SISTER GERTRUDE poses with friends and colleagues. (Kathleen Lamanna photo)
SISTER GERTRUDE poses with friends and colleagues. (Kathleen Lamanna photo)
Sister Gertrude Cosenke, RSCJ, remembers when The Evangelist was the "new newspaper on the block." Her brother used to deliver it to customers in Albany's South End in the late 1920s.

Sister Gertrude just celebrated her 100th birthday with a party at her residence, Teresian House Center for the Elderly in Albany. She was born in 1917, growing up in the city's Our Lady Help of Christians parish.

That German parish, which closed in 2002, was home to generations of families. Her grandparents had been married there, and "my grandmother was a great worker for the church," she said. After parish suppers, her grandmother would walk to the bank through the streets of downtown Albany, carrying a full cashbox.

"My father was a pressman," Sister Gertrude continued. Mr. Cosenke worked for the Hamilton Printing Co. in Rensselaer; his wife was a homemaker, raising Sister Gertrude and her four siblings.

Growing up in the parish known as "Maria Hilf" ("Mary Help" in German), Sister Gertrude never imagined she would end up working there. But after serving in Providence, Detroit and Washington, D.C. -- mainly as a cook at schools and convents -- she was OLHC's director of faith formation for 25 years.

"We thank God every day for her," declared long-time friend Rev. Robert Hohenstein, who was pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians. Now retired, he is pastor emeritus of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Schenectady.

When Sister Gertrude entered religious life in 1935, the Religious of the Sacred Heart was considered a cloistered community. It wasn't until after the Second Vatican Council in 1965 that the order changed.

The centenarian said it made no difference in her calling: "I always felt I had a vocation. I felt like I was called."

Even today, she said, she still feels that call.

For Sister Gertrude's 100th birthday, friends and colleagues gathered at Teresian House for lunch and cheesecake.

"I used to pick Sister up and take her to Mass," recalled Rose Dolan, an old friend from Our Lady Help of Christians. Ms. Dolan noted that Sister Gertrude is remembered for her care and compassion for everyone, especially the children of the parish.

"She really lived out her vocation," said Father Hohenstein.