Sister Georgina Gamarra, MM

Born: July 27, 1933
Entered: September 2, 1956
Died: August 8, 2023

Sister Georgina’s death on August 8, 2023, seemed sudden even for her Sisters who sat by her bedside all day at Maryknoll. They were privileged to witness the moment God embraced her and drew her into the fullness of love. She had turned 90 only twelve days before. Her sudden passing reflected much of her life and ministry. She always seemed eager and in a hurry to make the people whose lives she touched aware of God’s desire to bless them with life in abundance.

Julia Georgina Gamarra Cortijo was born in Lima, Peru on July 27, 1933, one of eleven children of Manuel Jesus Gamarra and Teofila Cortijo de Gamarra. Two of her sisters survive her, Teofila and Esther.

Like everyone else in her family, Georgina received a good education. Both her parents were teachers. They knew the value of education and ensured that all their children would be given every opportunity they needed. One brother was ordained a priest and another became a medical doctor. Some of the girls, including Georgina, became teachers; her sister, Teofila, is a physician in Puerto Rico.

After graduating from Normal school in 1953 and obtaining her Bachelor in Education degree, Georgina taught for one year at Colegio Santa Ursula in Lima. From March until August 1956, she made her aspirantship with the Maryknoll Sisters in Bolivia. Georgie wrote, “When God gave me the grace of the vocation to religious life, I was reluctant and made God wait three years before I could say, ‘Here I am!’ But by then, my commitment was for life.”

Her attraction was to a foreign mission congregation and after meeting Maryknoll Sisters Elizabeth McDermott and Joan Peltier, Maryknoll was her choice. In her application form, she added, “In a foreign mission community I will have the opportunity to give myself to souls where they are most in need.”

Georgina entered the congregation at Maryknoll, New York on September 2, 1956, together with 73 other young women, the “Father Cotta Group.” She was the only Spanish speaker among them and knew little English. As a postulant, she was very quiet for about three months, but then, virtually exploded in her ability to express herself, even though she never had any formal English study. In the novitiate, she picked up what she could but throughout life, she felt hampered, never feeling able to express herself with assurance in English. However, it didn’t stop her.

Georgina made her first vows on June 24, 1959, at Maryknoll, New York with this endorsement from the novice mistress, “She has made adjustments on several levels: climate, language, being away from family and her own environment; in religious and community life, she follows principle and not the crowd. She is childlike, responsive and obedient, cheerful – even jovial in manner – well-liked and accepted.” However, Georgina could raise a few hackles among the postulants and novices when she would confess to the novice mistress in total transparency that she had broken a rule, including the names of her collaborators! She made her final vows in Chile in 1965.

Georgina wrote up how her many years in active ministry unfolded. “I was assigned to Chile in 1960 and remained there for eighteen years. My main activity was in the leadership formation of lay leaders in the parishes. I worked with the Charismatic prayer groups giving retreats of Inner Healing and forming many Small Christian Communities (SCC). After giving Congregational Service, from 1981-84, I remained in the United States and started more SCCs in various cities. In Puerto Rico, I formed 120 lay leaders who, in turn, started other SCCs, especially in areas where the priests could seldom go. I then concentrated my efforts, first in Brandon, FL from 1991 and then in Indiantown, FL in 2000. I believe that this quiet work of making disciples as Jesus did is the hope of the future of the church.” In between these active ministries, Georgina earned a Master’s in Theology from the Maryknoll School of Theology in 1985.

She was invited also to several countries including the Philippines. In 2002, a doctor wrote his appreciation to Mother Superior, “It was our association with Sister Georgina in 1981 that led us to become enabled Christians with the introduction of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement in the diocese of Surigao.”

Georgina tells us in her own words how inner healing came to her. “Shortly after my Baptism of the Spirit in 1970, when alone in a church at midnight, the power of God came to me in a unique way. I felt overwhelmed with joy and peace. Above all, I had an inner conviction of what it means to be a child of God. The joy made me laugh and cry at the same time. This is how God prepared me for the ministry which would consume my life.”

One story of the difference Georgie made in the lives of people bears relating. She was in Endicott, NY, in 1975, sitting in the midst of about 500 people, “all people who wanted to be close to God,” she said. Unexpectedly, she was asked to speak and was somewhat reluctant because she had nothing prepared. Yet, the words came readily and more fluently than she had ever experienced. As she spoke, a woman who had been in a wheelchair for 15 years and paralyzed on the left side, started to cry, a sob that grew louder and louder, until Georgie went to her and said: “The Lord is healing you, blessing you in your mother’s womb. Wait a bit.” When all the people rose to go to the church for Mass, Georgie stayed behind with this woman and heard her anguished story.  Her mother had tried to abort her. Feeling unwanted all her life, she had lived in deep resentment, unable to love and receive love even from her husband and her children. Suddenly, she now felt relieved of this terrible burden. When her left arm started to shake, unassisted, she stood up and took a few steps. Two weeks later, she wrote to Georgie that, arm in arm with her husband, she had walked from her home to the church.

Sister Georgina was assigned to the Eastern U.S. Region in 1988 and was a member for 28 years. She was assigned to Monrovia in 2016, staying for seven years in what she claimed was a little bit of heaven. In May 2023, she transferred to the Eden Community, her proximate preparation for fullness of life in God.

Georgie published several books in Spanish, all preserved in Maryknoll Mission Archives. She also published several inspirational cassette tapes. She had two quarters of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Georgie had asked to study many times, “to be a better channel in God’s service. Once we are aware of our own feelings, weaknesses, and strengths, we are more capable of helping others.”  “True healing comes from within,” she always said.  She deeply believed that she was a chosen instrument “to bring good news to the poor, liberty to the oppressed, to set everyone free…”