Maryknoll, NY — Sister Gemma Marie Berger, MM, one-time regional spiritual director of the Worldwide Fatima Apostolate, Guadelupe, CA, died on April 12, 2015, at the Maryknoll Sisters Center. She was 89 years old.
Born on April 25, 1925 in Gardenville, NY, to Edward J. and Rose L. Karg Berger, Sister Gemma Marie was baptized Geraldine Margaret Berger and attended Fourteen Holy Helpers Parish, Gardenville, along with her parents and siblings, Edward, Eugene, Richard and Rosemary. A 1943 graduate of Mount Mercy Academy, Buffalo, NY, she also attended St. Nicholas High School, Buffalo, from 1939-1941.
Upon learning that she desired to become a missionary, Sister Gemma Marie’s pastor recommended Maryknoll, which she entered on September 6, 1944. She made her first vows on March 7, 1947 at the motherhouse and her final vows on March 7, 1950, in Mountain View, CA. A 1958 graduate of Maryknoll Teachers College, Maryknoll, NY, with a bachelor’s degree in education, Sister Gemma Marie spent much of her missionary life as an elementary school teacher in Chinatown, Chicago, IL and San Juan Capistrano, CA.
Following work in the seminary kitchens at the Venard in Scranton, PA, and Maryknoll, NY, from 1947-1949, Sister Gemma Marie was sent to San Juan Capistrano, CA, where she taught CCD to migrant workers until 1950. Following a brief period in Mountain View, CA, where she made her final vows, Sister Gemma Marie returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center, Maryknoll, NY, where she worked in the Promotion Department from 1952-1958.
Sister Gemma Marie then taught third grade at St. Therese’s School in Chicago’s Chinatown from 1958-1969, and fourth grade from 1958-1959. She was then sent to Guadelupe, CA, where she taught CCD to elementary school children at the Guadelupe mission from 1971 until the mission closed in 1977. During this time, she also supervised lay teachers, engaged in assorted parish activities, organized the church choir, and served as regional spiritual director of the Worldwide Fatima Apostolate. In 1977, she retired, living at the Maryknoll Sisters Residence in Monrovia, CA, where she engaged in a variety of volunteer works until 2009 when she returned to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in New York.
Sister Gemma Marie is survived by her brother Richard E. Berger of Columbus, OH, and her sister, Rosemary Berger, of Orchard Park, NY, as well as an aunt, Sister M. Eugene Karg, SSJ, of Clarence, NY, and other relatives.
A vespers service will be held for Sister Gemma Marie on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at 4:15 p.m. in the Chapel of the Annunciation at the Maryknoll Sisters Center at Maryknoll, NY. The Liturgy of Christian Burial will take place on April 15, 2015, at 11 a.m. in the same location. Interment will be in the Maryknoll Sisters Cemetery at the Center.