Sister Martha Getchell, MM

Sister Martha Getchell, MM,
Missioner to Peru for 50 Years,
Dies at 83

GetchellMaryknoll, NY —  Sister Martha Getchell, MM, missioner to Peru for 50 years, died April 25, 2015, at the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Ossining, NY.  She was 83 years old.

Born in Minneapolis, MN,  on January 8, 1932, to George Edward and Mary Dugan Getchell, Sister Martha entered Maryknoll at its motherhouse in Ossining, NY, in 1954 from St. Peter’s Parish, Newark, NJ, and made her final vows on March 7, 1963, in Lima, Peru.  A 1954 graduate of Good Counsel College, White Plains, NY, with a B.S. in business and education, she served as president of the school’s Mission Society.

Following two years working as a secretary at Maryknoll’s St. Teresa’s Residence, Sister Martha was sent to Peru where she would spend much of her missionary life.  Her first assignment was teaching business subjects to students at Santa Rosa High School, the first parochial school ever established in Lima, from 1960-1967.  Sister Martha was one of 12 Maryknoll Sisters who staffed the school.

Late in 1967, she returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, and from 1968-1969 worked in the Maryknoll Fathers Comptroller’s Office. In 1969, she returned to Peru, where she was assigned to the Altiplano to work with Bishop Edward Fedders, MM, as secretary-treasurer of the Juli Prelature, a position she would hold until 1984.  During those 15 years, she also worked in the Office of Catholic Education, working with a program for formation of religious education teachers, as well as doing pastoral work.  She also served as regional coordinator of Maryknoll Sisters in Peru from 1978-1981.

In 1984, Sister Martha returned to the United States, working in the congregation’s Treasury and in the Employee Personnel office until 1988. She returned to Peru in 1989 where she was invited to join the team of Maryknollers serving in Tacna, on the southernmost border of Peru.  There she worked with a family catechetics program, involving both parents and children in religious formation.  She returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 2009, where she resided until her death.

“I thank God for the 50 wonderful years I spent in Peru,” Sister Martha reflected during an interview in 2010. “For me, mission is about being with people, growing and understanding each other; learning to stand back and let the people take over. Their love of God and their faith were always a light for me and they knew how to laugh and have fun.”

A vespers service will be held for Sister  Martha on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 4:15 p.m. in the Chapel of the Annunciation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center at Maryknoll, NY.  A Mass of Christian Burial will follow on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 11 a.m. in the same location. Interment will be in the Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery on the Center grounds.

Donate for Peace Campaign

donate-to-the-campsign-hugSister Rosemarie Milazzo is ready to return to Iraq to help build peace by building relationships with people. A Maryknoll Sister for more than 55 years, she has served in places like Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq. She’s an educator, a pastoral assistant and more recently a peacemaker.

Sister Rosemarie is a pioneer who risks her own safety and life in places where people live in fear, women are raped and children are taught to fight.

“We help bring change,” Sister Rosemarie says. “People ask me if I’m afraid. Sure, but that is not the big thing. The big thing is that the human family is broken in some places and I can be in solidarity with them… and be there because I am a Maryknoll Sister.”

Sister Rosemarie joins many of our Sisters who are on the frontiers, often putting themselves at risk to respond to the suffering and needs of our times. They sit with people and listen. No matter what country they serve in, they are always trying to understand what hurting people are going through. They hold sacred the pain people are feeling and pray to find peaceful solutions to some very complicated problems.

Your compassion and generosity enable and empower our Sisters to continue their critical ministries. I hope I can count on you today to send your gift to help sustain Sister Rosemarie and all of our Sisters who serve the poor, the oppressed and the suffering.

As a partner for peace, Sister Rosemarie lives for peace through her actions… and sometimes there are no words – only actions.

donate-to-the-campsign-two-sisters-lostFrom the diary of Sr. Rosemarie…

I am counting down the days to my return to Iraq. The people there suffer from the conflict and unrest. My ministry this time will be to serve in the border camps to help protect Syrian refugees. Already this month, there are 4,000 displaced families with children who suffer the terrible conditions of tent camps.

I hope to help keep families together and bring them comfort and peace. It is such a privilege to do this work.

To hear more about my missions:

“I met a woman in Iraq who lost two sons. We didn’t speak the same language so I held her. We both wept. We speak with a human language – one beyond Kurdish. We have the same language of the heart.

