Memories of Sr. Gabrielle

I first saw Sr. Gabrielle just before the beginning of the 1979 school year. It was the year I entered St. Joseph’s Convent, St. George’s. I remember her purposeful stride, serious countenance, penetrating stare and substantial stature… and did she look formidable! You see, she was the Mistress of Discipline then, and certainly she looked the part.

At some point in our class’s tenure at SJC, she was gone for just over a year, and when she returned we got to know her better. She became principal some time after. When she became principal, it was as if everything seemed more meaningful – for she connected well with people. She was a natural defender of the underdog; she demonstrated respect for everyone, even when she had to disagree with you. She taught us to believe in ourselves. Sister was insightful, fair, passionate, fearless, dauntless, and the list goes on.

I think that our group was certainly blessed a bit more than most, for we not only knew her as our principal, but we also had her as our teacher. She taught us Literature, and what an exhilarating journey that was! How could we forget those days when we tried to “excuse” Mr. Rochester’s behaviour toward Jane (in Bronte’s “Jane Eyre”), only to be shaken into reality by Sister’s reprimand, “what about Jane’s feelings?” Those days were special… Gabs was the quintessential teacher. She inculcated in us a love for art and poetry. Often she would quote to us, lines from John Keats and other Romantic poets. By her life she taught us that we must be brave and strong.

As the years rolled by, visits to her revealed more of her being. I found that despite the tough shell, she was also a lullaby; she was not afraid to express her true feelings, and cried if she had to, but she also possessed a refreshing sense of humour and often her laughter was infectious. Oh she was a fierce opponent with whom to argue a point! However, she always ended that exchange with such congeniality and gentleness that you had no choice but to admire her. Sr. Gabrielle transmitted her love of God in everything that she did and to all whom she encountered. By her formation through the years, I grew to see the majesty of God in nature which is all around us. I am convinced, that she impacted us more deeply that she had ever imagined she would.

Gabs was a treasure, a gift to humanity, a light in the dark. I can still hear her saying “… the consciousness of well doing is ample reward…” Farewell, Sister Gabs, – you were the wind beneath our wings”

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