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Life Beyond the Pandemic, an interview with Sister Theresa Gertrude


Global Sisters Report

Q & A with Mother Theresa Gertrude on death and grief in the wake of COVID

by Anna Wilgenbusch

In her 52 years as a Little Sister of the Poor, Mother Theresa Gertrude has accompanied countless individuals in their final months on Earth.

She didn’t expect to be a sister, let alone one who has a special vocation to the dying.

But when she graduated high school in San Francisco, she felt a tugging on her heart to live with the Little Sisters of the Poor, for whom she had volunteered for four years. She thought that perhaps the lived experience of religious life would rid her of the idea.

Living with the sisters only intensified her call. She entered the mendicant order at age 19, joining its mission to care for the elderly and dying.

The Little Sisters of the Poor were founded in the mid-19th century after a young nurse, St. Jeanne Jugan, gave her bed to a paralyzed older woman whom Jugan saw suffering alone in the street. As more elderly people requested her help and more young women joined her to serve them, the women were established as a religious order in France, according to the Little Sisters’ website.

They came to America in 1868 and established the house in Minnesota, where Mother Theresa Gertrude now serves as superior, in 1883.