Sister Alice Haertel, MM

Born: February 2, 1920
Entered: December 8, 1938
Died: January 26, 2008

At 7:40 a.m. Saturday, January 26, 2008 in Maryknoll Residential Care IV, Sister Alice Haertel quietly left us for the embrace of her God she so long sought. She was 87 years of age and a Maryknoll Sister for 69 years. Alice’s life was a mighty one, filled with energy, educational expertise, straightforward talk and great concern expressed verbally and in writing for the Congregation and all who surrounded her. She dared to speak to giants and occasionally paid the price.

Born in New York City to Margaret (McCall) and Joseph Haertel on February 2, 1920, and soon baptized in the Church of Our Savior, she was named Alice Virginia Haertel. She was one of three girls and two boys, Loretta, Elizabeth, Joseph and Gerald.

Alice was educated in the New York City elementary schools of the Church of Our Savior, St. Benedict’s, Our Lady of Mercy and Cathedral High from which she graduated in June 1937. Not sure of her future she went to work at Gimbel’s but a year later after reading a copy of the Field Afar given to her by her spiritual director, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters on December 8, 1938. Sister made her First and Final Profession of Vows under the name of Sister Margaret Jude at Maryknoll on June 30, 1941 and June 30, 1944 respectively.

Because of the Second World War, Sister was assigned to the Field Afar Office at Maryknoll and then to the Venard in Pennsylvania where she spent five years in these services before being missioned to Hawaii in 1946. There she taught for fifteen years at St. Anthony’s in Wailuku, Maui and at St. Anthony and St. John’s in Kalihi, Oahu. These years were interrupted by a return to the Center to study for and receive a Bachelor of Education degree from Mary Rogers College, Maryknoll in 1955.

In 1961 she was assigned from Hawaii to the Philippines where for fourteen years she taught in our high schools in Manila, Baguio and Santiago Isabella. Later she was appointed Principal of schools in Jimenez and Santiago. By now she had taught on all grade levels, including Maryknoll College, and also led Christian Doctrine programs for children as well as adults. Education was her passion and even in retirement she looked for ways to better assist people to grow in learning. During her time in the Philippines she earned a Masters in Education in 1969 from the University of the Philippines and honored with membership in Phi Kappa Phi.

When Alice’s mother required care she returned to New York in the late 1960s to help. While here in 1972 she was named an Outstanding Educator of America.

Alice returned to Hawaii in 1975 for four years to serve as Principal at Kaneohe, Oahu and as a religion teacher. Called to Maryknoll, New York in 1979 she returned to head the Mission Research Office for a year. Eager to return to work in education, she acquired a Certificate from the New York Archdiocese as a Religious Education Coordinator for In Service Training. She then applied to and was accepted as Director of Religious Education at Nativity Parish on the lower East Side. This was not a fortunate time for her due to changes of staff and a newly appointed pastor who, though he respected her highly, yielded to a wish from the staff for a committee-led religious education program.

Returning to Maryknoll, New York, Alice became a Congregational Services bookkeeper and did general office work for four years. She then moved to the position, in which so many of us remember her, of Creative Writer in Direct Mail where her talents were fully utilized. She had studied writing, thinking of it as a hobby in retirement. Little did she know that her ability for and love of writing would inspire many and give us today insights into the heart of this bright and creative woman. She held this position from 1987 to 2002. For part of 1998 Alice moved to West Haven, Connecticut, where she could still do her writing, but she returned to Maryknoll before the year ended.

Alice was the founder of our Co-Op store here at the Center. It is told that she went after resources for the Sisters in a big way; one day getting a truck and traveling to New Jersey with one of our drivers she picked up bars of soap worth three thousand dollars. Another time she went in a station wagon to get a donation of Hallmark Cards but could only bring home a portion of the contribution. Alice then wrote to ask how she could collect the rest! After attending a bazaar at the Mary Manning Walsh Home she began to plan how we might initiate a bazaar; she felt that along with selling mission items to also sell chances, which would yield the best return!

In the 1990s when the Maryknoll Lay Missioners were founding their new organization independent of the Society except for funding, she wrote to a Society Council Member expressing support for this development and reminding him, Father Leo Shea, that St. Peter was a married lay missioner and St. Paul a single one! She was worried about funding three Maryknoll organizations but thought the Maryknoll Lay Missioners should go forward anyway. She also wrote movingly and at length to our own Leadership about the difficult transitions faced by our candidates from countries other than the United States, inviting the Sisters here and in other places to be very conscious of the candidate’s situation.

On May 1, 2004, recognizing her failing health and need for care, Alice accepted an assignment to the Eden Community. During this time her prayer ministry was the Planned Giving Office. Until recently she enjoyed her room on the third floor overlooking Cloister Hill, however, due to the need for more care, Alice recently moved to the fourth floor of Residential Care. We are grateful to all of her caregivers and to her faithful family.

We offer our sincere condolences to the members of Sister’s family. We also welcome Maryknoll Father Ernest Lukaschek who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial as we celebrate Sister Alice’s life.