Sister Rosemarie sets an example for us all to build peace in our world. She shows us how to speak with our hearts – to listen to each other, voice our concerns, our perspectives in a loving, peaceful way.

Sister Rosemarie’s message to you – one of our dear friends – is: “I am so grateful to you for your faithful support of my ministry. How many times I give thanks that I can be there and that I can walk with the people… that I can be with a lady whose two sisters were taken. I can tell her I have sisters and I can’t imagine what it must be like for her.”

Please pray for Sister Rosemarie – for her safety and for the safety of all our Sisters. They are serving in the most troubled spots in our world promoting and protecting peace as they make God’s love visible to all.

Your loving, compassionate and charitable heart empowers our Sisters to be peacemakers. Thank you! We will always keep you and your loved ones in prayer, asking for God’s protection.

Sister Anastasia

Donate Now

P.S. Please join us every morning at 10:30 a.m. (eastern) in a “Power Prayer” for world peace. Please send your intentions, along with your gift. Our sisters will pray for you and your requests.

Poverty, Resilience Reign in Bangladesh

Milazzo_blog_0As I write this, I was immediately brought back to my recent time in Bangladesh. I have never seen such poverty in all my years, which includes service in East Africa and the Middle East. There are families who make their homes on the street.

As I walked each day, I saw a blind man with his 10- or 11-year-old daughter begging. Most of the time, the girl was so tired she just fell asleep in his arms. There we saw a blind man (with a young girl asleep on his lap) begging for help.

Another frequent sight I saw was of a 5- or 6-year-old girl who sat begging with her baby brother (about 8 or 9 months old) asleep in her arms. The girl had a tiny little skirt on with a bare chest while the baby was naked.

BachaSchool_BangladeshWhen I walked on the crosswalk in order to cross the road, I saw families who were claiming their space after a night on the street. I was told that they sleep there each night and also gather there when the rains come.

In the face of this poverty, Maryknoll Sisters Miriam Frances Perlewitz and Claudette La Verdiere are doing their best to educate as many Bangladeshi students as possible. Sister Miriam Frances began an English Medium School and is now in the process of training young graduates of the school to take over the administration and teaching in the school. The children in the school are being trained to think critically, using values taught in their classes, as they continue on their journeys through life. Hopefully, these will be the leaders of Bangladesh sometime in the future and the values instilled in them in their education at the Bacha School will produce leaders who will help in the development of the country.

Sister Claudette is also teaching at the seminary in Dhaka.  She is helping to train leaders for the church of Bangladesh.

This experience in Bangladesh taught me much about resilience in the face of the difficulties that life gives us. They smiled, put on their best sari’s, and looked magnificent as they strolled along the crowded sidewalks. Is grace something that comes in the soul, so that nothing can take that grace from us?

Sister Rosemarie Milazzo, MM

Missioner Gives ‘Sunshine’ to Disabled Youth

I’d like to share with you how the birthday of Sister Cecelia Wood and the 33rd anniversary of Our Lady Of Victory Training Center for handicapped youth was celebrated in the Philippines.

There were celebrations all day on September 17 to let Sister Cecelia know that everyone was happy that her 93 years were appreciated.  On September 20, it was Homecoming Day, with former residents joining those now living at Our Lady of Victory, to Celebrate the Anniversary. Sisters Cecelia and Sister Maria del Rey (RIP) began this work.

Word from Our Lady of Victory said that resident-clients, past and present, honored Sister Cecelia by symbolizing what she has meant in their lives. Diana looks at Sister Cecelia as the key who opened many doors of opportunity toward self-reliance. Lyn Valerio had a Philippine flag to symbolize Sister Cecilia’s long service to the Filipino people. Danilo likened Sister Cecilia to a candle who brought light to his darkened world. Many chose sunshine and sunlight to symbolize Sister Cecilia in their lives.

Some chose a house to symbolize the gift of shelter which Sister Cecelia has provided them, having been homeless before. Archie compared her to a compass always pointing north to show his direction. Inday chose a flat globe to express what Sister has given her: a widened and broadened world. Juliet picture herself as a tree now bearing fruit symbolizing the skills that she has so far acquired from Our Lady of Victory.

