years of age, Sister Theresa experiences challenges with her own health and wellness. She endures with a smile much pain and difficulty walking but does not let these things stand in the way of her service. Also living with asthma, she is challenged by the effects of warm weather and humidity which are relieved greatly by the air conditioning system that was so generously funded by SOAR!. The Columban Sisters living in retirement in the convent on the third floor of St. Columban’s on the Lake Retirement Home also find comfort and relief from the summer heat thanks to the great gift of the many wonderful people who support the SOAR! and its mission.
When asked what she values most in life, Sister Theresa says, “I’m at an age now at which I am much more able to be prayerful; that is my biggest priority – to pray for others and the work of our sisters on mission here at home and in China, Hong Kong, Korea, Chile, Myanmar, Pakistan, Peru, and the Philippines, and for the very generous benefactors who make our work possible.”