Gertrude Boracca’s home was in the midst of apple orchards. She attended Watsonville High School and after graduation, with the goal of becoming a P.E. teacher, she enrolled at Hartnell College in Salinas. It was there that one of the teachers told her that the Sisters of Notre Dame were looking for someone to teach the 7th and 8th grade girls at Palma. She hesitated, saying that she hardly went to church, but she was persuaded that wouldn’t make any difference. This job turned out to make a huge difference in her life.
As Gertie worked with the Palma girls, she got to know Sister Mary Wildred and Sr. June Canoles. She had no idea then that Sr. June had commented to another Sister, “That girl has a vocation,” but the Sisters began to loan her books and invited her to go on a picnic with the girls to the novitiate in Saratoga. She remembers, “I saw the novices outside playing ball. They seemed so happy together, which got me thinking that I’d like to be part of a group like that. I made an appointment to visit and talk with the Provincial.”
Gertie entered the novitiate and for nearly 20 years she enjoyed teaching children in Notre Dame elementary schools from Los Angeles to Portland. Having earned a degree in religious education, she became Director of Religious Education at Madonna del Sasso Parish in Salinas. She later coordinated religious education programs for the Monterey Diocese while serving on the staff at Notre Dame House of Prayer in Carmel.
When a good friend and co-worker became ill with cancer, Sr. Gertrude accompanied her friend through diagnosis and treatment and, finally into hospice care. Touched by this experience, she volunteered with hospice and learned the value of a comforting massage for those who were seriously ill and dying. Sr. Gertrude served several years at Notre Dame Villa at Our Lady of Fatima Villa in Saratoga, and for the past 20 years, at the Sisters of the Holy Family Care Center in Mission San Jose.
Now, when someone asks her about retirement, she replies, “I love what I’m doing. If I retired, I’d just find somewhere else to do the same thing.” So, she continues to assist Sisters who are seriously ill. They trust her as she listens to them, usually while massaging their hands or feet. She knows she is touching into something holy.