Galvin, Edward (1882–1956), bishop and co-founder of the Columban fathers, was born 23 November 1882 at Clodagh, Newcestown, Co. Cork, the eldest of seven sons and two daughters of John Galvin, a farmer, and his wife, Mary Lorden. He was educated at Newcestown national school and aged 11 enrolled in the classical school of Professor Fitzsimmons in Bandon. He entered St Finbarr's seminary in Farranferris, Cork, in 1899 and in 1901 began his studies for the priesthood at St Patrick's College, Maynooth where he was ordained for his home diocese of Cork in 1909. For the next two years he ministered in the Holy Rosary parish in Brooklyn, awaiting appointment to a curacy at home. When he learned of the vast missionary opportunities in China, he volunteered his services there.
Landing in Shanghai in April 1912, he worked in the Chekiang province with the French Vincentians and was shocked at the poverty and wretchedness he found. He was even more appalled by the spiritual poverty, and saw the need for more missionary priests and an organised missionary effort. When French priests were ordered home in 1914 to be drafted into the army at the outbreak of the first world war, he wrote to Ireland for volunteers. Two priests, Joseph O'Leary from Cork and Patrick O'Reilly from Meath, joined him in 1915. The following year he returned to Ireland seeking further recruits and a young Maynooth professor, Fr John Blowick (qv), helped him to establish a mission to China. By October, the new society numbered eight priests. The result was the foundation of St Columban's Foreign Mission Society in 1916, with the approval of the Irish hierarchy and the blessing of Pope Benedict XV. The first house was opened in Dalgan Park, Galway, in January 1918. Recruits from the USA soon joined and the first American house was started in Omaha, Nebraska in 1918. When the Holy See assigned the Columbans missionary territory in Hanyang, Hupeh province, China in 1920, Galvin went there with two colleagues and worked under an Italian Franciscan bishop. Fr Blowick devoted his energies to expanding the new society in Ireland. In 1924 a portion of the vicariate of Hanyang was entrusted to the exclusive care of the Maynooth Mission. Between 1920 and 1925 fifteen more priests volunteered to help the mission in China. Some Loreto sisters from the US also arrived to help.
In Hanyang Galvin became prefect apostolic in 1924, vicar apostolic in 1927, and first head of the see when it became a diocese in 1946. Between 1930 and 1940 the catholic population of his diocese grew from 18,000 to 55,000. During the early 1930s, when Hanyang was hit by plague and famine after the Yangtse valley was flooded, he organised the Wuhan refugee committee, comprising Columban priests and sisters, giving medical attention to more than 100,000 patients.
When the Japanese invaded China in 1938, the Columbans fed and sheltered more than 85,000 people. During the second world war Galvin was severely restricted, although the Japanese respected his rank and gave him some latitude. He could visit priests in their parishes, but only under narrow defined conditions. Most of his contact was by letter sent in care of the catholic river men. A papal decree of 6 April 1946 established the hierarchy of China and the apostolic internuncio, Archbishop Antony Ribera, formally raised the vicariate of Hanyang to the status of a diocese and installed Galvin as its first residential bishop. By 1949, the communists had gained control of the area and he was left with six priests to minister to more than 50,000 catholics in his diocese. Feeling that the communist authorities were closing in on him more tightly day by day, in 1951 he summoned all the nuns he could reach and requested them to seek dispensation from their vows as a precautionary measure, granting such dispensation on 8 February 1951. The communists accused him of opposing the establishment of an independent church in China and of bringing into being a reactionary organisation known as the Legion of Mary. From October 1951 he was placed under house arrest and subjected to frequent interrogations. He was tried and expelled from China on 15 September 1952; armed soldiers escorted him to the border at Hong Kong.
Galvin celebrated the silver jubilee of his consecration on 6 November 1952 in Hong Kong with mass in the Ruttonjee chapel of the Columban sisters. He left Hong Kong and arrived in San Francisco on 15 December 1952. A few days later he was diagnosed with leukaemia. After spending some time under medical treatment in the US he returned to Ireland in May 1954.
Galvin died at St. Columban's, Navan, Co. Meath, 23 February 1956.