Sister Louise Gallahue, DC
Sister Louise Gallahue, DC
Sister Louise Gallahue, DC, the leader of the Northeast province of the Daughters of Charity, will soon put her title to the test when she and two other women religious from Menands pack up and move to St. Louis this summer.

Known in her community as a "visitatrix" - a French-derived word describing a person who visits - Sister Louise will lead 580 sisters from four geographic regions throughout the U.S.: Emmitsburg, Md.; Albany; St. Louis and Evansville, Ind.

When Albany became the seat of the Northeast province in 1969, the order counted about 2,000 women as members in those four U.S. regions. The long-awaited merger of the regions addresses the decline in vocations.

It will also reduce the number of women religious in leadership for the order and multiply the number in ministries.

"There's a lot of energy around us coming together," Sister Louise said. "I'm hoping that we'll be able to see ways that we can develop new ministries for people who are poor."

Staying here

The Daughters of Charity will maintain - and perhaps increase - their presence in the Albany Diocese's hospitals, schools, parishes and social service organizations like the Roarke Center in Troy, which provides emergency assistance, reentry services and adult literacy programs for those in need.

Active sisters will continue living in the order's 18 houses across the Northeast - including DePaul Provincial House in Menands, now called simply "DePaul House." Retired sisters will also remain at St. Louise House on the Menands campus.

Sister Louise's resume shows why the Daughters of Charity chose to promote her: She spent about 17 years as a leader in Albany and seven as a nurse coordinator and hospital board chair in Bridgeport, Conn.

Sister Louise grew up in Weymouth, Mass., and graduated from Boston College with a nursing degree before serving at a clinic in New Mexico with the Jesuit Volunteers Corps for a year.

When she started work at a hospital served by Daughters of Charity, a nun dropped an note into her pocket about the possibility of a vocation to religious life, then helped her research different communities.

Meant to be
For Sister Louise, the Daughters of Charity was the right fit.

"It was the first apostolic community," she explained: St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac founded the order in France in 1633 with instructions to sisters to live among the poor instead of cloistering in convents, a revolutionary notion at the time.

Sister Louise felt inspired by a quote from St. Vincent: "If someone needs you when you're in prayer, you leave God for God." She entered the order in 1967.

Coincidentally, Louise is her baptismal name, and it seems to be following her: She will head the Province of St. Louise in St. Louis for an order founded by a saint with the same name.

"I think I was destined to be a Daughter of Charity," she said. "I think it's maybe all in God's plan."

She says she'll miss the change of seasons in Albany and "the proximity to the ocean. I've never lived in the Mid-west, but it will be exciting to live in a different environment."

As for her new role, Sister Louise mused that "it will be a challenge to create a unified approach, to really have a sense that each sister belongs to this new province. We're trying to bring the different cultures together."

She said the new council will invite sisters to relocate, to cluster according to areas of ministry and to collaborate with youth ministries.

"To be a Daughter of Charity is to adapt to change," said Belinda Davis, communications director of the new province. "It's very much the 21st century now. How do we continue to serve the best way as possible?"