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Sister Paul Marie Gutgsell

Sister Paul Marie Gutgsell

“ … anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant … .” (Matthew 20:26)

“As a good teacher, Jesus took advantage of a real-life situation of his disciples arguing about who was greatest to impart his instruction, using their unbecoming conduct to show them the essence of discipleship — service. Sadly, the ideal of discipleship is frequently honored more in the breach than in the act. Such was not the case with Sister Paul Marie, for service founded on love was the hallmark of her life and ministry,” said Sister Alexa Suelzer in her commentary for Sister Paul Marie Gutgsell who died Oct. 31.

One of five children of Roman and Nora (Gerber) Gutgsell, Gertrude Gutgsell was born Oct. 23, 1917, in Shelbyville, Ind. She attended grade school at St. Joseph, Jasper, Ind., and high school at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Academy. She entered the Congregation Feb. 10, 1936, and professed first and perpetual vows Aug. 15, 1938, and 1944, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from Indiana State University.

Sister Paul Marie’s initial ministries took her to the East Coast. In 1938, she briefly taught at Holy Redeemer, Berwyn, Md., and then ministered at Sacred Heart, Malden, Mass. She then returned to the Midwest, starting at St. Mel, Chicago. Her other Illinois classrooms included St. Andrew, Chicago, and St. Joseph, Galesburg. In Indiana, she ministered either as a teacher or principal at St. Philip Neri, Indianapolis; St. Malachy, Brownsburg; Cathedral, Fort Wayne; Holy Trinity and Catholic Central, New Albany; St. Paul, Sellersburg; St. John the Baptist, Newburgh; and St. Joseph, Evansville. In 1984, she started working for St. Joseph Parish, Evansville, eventually becoming a parish associate. From 1989 to 1993, she served as a pastoral associate for Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village Parish. Sister Paul Marie retired in 1993, offering her services in a variety of ways at the motherhouse.

“As a good servant, Sister Paul Marie knew that hard work played a great part in faithful discipleship. However, work describes what a person does; for what she is, we must look deeper. And in Sister Paul Marie that deeper element, attested by sister after sister, is kindness and generosity. These two qualities — these virtues — were evident in the services she rendered, were the hallmark of her ministry over the decades and the secret of her success in the classroom or in the parish. Her unpretentious friendly manner made people feel comfortable in being with her,” said Sister Alexa.

“When Sister Paul Marie retired, she acted as an aide in health care and a volunteer in the Activity Room, where her skill in crocheting and crafts was manifest. A life-long ‘card shark,’ she continued to enjoy games of all sorts. Although her personal possessions were extremely few, many decks of cards could be found among them,” continued Sister Alexa.

“Eventually, failing memory required that Sister Paul Marie move from Owens to Lourdes Hall and eventually Mother Theodore Hall. In those new surroundings the phrase ‘hard worker’ still described her. Participating in projects, pushing wheelchairs, helping the aides who helped the patients — all manner of service she took upon herself. She had no need for attention, no need to prove anything. Her gentle spirit and peaceful manner — part gift and in great part the fruit of years of prayer — made her a kind of mother figure among the patients,” said Sister Alexa.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Paul Marie was celebrated Nov. 3 with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by one brother, Paul, of O’Fallon, Ill.

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