Celebration of Sr. Gabriella's Eternal Yes

Our dear Sr. Mary Gabriella passed into eternity on July 16, 2015. This past week we celebrated her life and the gift she was to us, praying for her and her family. Below are the words Sr. Mary Leonora, provincial superior, addressed to the community at the close of her funeral.

“There is one thing I ask of the Lord; for this I long: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life” (Ps 27), so prays the psalmist and so prays the disciple and beloved of Jesus Master. 

In these weeks we have celebrated perpetual profession and profession jubilees, and today as we pray for and remember Sr. M. Gabriella Tubick in this funeral Mass, we celebrate as it were her eternal profession, that eternal union with Jesus Master that was her goal since the day of her first profession on June 30th, 1959. 

Sr. Mary Gabriella was born on July 27th, 1933. Today is her birthday; she would have been 82 years old – born and buried on the same day of the year. Sister would have been the first to find that significant and to enjoy it. In fact, she entered the Congregation on the feast of the Maternity of Mary and entered the embrace of God, to see Him face to face, on the feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel. These things are not mere coincidence, but all part of God’s loving plan for sister. Sr. Mary Gabriella was very devoted to God’s plan for her. In fact one of her favorite scripture verses was, “Thy will be done.” Once when she was interviewed and asked to share her vocation story, she confessed, “I always wanted to do what God wanted.” And that is how she lived her life. 

In that same interview, Sr. M. Gabriella tells the story of her mission assignment to Pakistan. Mother Paula called sister to her office one day and asked if she would be willing to go to Karachi. For some reason, Sr. Gabriella understood Caracas and thought, ooh South America – that sounds exciting – and she said yes. It was only later as she drew nearer to her departure date that she realized she was going to Pakistan and would not be learning Spanish, but Urdu! She was surprised to say the least, but not disturbed. With her characteristic nonchalance she said, “Oh well, if God wants me in Pakistan that’s fine too.” She embraced her later illnesses with that same disposition. The will of God had a high priority in her life. 

In her letter asking admission to first profession she writes to Mother Paula that all her co-novices are discussing what name they will ask for, but that she can’t think of any. The only thing that is important to her, she writes, is to be admitted to profession and belong to the Lord. So she leaves the choice of the name to Mother Paula, who gives her Gabriella, the angel of the Annunciation – another connection with Mary and with that beautiful docility to God’s will: “May it be done unto me according to your will.” 

Psalm 23 was her other favorite Scripture and in reflecting on the connection between the psalm and her life, she says, “I never felt alone. I have always felt God with me.” In the last months when I would sometimes encourage her to spend more time with the community instead of remaining alone in her room, she would answer me, “but I am not alone.” It’s hard to refute that! So then I would try the approach, “but the sisters like to see you and have you with them.” 

This is not to say that Sr. M. Gabriella was a recluse; that she was not! She was both very private and very sociable, an unassuming person who never wanted to “bother” anyone. While she seldom talked about herself, she loved to hear about others and be informed of all the latest news. She especially liked to talk with the younger sisters and those in formation. She also had a great sense of humor, even mischievous, often a tongue in cheek kind of humor. She had a luminous smile and a catchy laugh. And, of course, we all know that she loved sweets, sometimes securing them away for the days when there would be none. 

Sister accepted people as they were without trying to change them. Did Sr. M. Gabriella have her faults and weaknesses? Of course she did, just as each and everyone of us have ours. For one, she could be very stubborn…, but once she understood that something was the will of God she would embrace it. She was also very detached from possessions. Sr. M. Assumpta told me that when sister was last transferred from Los Angeles to Boston, her entire belongings fit in one suitcase, a small bag and a box. 

Sr. M. Gabriella was a teacher in our St. Paul House of Studies (I was one of her students); she was a linotypist, an evangelizer, author, editor, missionary, sister and friend. Sister was also a great ping pong player before failing health deprived her of that possibility, and in a letter to Sr. Joan Mary before she entered she asks if she could bring her tennis racket with her. Purple was her color and the Lord even provided purple flowers for her funeral. She was a faithful Daughter of St. Paul who sought to live her vocation in all its fullness. 

