Mercedes celebrates 99th birthday
Among the 57 Sisters of the Monastery of St. Gertrude, Sister Mercedes is the oldest. On Thursday afternoon, December 16, the community gathered to celebrate her 99th birthday in the infirmary dining room.
She was born Clara Martzen in 1911 to one of the few Catholic families in her town. Her parents had immigrated from Luxembourg in 1908 and Clara’s father found work as a blacksmith in tiny Winona, ID. In the 1920’s when the family did move closer to town and acquired a car, they became more active in church activities. Eventually Clara went to St. Gertrude’s for religion lessons. While there she began to “get an inkling that religious life was appealing” to her.
Clara’s parents were very devout, but when she expressed her interest in becoming a nun, both her parents vehemently disallowed it.
Thinking that was that, Clara entered happily back into her life of work, good times and dancing. Once in a while, however, “when I was plowing in the field, I’d say ‘I’ve got to DO something with my life.’”
When Clara’s mother became ill, she spent some time at Our Lady of Consolation Hospital (now St. Mary’s) in Cottonwood. During her stay she became acquainted with the sisters and told Clara that it would be fine for Clara to join the monastery.
So Clara did. She became Sr. Mercedes in 1933. It took her father nearly two years to “come around” to the idea, but by then Clara was already a novice.
Immediately after taking final vows Sr. Mercedes was trained as a nurse. In the early years she cleaned a lot of bedpans, but eventually she became a labor and delivery nurse. Between 1957 and 1971 Sr. Mercedes helped with 258 deliveries at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood. “You feel so good when you do something good for someone,” she says.