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Sister Mary Tekakwitha (Germaine A. Hemesath)

List of deceased Sisters

Date of death 13/05/2020

SMSM SistersSr. Mary Tekakwitha smsm

September 20th,1933 – May 13th, 2020

 

Germaine A. Hemesath was born on September 20th, 1933, in the small town of Ossian, Iowa.  She was one of eight children born to John Joseph Aloysius Hemesath and Iona Anastasia Marie Scheidemantal Hemesath.  Soon after completing High School, Germain travelled east to enter the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary in Bedford, Massachusetts on July 31st, 1951.  When she entered the novitiate, Germain took the name “Tekakwitha” in honor of the first indigenous American woman who was venerated as a saint long before she was finally canonized in 2012.

After making her first vows in Bedford on February 2nd, 1954, Sr. Mary Tekakwitha served on the staff of the Postulate in Lowell, MA.  A year later, she began studies at Framingham State Teachers College and graduated with a B.S. in Home Economics in 1959.  In November 1959, she departed for her first mission assignment to Samoa and taught at Vaimoso.  In May 1962, she was transferred to Leone, in American Samoa and taught at the school there.

In 1963, Sr. Tekakwitha was called back to the United States and did teaching and sewing for the community.  In 1966 she made her “Second Novitiate” in Bedford and was then assigned to the community at 62 Newton St. in Waltham.  In 1970 she was appointed local superior of that community, and in 1971 was appointed Provincial Bursar and moved to Bedford.

In 1972 Sr Tekakwitha was missioned to Jamaica and served there for the next 20 years. She first worked at Hansen Home where she did some teaching as well as office work.  She was also asked to be the Regional Bursar.  Later she moved to Montego Bay where she worked at the Holy Family Self-Help Center.  It was a very poor area, and in addition to the skills she shared by private tutoring, sewing and gardening, “Tek” had the idea of a Thrift Club, so that people could save a little money safely, in a bank.

The Sisters opened a bank account for the Thrift Club and made a “bank book” for each individual adult or child who came to save a few dollars or even a few cents where every deposit or withdrawal was strictly recorded.  We’ve heard that Sr. Tek sometimes walked down the road on the way to the bank with a couple of hundred dollars in her bag but was never robbed.  She was well-respected and people realized it was the money of the community.  This organization was carried on by other Sisters after she left Jamaica.

In 1989 Sr Tekakwitha moved from Mt Salem to the community at Balaclava.  In 1993 she returned once more to the USA and in September was assigned to our large community at 62 Newton Street where she gave community service and eventually supervised the kitchen and became a Co-director of the new kitchen management team in 1995.

In August 1997, Sr Tek joined our new community in Lawrence Massachusetts where she was once again involved in teaching and now in Hispanic ministry.

In 1999, having reached the age when many Americans are happy to retire, Sr Tekakwitha was ready to begin a whole new ministry - in health care!  She did a 4-week course to qualify as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant).  She was living in the Arlington community and for the next year, she worked three days a week at the Arlington Rest Home, while continuing with community service and sewing for the Sisters.

In February 2001, Sr Tekakwitha returned to Montego Bay in Jamaica – this time to be Supervisor for a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. She continued in this ministry for the next 7 years.  She retired from the responsibility as Supervisor in 2008 and returned to Waltham, continuing her service to the community, especially by sewing for the Sisters.

Sr. Tekakwitha was a quiet and gentle presence in this community – generous, observant of whatever was happening, with a quick wit, sparkling eyes and ready laughter. She was approachable – Sisters didn’t hesitate to ask her for “a little favor.”

She had suffered serious illnesses several times during her life, but had little to say about that.  But now, as she became more frail and began to suffer memory loss, this was something that could not be concealed. On September 7th, 2016 she moved to the Marillac Residence in Wellesley Hills and was among the first to be placed in their new Memory Care Unit.  Two months ago, she had a fall and was sent to St Patrick’s Manor in Framingham, Massachusetts, for nursing home care.  There she died peacefully on the afternoon of May 13th, 2020.

In the life of Sister Mary Tekakwitha, we find a great example of the Marist spirit as it is described in Article 51 of our Constitutions:

Mary’s one desire
was to do the will of the Father
which she sought throughout her life,
and to co-operate with her whole being
in the saving work of her Son.
Our lifelong task is to learn
to put the interests of the Lord
before all else,
trying to discern His will each day
and to forget ourselves in loving Him.

 

Gratefully in Mary, 

Sister Helen Muller, smsm                                                      Sister Virginia Fornasa, smsm

Regional Leader                                                                     Communications Secretary