A Jubilee for two: Sisters Anselma Knabe and Gabriela Martinez celebrate milestone anniversaries
FORT WORTH — Given 204 years’ worth of history, the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur (SSMN) have a rich tapestry of women who are heroes. Since arriving in Texas in 1873, these dedicated souls share God’s love with everyone they meet and always give all of themselves.
On August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, two long-serving members of the religious community’s western province were recognized for their fidelity to consecrated life and ministry to others during a Jubilee Mass held in the Our Lady of Victory Center chapel.
Celebrating the milestone anniversaries were Sister Anselma Knabe, who entered the Fort Worth congregation 70 years ago, and Sister Gabriela Martinez, a 60-year jubilarian.
Women joining the SSMNs traditionally profess vows on the Feast of the Assumption to honor the order’s patroness and model of a life well-lived, the Blessed Mother Mary.
Before friends, family, and SSMN Regional Superior Sister Patricia Ridgley, the two jubilarians renewed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience during the Mass celebrated by Father John Shanahan, TOR, parochial vicar of St. Andrew Parish in Fort Worth.
“I’ve been blessed and have met many wonderful people along the way in parishes and travels,” Sr. Gabriela told the North Texas Catholic. “Most inspiring is the willingness of people to talk about their deep longings and problems. I consider praying with people, and sharing God’s word to give them peace and hope, a wonderful gift.”
Born in Houston, Rosie (Gabriela) Martinez became acquainted with the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur after graduating high school. She entered the novitiate in Irving a few years later, taking her first vows in 1966 while earning a sociology degree from Texas Wesleyan College. Sr. Gabriela would later attain a master’s degree in theology from St. Mary University in San Antonio and a second master’s degree in spirituality from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
Over the years, she helped establish a convent in Mexico, worked in parish ministry, and, as part of a team of sisters, trained hundreds of Spanish-speaking lay ministers in the Diocese of Fort Worth.
In recognition of her service as director of Hispanic Ministry and Pastoral Services, the diocese created the Gabriela Martinez Award in Hispanic Ministry, which is awarded annually during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15).
Her numerous leadership roles with the SSMNs also included a tenure as regional superior from 2014 to 2020.
Still active, Sr. Gabriela now uses Zoom technology to meet regularly with SSMN oblates living in Mexico.
“I’m grateful to my fellow sisters and friends who supported, prayed, and listened to me along the way,” she said. “Part of the gift of living this life for 60 years is being surrounded by a community of supportive people.”
A native of Muenster, Sr. Anselma Knabe attended Our Lady of Victory College for a year before joining the SSMNs in 1953.
After spending part of her novitiate in Belgium, the young educator began teaching in schools operated by her order including Notre Dame in Wichita Falls, St. Maria Goretti in Arlington, and Our Lady of Victory in Fort Worth.
In 1977, Sr. Anselma began working at the Catholic Renewal Center where she and Amy Kruzik founded and managed the CRC Bookstore from 1985 until it closed in 2014. The bookstore was a major resource of spiritual and scriptural materials for lay ministers and the general public.
“Sr. Anselma is the most gentle, intelligent woman I had ever met,” said Rosemary Hayes, who met the administrator when she came to help with the bookstore’s computer. The two remain close friends.
Sr. Anselma’s devotion to her cat, Freddie, is rivaled only by her love for gardening, according to Hayes.
“She planted the most beautiful flowers in the courtyard at the Renewal Center and would be out there for hours,” said the founder of the SSMN auxiliary. “Even today, she’s planting and weeding the flower beds at the convent.”
Care for the earth and environment is very important to Sr. Anselma, who also advocated for ending the death penalty in Texas.
An essential part of ministry in the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Belgium-based Sisters of St. Mary of Namur continue to make a difference in the lives of North Texas Catholics.
Praised for their long history as classroom teachers, today’s members of the international congregation are engaged in health care, parish ministry, immigrant outreach, spiritual direction, and evangelization.