Sister Martha Getchell, MM

Born: January 8, 1932
Entered: September 2, 1954
Died: April 25, 2015

We come today to celebrate both the life and the death of our Sister Martha Getchell who died peacefully at our Maryknoll Sisters’ Center on April 25, 2015 after a short stay in Phelps Hospital for some emergency treatment. She was 83 years old and had been a Maryknoll Sister for 60 years.

Sister Martha was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 8, 1932 to George Edward Getchell and Mary Dugan Getchell. She had two sisters, Mary Ann Lowery and Kathryn Cooper.

Martha attended Holy Angels Academy in Fort Lee, New Jersey from 1946 to 1950. She then went to Good Counsel College in White Plains, New York from 1950 to 1954 where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration as well as one in Education.

In September of that same year, she entered the Maryknoll Sisters Congregation where, six months later, she received the name Sister Mary Celine. She made her First Profession of Vows at Maryknoll, New York on March 7, 1957, and her Final Profession in Lima, Peru in 1963.

In 1957, Sister lived at Saint Teresa’s Convent while working for the Maryknoll Fathers in the Field Afar correspondence department.

In 1959, Sister Martha received her first overseas assignment: the Bolivia-Peru Region. After language study at Cochabamba, Bolivia, she was assigned to Santa Rosa High School in Lima, Peru, where she taught commercial studies until 1967. She also set up and worked with the Girl Guides (Scouts) in that school which was quite an innovation.

Returning to Maryknoll, New York in 1968 she worked for a year in the Maryknoll Fathers’ Comptroller’s office while at the same time serving as one of the council members at the Sisters’ Motherhouse.

At the end of that year, she was assigned to Juli, Peru where she used her secretarial skills, as both secretary and treasurer of the Juli Prelature with Maryknoll Bishop Edward Fedders and Fr Albert Koenigschnect. From 1970-1974 she worked part time in the local high school’s Orientation and Religious Education programs. Sister then moved to the nearby town of Ilave, where she was involved in Pastoral Ministry while also serving as coordinator of the Sisters’ Regional Governing Board from 1978-1981. She returned to Juli from 1981-1983 where she served as coordinator of Religious Education in the Prelature.

Having suffered a heart attack in the high altitude of Peru, Martha returned to Lima, doing various jobs during her recuperation. Undaunted, she even headed the staff of the Sisters’ Center House in Lima! In 1984, Sister returned to Maryknoll, New York to give Congregational Service working in the Treasury as well as in the office of Employee Personnel.

The year 1989 found Martha once again back in Peru in the city of Tacna where she was a member of a Pastoral Team of Maryknollers and laity, involved in Religious Education and the formation of lay leaders. Sister Martha remained in this mission until her return to Maryknoll, New York in 2009 for reasons of health where she took Peru/Ecuador for her prayer ministry.

From that rundown of years and different ministries, you get one picture of Martha but the real one is Martha herself. She has always been known as a most joyful, talented and delightful missioner, in love with the people with whom she worked wherever she was stationed. Someone has said that she was a good fulfillment of Mother Mary Joseph’s ideal of a Maryknoll Sister, especially when she said that we should be “distinguished by Christ-like charity, limpid simplicity soul, heroic generosity, an orderly mind, gracious courtesy, an adaptable disposition and the saving grace of a sense of humor.” Martha was all of these! Her love for her family, all her nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, and so many others was remarkable. She loved it when they came to visit her and when she herself had the opportunity to visit them. She was a lovely singer, wonderful at parties and just an all-around great woman to live or work with. She will be missed!

In Tacna, Peru, where she last served, the Bishop was so impressed with her that when she was leaving, he offered a special Mass for her in the Cathedral filled to overflowing— all the people who loved her dearly, even taxi drivers some who worked in the markets where she shopped, etc. Martha impressed all whom she met including the nurses and aides who cared for her in her last months of suffering.

Today we welcome many of Sister’s relatives and friends, here with us, with Martha, for this farewell, to the woman they and we have loved so much. We also have with us Father Jack Sullivan, M.M., our Maryknoll Brother, who will celebrate this Mass of Resurrection for Martha.