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Tribute paid to Sr Maria, the ‘flying nun’

Sr Maria Garland SJC

On Saturday, September 29 a Memorial Mass was held for the late Sr Maria Garland SJC, past Principal of St Gabriel’s Girls’ RC School, at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help RC Church, San Fernando.

Parish priest Fr David Khan officiated and his very inspirational homily highlighted the way we have lived in the past and the manner we live in the present time are all interdependent, and will certainly determine the legacy that we will leave behind in the future.

In attendance on this occasion were the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, the congregation to which Sr Maria belonged, as well as past and present teachers of St Gabriel’s, alumni, benefactors and friends.

Linda Belmontes, retired Principal (Ag), who worked with Sr Maria for a 15-year period delivered the tribute. In it Sr Maria’s sterling qualities were underscored.

She was remembered as a humanitarian, visionary, an exemplar par excellence and above all a strict disciplinarian. Her love for humanity was exemplified in the many impoverished school families whom she adopted as well as ‘Granny Carmichael’, a lonely old woman Sr Maria personally took care of financially and otherwise.

Her innate desire for perfection will long be remembered by many past Ministry of Education officials whom she courageously confronted on many occasions demanding the best teachers for her school.

As a visionary, she was one of the first primary school principals to introduce specialist teachers, a factor which produced outstanding success stories for St Gabriel’s over a number of years.

The many challenge trophies won by the school in Social Studies, Drama and Music competitions bore testimony to the astute leadership Sr Maria displayed throughout her meritorious career.

Those present were treated to a bit of humour on learning that Sr Maria was nicknamed ‘The Flying Nun’ because of her driving prowess even though she got her driver’s license late in life.

Tribute was also paid to Sr Maria in song. Fantastic and professional renditions were delivered by Turon Nicholas, a past student, who sang ‘How Great Thou Art’ and Michelle Dowrich who rendered a deeply spiritual and emotional version of ‘Ave Maria’, a hymn which Sr Maria loved dearly.

This Memorial Mass was indeed reminiscent of the unique individual that Sr Maria was. She has undoubtedly left a lasting and indelible legacy in the field of education that not even time can erase. May she rest in peace safe in the arms of her Creator whom she loved unconditionally. – A former teacher