• image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Thursday, 08 October 2015 10:32

Dedicated to Jesus

Rate this item
(0 votes)

sr-gabriel-williams osu150Speaking with a nun on the first day of school moved one of Brisbane’s Ursuline Sisters so much it convinced her to join the order 50 years ago.

Ursuline Sister Gabriel Williams said she would never forget the impression of a nun at a Catholic boarding school in Armidale.

“I can remember when I went to boarding school, the first day I was there, one of the nuns engaged me as though she was really interested in me and wanted to know about me as a person,” Sr Gabriel said, with tears in her eyes.

“It was only after I entered the Uruslines that I realised that was one of St Angela Merici’s inspirations to us, was to value the dignity of each person.

“It was so strong as a small child, I was about 12 when I left home.”

The religious woman from a strong Catholic family had been destined to receive an education from the Ursulines, after her father’s experience of them in Guyra, in northern New South Wales.

“He said if he ever had daughters, he’d like them educated by the Ursulines,” Sr Gabriel said.

Not only did his two daughters go to school with the Ursulines – they also joined the order, Sr Gabriel at 18 and her sister Imelda Williams, a few years earlier.

“Dad was delighted,” Sr Gabriel said.

Sr Gabriel remembered her 50 years as an Ursuline Sister at a Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral last month.

She said young sisters like herself lived in an exciting time in the Church, at the start of the Second Vatican Council.

Following her profession 50 years ago, Sr Gabriel took up teaching work in Canberra, Armidale, and Sydney.

She was also principal at the Catholic primary school in Kingsgrove.

Sr Gabriel took her Tertianship, a common spiritual renewal period taken up in Rome by Ursuline Sisters internationally. Following the Tertianship, Sr Gabriel visited the United States to study more about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) under Fr James Dunning.

“Being a principal led me to the importance of education of parents, and I became very interested in family ministry,” Sr Gabriel said.

Returning to Australia, Sr Gabriel worked at Toongabbie and Dulwich Hill before taking up a Bachelor of Theology, at around 35.

She stayed in Dulwich Hill as part of a new pastoral community, created with consultation with the Bishops, living with three other members.

Her first entry into Queensland was working as liturgical co-ordinator at Southport parish, followed by pastoral ministry at Caboolture before working as a grief counsellor for 10 years.

Sr Gabriel is now the sacramental co-ordinator at St Stephen’s Cathedral, where she takes up the “great challenge” of directing RCIA in the parish.

Baptisms in particular have a special place in Sr Gabriel’s work, and encouraging adults to act on their baptismal call.

“It’s a real work of discernment and being in touch with the work of God’s in people’s lives,” Sr Gabriel said.
“God is extraordinarily generous and people are extraordinarily generous too.”

This article by Emilie Ng was first published in the 27 September 2015 issue of The Catholic Leader, published by the Brisbane Catholic Archdiocese.