Sister Gallusiana shares life of faith with children
Helpful, Humble and Kind
By Sue Gully
It’s playtime for the children in Ms. Lori Ehlert’s pre-kindergarten readiness class at Holy Family School in Albany. The children are busily exploring their new learning centers. Some children are trying on costumes in the dramatic play area, a few are fixing puzzles and others are driving trucks.
Sitting on the floor next to a pile of doll accessories, Benedictine Sister Gallusiana Mgaya hands a small doll purse to the girl next to her.
“Do you want to play with this one?” asks Sister Gallusiana with a big smile.
The girl smiles, examines the toy and attaches it to one of the dolls by her feet. Happily, she moves the dolls around as she continues to play.
“I enjoy playing with the children,” Sister Gallusiana said in an interview. “Each child is so special; each one is different. And they are so kind and they care.”
An orphan herself and teacher by profession, Sister Gallusiana, age 35, loves helping children. With a calm nature and welcoming smile, she readily sits down at their level and talks with them. She especially enjoys teaching them in a faith-based setting.
“It’s important for children to know that they are loved by Jesus and to learn and know that Jesus wants them to love him,” she said. “Also, here at Holy Family School, this is a place that really cares about each one of them.”
Sister Gallusiana, native of Tanzania, will get to know many children in her multiple-year assignment in Minnesota. She will work as a paraprofessional in the pre-kindergarten readiness classroom and help with faith formation at Seven Dolors Parish in Albany.
“Sister Gallusiana has been a blessing in preschool,” Ehlert said. “She is very helpful and kind. She enjoys interacting with the students, and she has a great sense of humor! Having her in preschool is a great opportunity for the children to learn about the world, and I look forward to having her share more about her culture as the year progresses."
At Seven Dolors Parish, Sister Gallusiana is an assistant faith formation coordinator. She helps in the office, shadows catechists and guides discussions.
“She will share her call to vocation and spiritual life with us,” said Toni Hudock, pastoral associate for the Harvest of Hope Catholic Community, which includes parishes in Albany, Avon, St. Anthony and St. Martin.
During her stay in Minnesota, Sister Gallusiana is living at the rectory in St. Martin with Benedictine Sister Grace Mbawala, who also hails from the same community, Benedictine Sisters of St. Agnes, Chipole, Tanzania. Sister Grace, who arrived in Minnesota in 2021, is a nurse who is working at Mother of Mercy Senior Living in Albany. The pair eat together, pray together and enjoy playing games together.
Sister Gallusiana arrived in Minnesota in June after a four-month stay in Oregon where she assisted Benedictine sisters who were helping people with disabilities.
“My religious community decides where each of us sisters live and work,” Sister Gallusiana said. “They decided that we would be able to live and share our life here in the United States in a good way to represent our community.”
Sister Gallusiana enjoys having Sister Grace’s company and sharing experiences with her. The weather in Minnesota is very different from Tanzania.
“It’s too cold,” she said wearing a sweatshirt to accommodate for the fall weather. “But I like it so much here! The people are kind.”
Along with the cold, the food has been adjustment for her. A typical meal for her in Tanzania usually consisted of meat and potatoes and ugali, a cornmeal side dish. Finding white cornmeal was challenging, although she found some at a Somali store in St. Cloud.
Sister Gallusiana was born in the small village of Luponde, Tanzania. Her mother was a farmer and her father was a carpenter. They both died in a car accident when Sister Gallusiana was five. She lived with her aunt in Makete until she was 10 years old and moved to Lusitu to live with her uncle, a farmer.
She had seven older brothers but they all died, two of illness when they were very young, four of malaria as children, and one in a car crash two months before his wedding.
As a child, she enjoyed playing games with a ball, jumping rope and running races with an egg on a spoon. At age six, she attended primary school.
While living with her aunt, she attended Catholic Masses in Luponde. It was there where she saw Benedictine sisters, inspiring her call to Benedictine life and paving the way to teaching.
“When I was six years old, I saw them at Mass, and I thought I’d like to be like them,” she recalled. “I liked how they prayed and sang. They sing really well. And I liked how they help people.”
Entering the community at age 15, Sister Gallusiana was in formation for several years and then studied to become a teacher. After receiving her teaching degree, she taught Swahili to 12-15-year-olds at a secondary school in the large city of Mwanza.
Swahili is one of five languages Sister Gallusiana knows. Her family spoke Bena and Swahili, and she also knows the local languages of Kinga and Ngoni. She learned English in school.
“In Tanzania, we have many languages, more than 100,” she said. “Learning other languages is very important for us, so that we can communicate well among us. Therefore, teaching our national language, Swahili, is very important.”
Her visa will expire after two and a half years, and at that point it will be decided if it will be renewed or if she will return to Tanzania. Her next assignment will be determined by her community.
“By the end, we will see what the leaders of my community would like me to do, to continue living and sharing my life here or to go to another assignment,” she said.
No matter where she goes, Sister Gallusiana is sure to bring her gentle nature and comforting smile to brighten the day of those around her.
“My tagline is to be helpful, humble and kind,” she said.