Cecile Gertken, OSB
1902 - 2001
1902 - 2001
Sister Cecile (Cecelia) Gertken, O.S.B., was born in Richmond, MN, the eleventh of Luke and Margaret (Schneider) Gertken's thirteen children. One brother died in infancy, the remaining four became Benedictine monks. Seven of the eight girls joined St.Benedict's Monastery. Their father, a renowned teacher and organist, was a great role model. All of the Gertken children sang and read music. Sister Cecile earned the B.A. degree in piano at the College of Saint Benedict in 1925, entered St. Benedict's Monastery in 1926 and professed vows on July II, 1928.
From 1928 to 1960 Sister Cecile taught piano and band instruments, and directed choirs in schools in Bismarck, ND; Mauston, WI; St. Cloud, Wadena, Watkins, Robbinsdale, Sauk Centre and Long Prairie. In 1943 she began attending summer sessions at the U. of MN. There, composing accompaniments for the "Opus Dei," Sister was led to the principles of modal accompaniment and described them in her book, CHANT MELODIES SIMPLIFIED, published by the Liturgical Press in 1960. Between 1961 and 1975 Sister Cecile taught piano and chant at the College of Saint Benedict. Here she was awarded the rank of Professor Emerita.
Vatican II's approval of the vernacular for liturgical prayer prompted her to devote her talents to preserving the ancient chant melodies, fitting them to English translations of the new Mass texts, and to translating and adapting antiphons and hymns for the Divine Office. Her goal was to provide assurance that the ancient Gregorian chant would not be lost. Her booklets of Mass ordinaries, and for monastic prayer hours, published from 1975 to 1993, culminated with SEASONAL HYMNS OF THE LIBER HYMNARIUS. Her contributions became known in many parts of the world. Requests for her booklets have come from St. Cecilia Abbey, England, for distribution in India and Nigeria; from Australia and from Sri Lanka. Beginning in 1975 she assisted the Trappist monks in Huntsville, Utah, translate chants into English. Living at St. Scholastica since 1995, Sister Cecile continued her mission of stressing the beauty and importance of singing the ancient chants. In November, 1999, the new organ in the oratory at St. Benedict's Monastery was blessed in memory of the Gertken Sisters.
Sister Cecile, 99, died at St. Scholastica Convent on November 24, 2001. She is survived by her Benedictine community and many friends. Five brothers and seven sisters are deceased. Sister Cecile sang praise to God throughout her lifetime. In chanting the "Opus Dei" she promised to sing while she had being. We are confident that in her new fullness of being she is keeping that promise with God-given joy.
Tribute prepared by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, Minnesota.