June 16, 1926 – January 21, 2023
Sister Martha Anna Wachtel (formerly Sister Cecilia Teresa) died on January 21, 2023 at the age of 96 in the 74th year of her religious life.
Sister Martha was born on June 16, 1926 in Brunswick Center, New York, the daughter of James and Mary Ellen Wachtel. She graduated from Catholic Central High School in Troy, New York in 1944. Sister Martha entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on February 11, 1949, pronounced her first vows on August 15, 1951 and her final vows on August 15, 1956. Sister Martha earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music from The College of Saint Rose and her Master’s degree in Liturgical Music from The Catholic University of America.
Sister Martha was a woman of great sensitivity, compassion, wisdom and love. She had a wonderful sense of humor, a zest for living and an ability to put anyone at ease with her warm, welcoming smile. God, family, music, nature and the culinary arts were her lodestones. She was able to blend each into a seamless, vibrant tapestry of ministry enriching those whom she served in the dioceses of Albany, Syracuse and Los Angeles.
From her childhood experiences on her grandparents’ farms, Sister Martha developed her love for nature. The country life with all things pastoral (especially cows) had a deep impact on her spiritual development. She strove to impart that love later in her ministry at St. Peter’s in Troy, New York where she provided her city-bound Brownies with trips to the country.
At an early age, she was introduced to the joys of music through piano lessons. Her passion for teaching all things musical: piano, organ, glee club, marching band, choir and liturgical music was a thread that wove itself throughout her life and provided others with an entree into the beauty of music.
Sister Martha had a keen knowledge of the decorative, nutritive and useful faculties of plants. She could be seen every June at The Priory collecting wild strawberries, sampling as she was picking. Her milkweed jam from the same locale was legendary. Only Sister Martha knew the right ratio of bees to milkweed and the proper slant of the sun for harvesting. She loved cooking and canning and provided many a tasty meal to her sisters in Utica, New York where she served as the convent cook for nine years.
For Sister Martha, family was paramount. One of her prized possessions was a quilt she made comprised of different patches of material from her family’s life. She loved to narrate stories of the family members memorialized and was particularly proud of the piece from an apron her grandmother had fashioned.
Finally, Sister Martha had a deep and immense love of God and God’s mother Mary. She had great devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, often recounting that she received her religious vocation from her, entering the community on her feast day. Sister Martha is remembered, loved and mourned by her two siblings Peter Wachtel and Mary Ellen Carabis, her seven nieces and nephews, her friends and community members, especially Sister Augusta Ann Burgess. She was predeceased by her brother James and her dear friend Sister William Aloysius Fitzpatrick. Her wake is at St. Joseph’s Provincial House, in Latham, New York on Tuesday, January 31st at 7pm, followed by her funeral on Wednesday, February 1st at 11am. It is open to the Sisters of Saint Joseph and Sister Martha’s immediate family.
Contributions in Sister Martha’s memory may be made to the Office of Mission Advancement, St. Joseph’s Provincial House, 385 Watervliet Shaker Rd., Latham, New York, 12110 or you can donate online.