Biographies

Sister M. St. Gabriel Mooney, MM

Born: June 12, 1908
Entered: October 15, 1928
Died: January 26, 1998

Sister Mary St. Gabriel Mooney, died at 9.10 a.m. Monday, January 26, 1998 in the Residential Care Unit of the Maryknoll Sisters Center. She was eighty-nine years of age and had been a Maryknoll Sister for sixty-nine years.

Norah Mooney was born in Kilmaine, Ireland on June 12, 1908 to Patrick Mooney and Brigid Tighe Mooney. She studied in Kilmaine National Primary and Secondary School. After completing her secondary education, she worked in the Kilmaine Post Office for one year. She came to the United States and after a short time entered Maryknoll on October 15, 1928. Norah was given the religious name of Sister Mary Saint Gabriel. She made her First Profession on January 6, 1931 and her final profession exactly three years later. Both ceremonies were held at Maryknoll, NY.

Sister St. Gabriel was assigned to work in Hawaii in 1943. Through the forty-seven years she spent in Hawaii, in Punahou, Nuuanu, Waikiki and Honolulu, she reached out to numerous people from various walks of life including nonbelievers, Catholics and lapsed Catholics. Sister listened to people, shared the teachings of the Church with them and supplied them with religious reading material relevant to their needs. As she approached retirement age, she had an active apostolate and visited people in nursing homes, hospitals, as well as doing home visiting. Her telephone contacts were extensive. Health concerns finally brought Sister Saint Gabriel back to the Maryknoll Sisters Center in 1991 at the age of 83.

To Sr. Mary Naab and other friends who lived with Sister St Gabriel in Hawaii, she was always known as the “Saint”. Of course, it was easier to say “Saint” than Sister Saint Gabriel. But she was also a “Saint”, a very human kind of “saint”: wise, perceptive, funny and a wonderful friend. She was sensitive to people and genuinely cared about them and their growth in the love of God. She had a wonderful sense of humor that saw the positive side of just about any situation in which she found herself. Her love of reading transformed her writing and much of her conversation into a lilting form of poetry.

Saint’s friends were countless.

Saint’s “office” was the kitchen table at the Convent. Every day at that table, she offered hospitality, a listening heart and an encouraging word. Friendships blossomed, grew and endured with Saint. She discovered the art of “telephone reassurance”, long before social services for the elderly institutionalized that art!

Her gift for a witty turn of phrase brought many a chuckle and laugh to lighten hearts. She was the provider of dinner for the Sisters at Nuuanu over a long span of years, and could turn out fine lemon pies with three inch meringues. One year when the Catholic Social Service Board, including a consulting psychiatrist for the agency, came to the Convent for their Annual Board Meeting, the anticipated three inch meringue fell flat as a pancake. Undaunted, Saint announced that with a psychiatrist in the house, the pie had simply had a nervous breakdown!

In the later 1940’s, when Hawaii’s garbage trucks came up Nuuanu Avenue, the valiant Hawaiian women riding in the “gondolas” of these trucks would be decked out in all the leis that had been thrown away the night before. Saint would call out, as if it were a great parade, “Here come the floats!” She did this with humor, but also with compassion for the “garbage ladies” who had to do such heavy and often unpleasant work.

When one or another of the social workers or catechists would go whirling out the kitchen door, off to work, she would say, “May the wind be always at your back for your journey,” reminding us that our life is a journey! She knew Shakespeare well, and loved his works, often framing her greetings with a pertinent quote.

After almost fifty years in Hawaii, Sister St. Gabriel rather dreaded the idea of returning to the winters and the cold of New York at the Center. But after she actually came back to the Center, she was content and spoke often of the kindness of  all who helped her in Assisted Living Area on Third Floor. Her many friends continued to write, phone and occasionally come to visit. She loved to be hospitable on those occasions when her friends did come to visit and she was appreciative of all the ways in which the staff helped her to welcome them.

We  express our sincere sympathy to Sister’s family. We also welcome Fr. James Drew, a long time friend of Sister in Hawaii, presently stationed in Rockville Center, who will preside at this Liturgy of the Resurrection as we celebrate and thank God for the life of Sister St. Gabriel.