Sister Gabrielle Laberge
“… Give them their allowance of food at the proper time.” (Luke 12, 42)
November 18, 2016, Sister Gabrielle Laberge,
in religion Marie-Jean Marc
went home to God.
She was 96 years old and had been professed for 72 years.
Born in Sainte-Martine, Quebec, Gabrielle was the youngest
of the 12 children of Banarbé Laberge and Laure Dulude.
Gabrielle’s childhood was happy and fulfilled in her family. Her father, hard-working, loving, proud, and a man of sound judgement, was mayor of the Paroisse de Sainte-Martine, founder of the Caisse Populaire and a Cooperative Hatchery. He was a discreet person, and skilled at surrounding himself with knowledgeable and competent men. Her mother, loving and conscientious was a pious woman who gathered her family in the evening, after supper, for the family rosary. Her welcoming attitude towards a homeless man who regularly came looking for “food and money”, and towards a peddler who could rely on shelter and accommodation, marked Gabrielle for life.
She spent her first three years of school at the local school before becoming a boarder at the Convent in Ste-Martine and then later continued her education at the École Normale de Valleyfield, all institutions headed by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. Following these studies, she taught for two years at the Jardin d’Enfance, run by the Grey Nuns of Beauharnois, and a year at the local school.
She would later say that her desire for religious life was “almost always” within her. The inspiration to fulfil her call, came from her experience at boarding school, at the Ecole Normale and also through the influence of her sister, an SNJM who visited annually, as well as by her aunt and some cousins. She became an SNJM postulant in January 1942, made her first vows in February 1944 and her final profession in August 1948. She was a teacher from 1942 to 1971 and then became a principal from 1971 to 1980.
In 1980 she took a well-deserved retirement, which began with a sabbatical year in the Plateau Mont-Royal, part of the city of Montreal, where she lived with three other SNJM Sisters. At the same time, a new career was opening up to her: social involvement. She would become a pastoral animator and would be involved with disadvantaged families and single mothers.
At one of these meetings, in 1987, she met a mother whose son had AIDS. Later, she would meet Julien Levasseur, who was interested in this cause and founded the first home for AIDS patients: les Hébergements de l’Envol. She was involved in different ways: receptionist, listening to those who were benefitting from the services, helping in the kitchens, fundraising, being Julien’s assistant or replacement, at times, secretary, responsible for volunteers and pastoral care … Always ready! To be closer to her work, she moved to Résidence Marie-Rose-Durocher.
Speaking about herself, she said: “My life with the SNJM’s has been marked with graces, with divine favors from the Lord, by numerous calls from the most destitute, and with strength from Above to overcome the inevitable difficulties.”
“Give them their allowance of food at the proper time.” (Luke 12: 42) was a key phrase that guided Sister Gabrielle’s life.
In 2008, she left Résidence Marie-Rose-Durocher and active life and moved into Maison Jésus-Marie, where the last years of her life would be enveloped in a ministry of prayer. Sister Gabrielle was ready to marvel at the Lord face to face.