Sr Gabrielle Mason SJC died Friday, October 28 in Grenville, Grenada. Bishop Clyde Harvey presided at her Funeral Mass on Thursday, November 10 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, St George’s. Following is an edited version of her eulogy.
Cita Barbara Adelaide, Sr Gabrielle of Mary Immaculate Queen Mason, daughter of deceased Neville and Celestine Mason from the village of Munich St Andrew, Grenada was born December 13, 1941.
Loved and spoilt by her father who died at age 45, her older sister Clarice was also her class teacher and the one who exerted quite some discipline on Cita. This obviously helped in shaping the character of this remarkable Grenadian woman, Religious Sister of St Joseph of Cluny, teacher, aunt, confidant, friend, counsellor, and mother of so many who have come to love and hold her in high esteem.
At the age of four, Cita started her primary education at Holy Cross RC School. For Cita, it was a solid preparation for her entry to St Joseph’s Convent, Grenville, for the next five years where she followed the Secondary Course of Studies leading to her success at the Cambridge School Certificate Examinations. Upon completion, she returned to serve as a teacher in her childhood alma mater.
It was providential that in 1953, the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny came to Grenville in response to the need to expand opportunities for Secondary Education for women in that part of the island. Cita was among the first group of students. That thirst for knowledge and the development of her innate giftedness and character formation did not deter or distract her from her involvement in her parish as a member of the Legion of Mary, spreading the Good News of God to people in her village, a ministry of care, concern and love for people that awakened within her the call to Religious life.
That desire she expressed to her mother who initially would have none of it, but later consented “Go, go! I don’t want you to say I stopped you from fulfilling your plan” or words to that effect.
So it was that in 1964, Cita Barbara Adelaide Mason travelled to Trinidad and entered the Formation House of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, the first Grenadian from St Andrew.
Two months later, she was received as a novice and given the name Sister Gabrielle of Mary Immaculate Queen Mason.
Sr Gabrielle was an educator for practically all her life. Her pursuit of academic studies during that period equipped, enhanced, and complemented her natural flare for lifelong learning and teaching.
She passionately embraced that mission of service in education, and devoted 41 years of sterling contribution to holistic education serving at every level – primary, secondary and university.
Following her profession of first vows in 1966, she entered the then Catholic Women’s College in Trinidad and upon completion, was sent on her first mission to St Vincent as an assistant teacher at St Mary RC Primary School, Kingstown. The following year she was appointed Principal of Marriaqua, a Co-Ed Secondary School, now St Joseph’s Convent, Marriaqua, where for four years, with undaunted courage and devotion, she undertook this challenging assignment which called forth resources of her richly endowed nature.
She believed that crime, drugs, and all disorders in society have roots in poor education.
She continued to avail of professional, academic studies to further equip herself to be of greater service, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and English from the St Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies; a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Birmingham, England, with emphasis on Political Education in Developing Countries, Theology of Education and studied Creative Writing, her passion, from the University of Dublin in Ireland. Sr Gabrielle was a gifted orator, a firm disciplinarian, an able administrator, and fine scholar.
In 1982, she was recalled to her homeland, Grenada, and for two decades served as teacher and as Principal of St Joseph’s Convent, St George’s during years of political unrest and instability.
Sister’s courage and stamina, fortitude and strength were tested. During many uncertainties and changes, she kept the school and the student population on an even keel, trying in her own inimitable way to put a lid on the occasional volcanic turmoil.
With local staff and overseas personnel, innovative methods including a sixth year of Commercial Studies, collaboration of parents, the business and commercial sector, new avenues of learning were initiated.
Her love of poetry has led to several published and unpublished poems. She could be on one hand, passionately committed, and on the other hand, stubbornly resistant, strong-willed, and tough in confronting difficult situations, firm and adamant yet soft and vulnerable when challenged, but all in the service of love and the common good.
She was known to set high standards but first applied them to herself. She was a lover of good food and fine wines, the non-sparkling the better.
In the spirit of our Foundress, Blessed Anne Marie Javouhey, Sr Gabrielle in 2001 was called to accept a new challenge, having been elected Provincial Superior of the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny in the Province of the West Indies, and Chairman of the Cluny Central Board of Management of all Cluny Schools in the Caribbean. During her eight-year term of office, she worked assiduously to bring our Cluny schools under one umbrella in the spirit of collaboration and regional integration. She organised symposia, seminars, retreats, and exhibitions.
Sr Gabrielle’s contribution had not been confined to formal academic studies. She served on several religious, ecclesial, and educational committees and was honoured on the Queen’s Birthday with an OBE (Order of the British Empire).
She was a woman of deep faith who believed in the fundamental goodness of every human person.
Sr Gabrielle spent her last years with her Sisters in the Community of Mary Immaculate Queen, Grenville, first as Community leader in 2008, and then when her health began to fail, received the loving care from her Sisters, family members, doctors, caregivers, benefactors, parishioners, and welcoming visitors.
Without warning, Sister quietly slipped away from us early on the morning of Friday, October 28, 2022.