Sister Gertrude was born April 19th, 1930 in Churchville, Iowa to Alice (Kelly) and Frank Gallagher. She had 9 siblings, 6 sisters and three brothers. She graduated from Ames High School in Ames, Iowa in 1949.
In 1952, Sister Gertrude entered the Maryknoll Sisters in Valley Park, MO. Sister Gertrude pronounced her First Vows at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in Ossining, NY on May 8th, 1952 and her Final Vows again at the Center on May 8th, 1955. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from St.Teresa College, Winona, MN in 1959 and her Master’s in Nursing Education from Columbia University in NYC in 1966. Her first assignment was to the Maryknoll Sisters Tuberculosis Hospital in Monrovia, CA serving as Director of Nursing Services. She served later at the Bethany Nursing Home for the elderly and infirm Maryknoll Sisters in Ossining, NY.
Her first overseas assignment was to Bolivia in 1969. There she was part of the Vicariate Health Team of Riberalta, Beni, Bolivia, a remote northeastern jungle area. She visited house bound and physically challenged people, giving treatments as needed. She was also an advisor to the nurses in Hospital Riberalta and an advisor to the Practical Nursing School.
A Bolivian woman, graduate from the School for Practical Nurses in Riberalta founded by the Maryknoll Sisters, went on for her graduate degree and became the Director of the whole Regional Health Sector #7 in Riberalta.
In 1970, Sister Gertrude became Director of the School for Practical Nurses in Riberalta. She also taught and supervised in the hospital, and was adviser to the Public Health clinics. She was also nurse for the Mission Team and Coordinator of the Caritas programs in the Pando Vicariate. She prepared many of the Practical Nurses who staff the hospital and clinics in the Beni as well as in other parts of Bolivia.
Returning to NY in 1990, she used her nursing skills in the Residential Care facility at the Maryknoll Sisters Center in NY, caring for aged and infirm Sisters for five years, and was inspired “by these women in their winter years.”
She volunteered for a short term assignment to Albania in January 1996 joining a team of three Maryknoll Sisters already there. The Bishops of Eastern Europe had requested help to rebuild the Church and strengthen the faith of the people who had suffered more than forty years of repression under Communist rule. Sister Gertrude and another Maryknoll Sister were trapped for several days during the civil strife in 1997 but chose to remain with the Albanian people. When the bishop saw them, the first thing he said was “It’s good to see you alive!”
Sister Gertrude returned to her first love, Riberalta, in 1998 continuing her ministry of health care, “helping people have more life.”
In 2002 she started a project for diabetics with a part time doctor and a full time nurse. People who came to the clinic could also join the Diabetic Club where they received mutual support with weekly meetings and educational talks. Several hundred people are registered in the clinic and the long term plan was that this would be self-sustaining.
In 2015, Sister Gertrude was assigned back to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in NY where she continues to reside.