First and foremost though, Sr. M. Gabriella was a spouse beloved of Jesus Master. He chose her among many; He called and she followed; He formed her and sent her out; He gave her a share in His own sufferings and she generously accepted them. Nothing was able to separate her from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Now He has taken her to Himself as He promised: “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may also be.” 

Life is not ended, it is changed. This is our faith. Sr. M. Gabriella, as we pray for you we ask that you pray for us and intercede for the needs of the Province, the Congregation, the world. Continue to work for vocations who will be filled with your same desire to live Christ and give Christ to the world. We miss you; your sister, Sr. Paulyn, misses you, but we rejoice with you. Help us to reach the goal of our eternal profession and union with Jesus Master. We love you and thank you. All of us.

Photos from Sr. Gabriella's funeral.

A little bit about Sr. Gabriella, written by Sr. Anna Maria Parenzan, Superior General:

Sr. M. Gabriella entered the Congregation in the community of Boston on 11 October 1957 at a relatively mature age. She was quickly admitted to the novitiate, which concluded with her first profession on 30 June 1959. Immediately afterward, she finished her studies and learned how to operate the linotype machine. Her expertise at proof-reading enabled her to make an important contribution to the publishing sector and, in fact, finding typographical errors became something of a specialty for her. For many years she felt it her duty to read the books printed by our Boston typography and give the sisters in the editorial department a list of corrections to be made in future reprints.

            In 1968, Sr. Gabriella was sent to Lahore, Pakistan. She joyfully welcomed this call to the missions but unfortunately her sojourn there did not last long because she came down with a serious form of jaundice. After a short time in Australia, she returned to the United States in 1972.

            The cultural training Sr. Gabriella had received in her family and honed in the Congregation allowed her to dedicate herself at different periods of her Pauline life to teaching the province’s young women in formation, but the majority of her time was spent in diffusion and other forms of evangelization in the book centers of Boston, Cleveland, Anchorage, Chicago, Honolulu, Charleston, St. Louis, New Orleans and Los Angeles. She also served one term as superior of the Anchorage community.

            In 1982, Sr. Gabriella pursued specialized studies in library science and put the fruit of her training to good use by reorganizing and running our Boston community library for several years.

            Her letter to Maestra Ignazia Balla, dated May 1964, in which she requested admittance to perpetual profession, reveals her heart and her commitment to observing the religious life well. She wrote: “With the help of the Divine Master, I want and I promise to be his faithful daughter and to strive to conform myself to the will of God as revealed through my superiors and our Constitutions.” Sr. M. Gabriella remained faithful to this promise throughout her life.

            For the past few years the state of her health was a cause for concern. In 2002, she underwent surgery to remove part of her right lung. The result was satisfactory and when she returned home Sr. M. Gabriella was able to resume her apostolic activities. She was asked to help the sisters in the Province’s development office in Boston in the search for funds to support the Pauline mission. She contributed to this work above all through correspondence with the circumscription’s benefactors.

            But Sr. M. Gabriella’s lung problems continued to worsen. Her breathing became more and more labored and she was obliged to take an oxygen tank with her wherever she went. But in spite of this, she never lost her serenity or her sense of humor. Although she was no longer able to play ping pong (her favorite game), she nevertheless tried to remain self-sufficient, offering the other sisters words filled with wisdom and the example of interior strength.

            In these last days, her sister, Sr. Paulynne, a Notre Dame Sister stationed in Africa, was due to arrive in Boston but Sr. M. Gabriella was not looking forward to this visit because she did not want her sister to see the reality her health situation. The Divine Master accepted Sr. Gabriella’s request by hastening the hour of her call to heaven, but not before allowing her one last taste of her favorite sweet in anticipation of the “sweetness” of eternal life awaiting her in heaven.