Songs, dances, and birthday wishes also were dedicated to Sister Cecilia.”

During the day, other groups came to be with Sister Cecilia. It is wonderful to see and hear about what God has done through one person’s life (and is still working in and through her life). In giving thanks, I also remember the many people who have made this work possible. Through these 33 years, the support has come.…enough for today but never enough for the “tomorrows.” However, when tomorrows turned into a “today,” God provided, through generous people. To all these Partners in Mission with handicapped youth, “THANK YOU.”

Please add your prayers for Sister Cecelia and this amazing work.

Sister Virgeen Healey, MM

Renewing My Faith at Lourdes

Lourdes200x200St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes has always been the patron saint of Maryknoll Sister Bernadette Cordis Duggan, so when the opportunity to spend her season of renewal, in part at least, on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Sister Bernadette was thrilled.

The gift of a family member, Sister Bernadette’s journey was well-timed.  Not only had the poor dear become a bit injured just months before the opportunity to travel to Lourdes arose, but 2014 would be the 60th anniversary of the National Lourdes Pilgrimage Tour, organized annually by the Knights of Columbus.

The following is Sister Bernadette’s own brief account of her Lourdes journey, which also included a large group of handicapped children from the Archdiocese of New York.

We checked into our assigned hotel, St. Sauveur, and went to lunch in the hotel dining room where we began to know each other over a huge ham steak and French fries, not counting the salad and delicious French pastry.

I sat across from Joseph, blind from birth, in his 50s and not a happy fellow. Bernard, large and placid, and his traveling companion, patiently answered Joseph’s rapid fire questions, told him what was on his plate, and listened to his complaints.

Jim, an emergency medical technician from New Jersey, offered to take me — in the wheelchair that was waiting for me in the lobby — for a ride around the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes, an area of ground more commonly called “The Domain” in which the Basilicas and chapels where we would go for daily Mass were located. I, of course, agreed.

The atmosphere in the Domain struck me forcefully. There were thousands of us convened there, gathered together in groups, following banners from all over Europe and the United States, some in national dress but all of us faith-filled pilgrims. There were no tourists snapping pictures and talking loudly, but quiet talk and processions forming, and liturgies starting with the priests who had come with the groups.

The weather caused many changes of venue, as we had only two clear days, and rain on the other days, either morning or afternoon or all day. One volunteer noticed that I did not have a raincoat, though I had an umbrella, so he bought me a plastic raincoat and hood, and would not let me pay for it.

There were 13 lovely young student-nurses from Misericordia College in Detroit giving volunteer service for a semester. Two were assigned to meet me every morning and push me to Mass in the Domain every day and to the Rosary Procession in the afternoon, and the other special events each day, the time of anointing in Pius X underground church, the Benediction procession and blessing at every grouping of seats and wheelchair groups, the renewal of marriage vows of the married couples present, and more.

Please know that all my Maryknoll family and associates and friends were in my prayers at each Mass for your intentions.

With gratitude and prayers,

 — Sister Bernadette Cordis Duggan, MM


Pittsburgh Shaped My Mission Vision

Sister Janice McLaughlin, MMI have worked on the African continent for most of my adult life – almost 40 years – and have visited at least a dozen countries on all five continents in the past six years as President of the Maryknoll Sisters. Although I have this vast international experience – Pittsburgh will always be my home. It has shaped me and formed my vision of a world where no one is hungry, homeless or jobless and where all have enough.

Near the corner of Penn Avenue and Atlantic was St. Lawrence O’Toole church and school, which I attended for 12 years. Pittsburgh has undergone a radical transformation from the smoky steel capital of my childhood to the cultural, medical and educational center that it has become today but its ethnic diversity and working class pride have endured. The values instilled in me then continue to guide and excite me many years later.

McLaughlin_Zimbabwe_0My parents, Paul McLaughlin and Mary Louise Schaub, taught me and my sister Mary Ellen to treat all people as equals – from a street cleaner to the President. This has served me well as I have worked in refugee camps, poor townships and in the office of the President of Zimbabwe. As you heard, I also spent some time in prison in Rhodesia, where I made friends with my guards as well as with the other prisoners.

This was a lesson I learned early in life – to respect all people and treat them the same. It was no wonder that I became involved in the civil rights movement here at home and went on to support liberation from colonial rule in Southern Africa.


