Sister Gertrude Eileen Getrey
“Happy those who discover Wisdom, those who gain discernment.” (Proverbs 3:13)
“Sister Gertrude Eileen Getrey died last Saturday at the age of 102, the oldest sister in community. During her lifetime, there were 18 presidents of the United States, from President Theodore Roosevelt to President Barack Obama; 10 popes, from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Benedict XVI; and 11 general superiors of the Sisters of Providence, from Mother Mary Cleophas Foley to Sister Denise Wilkinson. That includes a lot of history and a lot of living,” said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Gertrude Eileen Getrey, who died Saturday, Oct. 2.
“Mary Helen Getrey was born in Jasonville, Ind., down the road a piece, as they say, on Sept. 7, 1908, to John and Meta (Schloemer) Getrey, who were both born in Germany. Sister Joan Schloemer (RIP), remembered in community as “Big Joan,” was adopted by Sister Gertrude Eileen’s aunt and uncle and was her cousin. Sister Gertrude Eileen is survived by her brother, John of Jasonville, and her sister, Joan of Tampa, Fla., and by several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her sister, Anna,” continued Sister Margaret.
As a young girl, Sister Gertrude Eileen attended grade school and high school in Jasonville. She graduated secondary school at the Academy (predecessor of the Juniorate and Aspirancy) at the Woods. She entered the Congregation June 5, 1925. At her death she was not only the oldest sister by age, but she was also the sister who had been in community the longest. Sister Gertrude Eileen professed first and perpetual vows Dec. 8, 1927, and 1932, respectively. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
Sister Gertrude Eileen began teaching in 1927 at St. Angela, Chicago. In Illinois, she also ministered at Providence Grade School and St. Mary Carmelite, Joliet; Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Mel, Chicago; and St. Francis Xavier, Wilmette. In Indiana, she ministered at St. Patrick, Terre Haute; St. John, Loogootee; St. Thomas Aquinas and Holy Cross, Indianapolis; St. John, Vincennes; St. Peter, Linton; and St. Joseph and Holy Family, Jasper. Sister Gertrude Eileen also spent two years teaching at St. Rose, Chelsea, Mass.
“A number of years ago, a former student, whom Sister Gertrude Eileen had taught in third grade 63 years earlier, wrote that she had rare qualities of total understanding and compassion in her teaching. The student wrote, ‘She truly cared about us. She reminded us that we were her legacies for the future, and she instilled in us a desire to learn.’
“Sister Gertrude Eileen kept a list of the students she had taught. That must have been a long list! When she would hear from students, she would find their name in her black book. Not long ago, she was visited by a former student, who was delighted to find her name in the book,” shared Sister Margaret.
“From 1978 to 1984, Sister Gertrude Eileen ministered as a tutor at Gibault School, in Terre Haute, teaching reading and English. In 1984, she began giving service in Health Care, then gave herself to prayer from 1992 until last Saturday,” continued Sister Margaret.
“Several sisters mentioned how much Sister Gertrude Eileen enjoyed watching Animal Planet. Evidently she never tired of it! She was also artistic and enjoyed painting.
“Sisters and nurses who cared for Sister Gertrude Eileen remembered her as clear, right up to the end, as concerned about others, and as grateful for anything that was done for her. Several people said she loved her former students, her family, her sisters, her God. One sister mentioned that one day last week, when Sister Gertrude Eileen was having terrific headaches, the sister came into her room, and Sister Gertrude Eileen did not talk about the pain she was having, but said, instead, ‘I love you,’” said Sister Margaret.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Gertrude Eileen was celebrated Oct. 7, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding.
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