Reflection: Gertrude Hayward, March 10, 2014
When Gertie spoke to me about this reflection, she gave me 3 directives: First, “tell my family I love them.” Second, say “thank you” to the Congregation. And third, be brief.
To you her family, Jo, Helen, Ed (and Mary and Ted recently deceased), to her nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews, Gertie loved you, told us stories about how good you are, worried with you and celebrated with you, never wanted you to worry about her, and prayed for you always.
To the Congregation, Gertie said: “Thank you. You’ve given me so much. I’ve never wanted for anything. And in my recent years, you took extraordinary care of me.” One of Gertie’s beautiful qualities was her attitude of gratitude, never of entitlement. She saw “all as gift. All as blessing.” Her mantra was: we don’t know how lucky we are.
Gertie was unique in that she didn’t seek praise, power or promotions. She was humble, simple, had few material attachments. She was discrete and confidential, and shunned gossip. She carried out her ministries with competence and responsibility. Her style was to work hard and in an unnoticed way. Yet, because of her roles in Congregational administration, everyone got to know Gertie. And Gertie knew every Sister of St. Joseph. She knew you, where you ministered, where you lived, your address – and even your zip code! She loved talking to you on the phone, and could track you down anywhere. No conversation between you and her ended without her laugh, her word of encouragement, her helpful solution to your inquiry. Serving you was her favorite ministry. Year after year, her love for the Congregation grew deeper and deeper.
The vocation of the Sister of St. Joseph has to do with who we are more than with what we do. And this call was a good fit for Gertie. We strive to be women of deep love and union with God, with all people and with all creation.
Gertie was faithful to this call in her personal prayer, her worship, her fidelity to spiritual growth and guidance, and the living of her vows. Our closeness to God depends so much our willingness to be honest with ourselves. Gertie’s knowledge and acceptance of herself opened her to receive God’s lavish and unconditional love and to witness and give out this love. Gertie always made you feel good about yourself.
Love and unity with her family, friends and sisters were important to Gertie. And so, when in her words, she “messed up” as we all do at times, it bothered her. She was sensitive to her calling and longing to be a woman of healing, unity, justice and peace.
Gertie knew this vocation extends to all God’s creation. On Saturdays or after work, we could find Gertie in our organic garden or planting marigolds in front of the Renewal Center, or replanting the marigold seeds in paper cups – hundreds of cups that she would then line up on the windowsills in every room on the second floor and beyond. No one passed her office without getting marigold seeds to nurture. Gertie never wore gardening gloves when she planted. She wanted to feel and touch the earth.
Gertie loved and enjoyed life and tried to help others do the same. Even on Thursday, the day before she died, she said with her usual honesty, courage, faith and smile, I know I’m dying, but I really like living! Gertie’s sufferings never destroyed the Breath of God’s life, joy and love stirring in her.
May all that we love about Gertie (her joy, gratitude, compassion, humor, dedication, concern, self-giving) find expression in the way we live, the way we love, and the way we face whatever the future holds. Now, Gertie, we say to you: We love you, and we thank you for your 30 years in the ministry of education and your 22 years in congregational administration. Indeed we know: There is nothing you’d rather be than a Sister of St. Joseph.
Jean Amore, CSJ
Gertrude Hayward entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 8, 1986. At Reception, she received the name Sister Maria Petrae. She held a BS in Elementary Education from Brentwood College and an MS in Education from Queens College. Her ministry waqs in elementary education. In her later years she served as secretary at the School of Religion in St. Joachim Parish and then as Administrative Assistant to Sister Jean Amore during her term as President.
Sister Gertrude Hayward, CSJ died on March 7, 2014 in the 58th year of her religious life.