Sister Gertrude Vaccaro, MM

Born: May 17, 1929
Entered: September 2, 1961
Died: December 9, 1982

Dear Sisters, Relatives, and Friends:

We have come together this morning to celebrate, to remember and to strengthen the bonds of family, vocation and friendship we share because of the lives of Peg and Gert.

The lives of our Sisters Margaret Hanlon and Gertrude Vaccaro, along with those of 44 other people, were brought to an abrupt end on Thursday, December 9th, when a plane crashed at La Serena, Chile.

Gertrude Vaccaro was the eighth in a family of nine children born to Beradino and Jennie (Giovannina) Carriero Vaccaro on May 17, 1929, in Port Chester, New York. After completing high school in Port Chester, she attended Pace Institute where she pursued business studies which prepared her to contribute a number of years with the family business in Port Chester. Growing up within the very warm and close-knit Vaccaro family, Gert developed a keen sense of caring for others. During her years of study and work she gave long hours of volunteer service, seeking to meet a variety of needs. These activities led her in 1958 to study at the Eastern School for  Physician’s Aides (in New York City) and at St. Agnes Hospital in White Plains, New York, where she eventually became an X-Ray Technician. During these same years, Gert nurtured an interest in Religious life, making the Cenacle in Mt. Kisco and further developed an intrest in Maryknoll through her cousin, Maryknoll Father Monsignor John Romaniello.

On September 2, 1961, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation and, after first profession (1964), completed her studies at Mary Rogers College and was assigned to Hong Kong (1965). Her medical skills and business training were a great asset in her assignment to Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital in Hong Kong, where she ministered among the Chinese people until returning to the United States for Congregational Service in 1977. During her years among the people of Hong Kong, Gert formed many deep and lasting friendships, which she continued to maintain. It was always a joy to us to welcome Gert’s friends, especially from Hong Kong.

Gert’s potential for leadership was clearly recognized and she served as a member of the Hong Kong Regional Governing Board from 1971 to 1975, while at the same time continuing her work at the Hospital. She was a delegate to the General Assembly in 1974, and was again elected a delegate to the 1978 Assembly representing The Center Community.

Her time of Congregational Service as a member of the Mission Education Teams helped her to appreciate and understand the difficulties and challenges of sharing our message and experience of mission with the Church here in the United States. This experience was invaluable to her in her particular responsibilities as a member of the Central Governing Board.

Characteristic of her particular gifts, Gert reflected in our Mid-Term Report: “The highlight of this period has been you – My Maryknoll Sisters.” And concluded her reflections with: “All I saw and witnessed with you spoke to me of your dedication to mission, of your willingness to embrace not only the present with open minds and hearts, but to welcome the future, although unknown, with confidence and trust.”

Four years ago the five of us did not understand the gift of friendship in mission which had been given us. During these years we grew to trust and to understand our gift. Today, we are drawn more deeply into the mystery of that gift and again we do not comprehend. As our memory sharpens in the days and years ahead, so will our understanding of the gift of this moment.

For these past four years in leadership for the Community, the five of us began each day with a period of shared reflection and prayer. One of our most frequent prayers is taken from the Gospel of Luke, “…for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79).

In a spirit of hope and trust let us now celebrate the mystery of our faith.