Galvin was born in County Cork, Ireland, studied for the priesthood at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and was ordained in 1909. He served a parish in Brooklyn, New York, until 1912, when he was drawn to missionary service in China. There he first served in the mission territory of the French Vincentians. In 1915 two Irish priests joined him in his work. Back in Ireland in 1916, together with a fellow Irish priest John Blowick, he founded the St. Columban’s Foreign Mission Society. Formal approval from Rome came in 1918.
The new society opened houses in Galway and the United States that year and rapidly gained recruits who trained to serve in their new mission territory centered in Hanyang, Hupei (Hubei) Province, China. By 1920 they numbered forty priests and sixty seminarians. In that year Galvin and seventeen other priests formed the pioneer group that opened the Columbans’ work in central China.
Galvin was appointed prefect apostolic in 1924, vicar apostolic in 1927, and first bishop of the new Hanyang Diocese in 1946. After the Communist victory in 1949, all 146 Columbans were expelled from China. Galvin was placed under house arrest, tried, and expelled in 1952. Already ill with leukemia, he returned to Ireland via the United States and died four years later, having witnessed the expansion of Columban missions into other regions, eventually reaching eleven nations in East Asia and Latin America.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.