The Dominican Sisters from Columbus, Ohio, now Dominican Sisters of Peace, who taught me for 13 years, instilled in me a strong sense of justice and concern for the weak and vulnerable in society. In high school, we helped out several afternoons a week at the home for the elderly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor that was directly across from our school. I learned then that poverty and inequality were right in my own backyard.

The Thomas Merton Center (that nominated me for this Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania award) was also right in my own backyard (on Penn Avenue). The staff connected with me when I was deported from Rhodesia in 1977 and we have remained kindred spirits ever since – together with the Association of Pittsburgh Priests. They are the missionaries here at home, bringing the message of peace, justice and equality for all to the people of Pittsburgh, while I carry the message to the African continent as a Maryknoll Sister.

Sometimes this message can be unsettling and make people uncomfortable. When I supported majority rule in Southern Africa, it made the government of Ian Smith so uncomfortable that they deported me – back to Pittsburgh.

When I was home again, I lobbied against steel companies in Pittsburgh that were violating international sanctions against Rhodesia by doing business there. I began to get hate mail and threatening phone messages. One day my mother looked at me and said, “You better go back to Africa. When you speak out against injustice there, you are a hero. When you speak out against injustice here, you are just a troublemaker!” A mother’s wisdom spoke deep truth.

Here in the United States, we see so many frightening and depressing images of Africa. The media captures stories and photos of the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, the kidnapping of school girls in northern Nigeria, and the hijacking of freighters by pirates off the coast of Somalia. These tragedies make headlines but are only a small sliver of the reality.

There is another face of Africa that we rarely see – a dynamic continent of creative and resilient people who are full of faith in God and hope in the future. They are empowered by a belief in ‘ubuntu,’ a philosophy of life that holds that all people are connected with one another and that your destiny is related to mine. Relationships and a sense of family are at the heart of their joy and their ability to overcome problems.

McLaughlin2_ZimbabweI lived through many changes on the African continent – from the oppression of colonialism, through liberation wars that have left behind a legacy of violence, to the heady days of independence when it seemed that anything was possible. Today the continent struggles to find a new identity that honors the past while embracing a better future for all.

The Shona people of Zimbabwe have many names for God. My favorite is Chipindikure – The One Who Turns Things Upside Down.  It sums up my experience. This transformation, and sometimes uncomfortable uprooting from the familiar, has been the essence of my life. I think I have been able to embrace many changes because I am rooted in the love of family, friends and my Maryknoll community. Maryknoll opened the doors of the world to me – but no matter how far I have wandered, I knew I could always come home to Pittsburgh and find a loving welcome.

I accept this award on behalf of all the wonderful people who have loved me, formed me and encouraged me – in Pittsburgh, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and around the world. Thank you.


Caring for Our Trailblazers

Sister Anne Marie Emdin, MMIn the gospel of St. John (21:18), Jesus says to Peter, “When you were young, you were able to do what you liked and go where you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and others will direct you and take you where you don’t want to go.”

While I was at Maryknoll, NY, getting checked out for health reasons (aside from my problem of  being “fat,” which I have known for 70+ years), I took the opportunity to visit the Maryknoll Sisters who are now living on our “Archcare” section of the main part of our mission center. These are Sisters, who in my younger days as a Maryknoll Sister, were the “movers and changers” of community and mission life.

They opened missions in different lands, founded schools, hospitals, homes for unwanted girls (and sometimes boys), and were “trailblazers” that we dreamt would be our future.

Today, age and failing health have them holding out their hands while others lead them in some of the very basic necessities of daily living.  I did not find them downcast however but saw in them a deeper sense of mission as they reached out to the caretakers and to each other in order to make their situation as much of a mission to others today as they did in their very active past history.  Their days are punctuated by times of prayer, physical and mental activities, and sharing life with one another and their caretakers. That which made them then and now keeps them true missionaries! Seeing and, in a small way, sharing with them their present lifestyles was what really made my two-month stay a Maryknoll a very full and enjoyable time.

I did, however, also have a grand week with my sister who took me with her to a three-day camping experience with the children from the Thea Bowman Day Care Center where she volunteers. I was asked to “help” with the various arts and crafts for groups from kindergarten to high school, and although I did enjoy it immensely, I know the elderly are my forte. Children you teach, the elderly you just enjoy!