Mother Gertrude Clare Owens

Mother Gertrude Clare (Margaret Genevieve) Owens was born March 16, 1887, in Chicago, Illinois. She entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence on September 7, 1904. In 1920 during the sixth term of Mother Mary Cleophas she was elected to the General Council, a post which she held for the next 40 years.

Due to the failing health of Mother Mary Cleophas, Sister Gertrude Clare gradually took over giving the meditations for the Thirty-Day Retreats. In 1924 the entire Retreat was turned over to her. She continued giving these retreats until 1959. The supervision of the infirmary and the care of the sick became Sister Gertrude Clare’s duty also during these early years. She was instrumental in introducing modern methods and transforming the infirmary into a quasi hospital. Until her own last illness, she became identified with the care of the sick, visiting them, attending operations, and saying the prayers at the bedside of the dying.

With the election of Mother Marie Helene in 1949, Sister Gertrude Clare was elected First Assistant. The sudden death of Mother Marie Helene in 1953 was followed by the election in 1954 of Mother Gertrude Clare as tenth Superior General.

Mother Gertrude Clare’s years in office saw great activity. Marian Cottage, planned during Mother Marie Helene’s term, was completed; the Fatima Shrine, a memorial to Mother Marie Helene, was built; the expansion of the buildings at the Immaculata in Washington, D.C. was carried out with her approval; she filled out the unexpired term of Mother Marie Helene on the Committee of Superiors General, attending several of the general meetings of that Committee until she was replaced at a general replacement of members. In 1954, the Holy Rule was revised.

In November of 1954 Mother Gertrude Clare sent two Sisters, Sister Francis Joseph Elbreg and Sister Eugenia Logan to visit Formosa (Taiwan) which had been impossible to visit for nearly 22 years due to wars and political turmoil. At the same time she also sent Sister Rose Angela Horan and Sister Loretta Therese O’Leary to Rome to investigate the progress of Mother Theodore’s Cause for beatification. While in Europe the two sisters also visited Ruillé. In every possible way Mother Gertrude Clare promoted the Cause. The Apostolic Process was opened in October, 1956 and terminated in September, 1958 with the solemn ceremony of exhumation of Mother Theodore’s remains.

Mother Gertrude Clare began the Juniorate or Sister Formation program in 1957 in accordance with the wishes of the Holy See. The building of a new Novitiate was a project important to her as she was impressed with the necessity of a separate formation for the postulants and novices. She saw the laying of the cornerstone and blessing of the building on July 15, 1959 but, incapacitated by illness, never saw or was able to hear anything of the completed edifice. In 1968 the building was named Owens Hall in her honor.

In February of 1960 Mother Gertrude Clare contracted a deep-seated virus-produced encephalitis which totally incapacitated her until her death on November 18, 1963.