Sisters of the Past

Sister Gertrude - Veronica Kowalewski

Profiled in March 2004

16 May 1916 - 30 July 1994

 Veronica Mary Kowalewski was born in Stratford, Taranaki, with a father of German and Polish descent and a New Zealand born mother. She was the youngest of fourteen children.. Veronica was educated at the local primary school taught by the Sisters of the Missions. On leaving school she helped her ailing mother at home, her brothers on the farm, and generally carried out many services around the parish of Stratford.

On 2 July 1946 Veronica joined the Sisters of St Joseph in Wanganui, and began a long association with the old brick building of Sacred Heart College and Convent. She was professed as a sister in 1949, taking the name Gertrude. She had already begun what would be almost her life’s work – in charge of the College laundry. She was responsible at one time for the washing and ironing of over a hundred boarders and fifty sisters. It was a regular and onerous task but Gertrude was always cheerful. She was frequently called upon to work the bellows for the early Chapel organ.

In her middle years she had an operation for the deafness which had always afflicted her, and so began a new life! When tasks for the day were over she went visiting, later in years acquiring a trusty bicycle. Most of her visits were to the sick and aged of the parish, but she became well known to many.

When the brick building was demolished in 1982, she re-located to Mt St Joseph and carried on her visiting. In 1987 she moved to Feilding, and picked up parish visiting there. On the closing of the Convent there Gertrude moved into a pensioner flat, entering fully into the neighbourhood with much help from her bicycle. She loved having visitors, sewed, and kept a bright and beautiful garden.

Gertrude was a strong woman physically, but strength was also part of her emotional and spiritual make-up – perhaps tribute to her ancestry. None was so excited at he election of a Polish Pope! She had a big heart, a forgiving heart, and a willingness to go the extra mile for anyone.

Gertrude died in Feilding and her Requiem Mass was celebrated in St Brigid’s Parish church there. Her burial took place in Wanganui.

Gallery / Whakaahua

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