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