Sister Gerry Marie Smith
In her careers as educator, counselor, and spiritual director, Sister Gerry Marie has encouraged people to laugh at the difficulties and pray through what is not easy.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Gerry Marie grew up in a large family and learned early on how to find the lighthearted and grace-filled spaces.
Her priest recognized her contemplative spirit and introduced her to Mother Regina O’Connell of St. Gertrude’s. “I resonated with her Irish disposition and the beautiful Celtic tone of her faith,” recalls Sister Gerry Marie.
She made her First Monastic Profession in 1971. She began classes at St. Gertrude’s College and then transferred to Lewis-Clark State College where she could express her athletic gifts by playing basketball. She also studied at Whitworth and completed her teaching credential at University of Idaho.
Sister Gerry Marie has taught in Boise, Pocatello, Seattle, and in DeSmet at the Coeur d’Alene Tribal School. Regarding her work with the Coeur D’Alene Tribe, a colleague wrote: “She is one of the most skillful teachers and counselors…compassionate, creative, and highly trained.” Another commented: “If love, insight into reasons for human behavior, cooperation, support, patience, and hard work are criteria for judging performance, Sister Gerry’s rating is a solid ten.”
Her ministries have also included parish work. She received her master’s in counseling in 1995 and began working as a therapist. As a mental health counselor, Sister Gerry Marie has been recognized for undertaking a heavy caseload of emotionally and physically abused children and adults. “She was known for taking the most difficult cases and was the most respected therapist,” wrote a colleague form Comprehensive Mental Health in Tacoma.
It was her own childhood and her first career in teaching that gave her a heart for children. “I could notice the woundedness in children,” she says, “I learned I can put into the hands of God the pain I feel for others.”
She has found that guiding others to prayer allows her to deepen her own prayer life. “With intentional listening people can get in touch with growing toward the fullness God has called them to. Jesus withdrew from his apostles to pray and we should also withdraw from the world to pray.
“God wants us to seek that love. All people are called to that love. Silence can take us to the experience of God’s love. People are busy…they have children, work. I recommend finding a half hour each day where you can be with your soul. Quiet your mind with deep breathing, focusing on the breath. If a half hour is too much, try at least ten minutes. It may be difficult at first to be quiet and listen and wait for our loving God. Embrace yourself for all the gifts you have been given, even the ones you may not want. God is always inviting us to wholeness. In silence you can know how deeply you are loved by God.”