Remembering Sister Anne Gabrielle Gagnon (1931-2023)

Edna Gabrielle-Anne Gagnon was the second oldest of the four girls born to Ida and Côme Gagnon. Her sister Lorraine was two years older, and her sister Yvette was four years younger. Helene—the youngest of the four— was born several years later, and completed the family. Sister Anne Gabrielle remembers a happy childhood in a warm and loving French-Canadian family in Springfield, MA. Her paternal grandmother had great devotion to St. Anne, and her Aunt Edna, a Sister of the Presentation of Mary, was missioned to Canada.

The Gagnons lived in a French-Canadian neighborhood and shared a three-decker house with Sister Anne’s grandparents and aunts, who lived on the first and third floors, respectively.

Sister Anne Gabrielle’s mother enjoyed spending time with her four daughters. A real homemaker, Sister Anne Gabrielle's mother made the girls’ clothing and cooked tasty meals for the family. She also taught herself piano, and the family enjoyed music together

The family later bought a home in the Glenwood section of Springfield. Sister Anne recalled growing up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, where the children played games in a dead-end street and had fun together.

Because of the depression, Sister Anne Gabrielle’s father lost his job as an electrician, but he later secured work at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford, CT. He worked long hours and had a lengthy commute, working hard to support the family.

At St. Thomas Aquinas Grade School in Springfield, Sister Anne Gabrielle's teachers were Holy Cross Sisters from Canada. Sister Anne Gabrielle always liked to help, so she often worked in the convent kitchen.

A friend of her sisters spoke about the SNDdeNs, so Sister Anne Gabrielle decided to attend Sacred Heart High School. There, she took a business course where she met Sister Alfreda, who was the business teacher. Sister Anne Gabrielle attributed her SNDdeN vocation to Sister Alfreda, and she cherished her advice that, “Trusting is better than loving.”

Sister Anne Gabrielle recalled when she heard God’s call. Sitting on her bed as a high-school freshman, she had a powerful sense that God was calling her to religious life. She was ready to answer that call, but she acquiesced to her Aunt Edna’s suggestion that she wait two years before entering.

For one year, Sister Anne Gabrielle worked for a bookbinding company, and then entered in 1950—the Holy Year. As one of thirty-six postulants, Sister Anne Gabrielle entered Notre Dame at Waltham, MA. Several of her fellow postulants—including her—were a bit older and more mature than those who had just graduated from high school.

Sister Anne Gabrielle took classes in elementary education from Sister Mary Bertha. She taught at St. John’s in Worcester, MA, and St. Patrick’s in Lowell, MA, before being sent to Connecticut, where she taught at St. Maurice’s, New Britain, CT. She also taught at Sacred Heart, Springfield, MA and St. Teresa’s in Providence, RI.

Sister Anne Gabrielle earned an MA in Business and then returned to her Alma Mater to teach Business. She then was missioned to East Catholic High School in Manchester, CT, where she taught Business for several years.

In the 1970’s, Sister Anne Gabrielle answered a call to work with adult Catholics and train them as catechists. She studied Catechetics at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. She also earned an MA in Catechetics at Fordham University in New York, NY.

Sister Anne Gabrielle returned to Connecticut. For 14 years, she was the Director of Religious Education at St. Bridget Parish in Manchester, CT. The religious education program began after the regular school day classes ended. Sister Anne Gabrielle worked closely with Fr. Sheridan in a team ministry. Despite the long hours, she loved this work .

After leaving St. Bridget’s, Sister Anne Gabrielle put her business skills to good use by working in the office at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Britain, CT. She continued to exercise her religious education and pastoral skills in Woodbridge, CT. Here, she worked in religious education and taught a Confirmation class.

Having served many years in parish ministry, Sister Anne Gabrielle answered the call to province service. From 1996 through 2004, she served as province secretary for the Connecticut Province. This role involved responsibilities as the Executive Secretary for the Leadership Team, which included orienting each new team to the resources of the province office and assisting them in myriad ways throughout their term.

With a cheerful smile and a steady hand, Sister Anne Gabrielle responded to multiple requests for information, kept the province calendar and directory up to date, and offered much practical help to Sisters and Associates.

As Sister Anne Gabrielle approached her retirement, she came full circle, using her many varied and excellent skills. She continued her education through workshops and seminars.

In her retirement, Sister Anne Gabrielle continued to offer her gifts to the community at Julie House in Windsor, CT. She enjoyed her ministry of prayer and frequently reached out to friends and family through notes and phone calls.

As she reflected on her 70 years in Notre Dame, Sister Anne Gabrielle rejoiced in the goodness of her God and lived each day with courage and wisdom.

On January 21, 2023, Sister Anne Gabrielle Gagnon went home to her good God.

Sister Anne Gabrielle's Ministries

1953-54 St John School, Worcester, MA
1954-55 St. Patrick School, Lowell, MA
1955-61 St. Maurice Jr. High School, New Britain, CT
1961-64 St. Rita School, Hamden, CT
1964 Sacred Heart School, Springfield, MA
1964-65 St. Teresa High School, Providence, RI
1965-67 Sacred Heart High School, Springfield, MA
1967-71 East Catholic High School, Manchester, CT
1971-72 Fordham University, NY (Student)
1972-76 St. Bridget Parish, Manchester, CT
1976-77 St. Mary School, Waltham, MA
1977-86 St. Bridget Parish, Manchester, CA
1986-88 St. Thomas Aquinas High School, New Britain, CT
1988-92 Assumption Parish, Woodbridge, CT
1992-93 St. Mary Parish, Windsor Locks, CT
1993-94 Blessed Sacrament Parish, East Hartford, CT
1995-96 TEK Industries, Manchester, CT
1996-2004 Province Secretary, Windsor, CT