Sister M. Germaine Hallenbeck, MM
Born: March 15, 1876
Entered: April 27, 1929
Died: November 21, 1971
“You, However, shall join your forefathers in peace; you shall be buried at a contented old age.” (Genesis 15:15)
Sister Mary Germaine Hallenbeck, Maryknoll’s most long—lived member, fulfilled these words from the Book of Genesis when at the age of 95 she was laid to rest in God’s Acre at Maryknoll on November 23, 1971.
Sister Mary Germaine, whose name previous to her entrance into Maryknoll was Susie Germaine Hallenbeck, was born on March 15, 1876 at Fort Lee, New Jersey. Her father was Canadian and a steamboat pilot; her mother, a New Yorker. She had two brothers and two sisters. It is seldom that a person is granted the opportunity and the time to live completely and fully two distinct vocations within one lifetime; such was the favor granted by God to our Sister Germaine. Susie Hallenbeck was educated in the parochial schools of Fort Lee, New Jersey. She worked for 14 years for the U.S. Government at Edgewater as a Post Office Money Order Clerk. At the age of 53 she sought and was granted admission to Maryknoll. It was April 27, 1929. There were eight other Sisters who made their First Profession on June 24, 1931 with Sister Germaine, who was 31 years older than the youngest member of that group and 23 years older than the next oldest member. As the years wore away it became easy, no doubt, to forget how difficult it must have been for a professional and mature woman to make the kind of adjustment needed to fit in well and to keep up with the young Sisters with whom she shared her life so intimately during her early years at Maryknoll. In her later years she was very fond of the following quotation of General MacArthur and kept it near her where she could often see it and ponder its meaning:
“Youth is not a time of life. It is a state of mind. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man, and from the Infinite, so long are you young. When all the wires are down, and all the central places of your heart are covered with snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then you are grown old indeed, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
These thoughts no doubt reflected her philosophy of aging —— she had taken them to her heart and had made them her own.
Sister Germaine made her Final Vows on June 24, 1934 and worked in the Maryknoll Post Office until 1942. Her 42 years at Maryknoll were spent at the Motherhouse, at Crichton House and at Bethany. On January 25, 1957 at the age of 81, Sister retired at Bethany. In 1966, at age 90, Sister was becoming weaker and began to require rather complete care. Her sense of humor, however, never left her and those qualities which had sustained her in her early years and which had permitted her to live joyfully and dedicatedly with those much younger than herself, served her still.
In the early morning at 2:00 A.M. on the Feast of Christ the King, November 21, 1971, the King of Kings took to Himself her who had been watching with her lamp ready for so long. Quietly, gently, Sister Germaine had been born to life again — the REAL LIFE — the life which would make her long earthly sojourn seem but a day. This time it was Eternal Life.