Sister Marie Gertrude
“We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. His love impels us, and zeal for his reign consumes like fire. Yet we go our way with a quiet heart…giving thanks to God
always and everywhere.”
The Carmelite Charter of Life, a contemporary statement of the Teresian charism of the Carmelite Communities Associated, defines us as Christians and Carmelites who “believe that each of us is called by Christ to follow him in a life of apostolic love by searching the depths of divine intimacy in solitary prayer.”
August 2016 will mark 65 years that I have been living my Carmelite vocation. I received my letter of acceptance into Carmel on my 18th birthday, on the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I thank God daily for the precious gift of my vocation, which I dearly love.
In my family I had an uncle who was a priest and who baptized me, an aunt who was a Sister of Mercy, and a cousin who was ordained when I was in the eighth grade. I started thinking about religious life when I was in the third or fourth grade in Catholic School, where I was taught by the Sisters of Charity. I was not interested in being a teacher, but I felt inclined towards a nursing or missionary order, especially after reading in grammar school the life of Damian the Leper. I even wanted to go to Molokai to work among the lepers for several years.
In high school I asked one of my former teachers, “how do you decide which order to enter.” She very wisely told me that it was time to stop trying to decide what I’d like and to give God a chance to tell me what he’d like me to be!
Soon after that Thomas Merton’s books began to be printed, and I was introduced to the beauty of contemplative life. As a child in the fourth or fifth grade, someone had told me contemplatives talked to God all day. I said: “I’d never know what to say!”
“Talking to God” in prayer is now the joy of my life. Our tradition teaches and our experience confirms the singular value of the daily effort to immerse oneself in the Word of God through reading, meditation, study and celebration. Our care is to grow strong in Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, who teaches us the ways of freedom and the measure of truth.
These words of the Charter of Life resonate in my heart each day: “We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. His love impels us, and zeal for his reign consumes like fire. Yet we go our way with a quiet heart…giving thanks to God always and everywhere.”
NOTE: In October 2018, following hospitalization for a serious illness, Sr. Gertrude was transferred to Ferncliff Nursing Home in Rhinebeck, NY, where she continues to receive additional care. Sister remains in good spirits and sisters, family and friends visit her regularly.