Sister Gertrude Bohn was born in Baden, Germany, to Leopold and Sophia Gerber Bohn in 1865. When Mother Clementine Zerr traveled to Baden in 1879 to recruit other Sisters to join the group of Adorers in the United States, she met the young woman, known then as Rosina, who had entered the community, and who eagerly accepted the call to the American mission.
She entered the novitiate in Ruma in 1881, and made her vows in 1882. Obviously this decision was a fit for the young Rosina—now Sister Gertrude—who herself made return trips to Baden to invite other Sisters, including her own sister Sophia, then Sister Stephanie, to join the mission in America.
Teaching in Kansas
Sister Gertrude Bohn was already teaching in Kansas when Mother Clementine came to establish a central house in Wichita in 1902. Gertrude worked along with Mother Clementine in the newly formed St. John’s Institute for five years. Eight years later, she was appointed superior for the central house, a post she filled from 1915 to 1923.
During these years, the number of schools in which the Sisters taught expanded, and Sisters began a health care ministry in Carlsbad, New Mexico. A deep sorrow pervaded the community in 1918, when the Spanish Influenza epidemic caused the death of four young Sisters. This was also the period of World War I, when the Sisters, teaching in largely German-settled communities, were not permitted to speak German.
Vision for the Future
A major accomplishment during the period of Gertrude’s leadership was the building of a new St. John’s Academy in 1922-1923, when the decision was made that the first building occupied by Clementine and the first group of Sisters was no longer safe. The completion of the new building could be attributed in large part to Sister Gertrude’s administrative skills, and her vision for the future needs of the convent and the school.
The new building housed the convent and the academy, and became the site for the annual retreats of the diocesan clergy and laity. At present, named Sacred Heart Hall, it is the administration building of Newman University.
Return to Ruma
Following the end of her appointment as superior of the central house, Gertrude returned to Ruma in 1923, where she died the following year.