Remembrance of the Life of Gabriel Mary Hoare SL
Loretto Sister Gabriel Mary Hoare died early morning May 1 at the Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary in the company of the nursing staff. Gabe, as she was affectionately known, was 93 and had just celebrated the 70th year of her Loretto commitment.
This remembrance of Gabe includes select portions from Gabe’s autobiography:
“I was born the fourth child, the third girl, into a working-class family in the year of the ‘great crash.’ Although we were poor, I don’t remember ever being hungry or cold. My parents, Patrick and Mary Breen Hoare, were very devout Irish Catholics—both parents Third-Order Dominicans (my father joined the Franciscan Third Order in his later years.) All five of their children went through St. Dominic’s Grade School in Denver.
“My first acquaintance with the Sisters of Loretto was as a freshman student at Holy Family School. In my sophomore year I transferred to St. Joseph High School because it was close to where my grandmother lived and she was advancing in age. I had no hopes for going on to college so had chosen secretarial studies rather than college preparatory courses. But with the assistance of a scholarship I was able to go on to Loretto Heights College. At St. Joe’s I was encouraged to participate in dramatics and speech activities, and having done well there I proceeded to major in speech and drama at the Heights.
“It was during my last year in college — in fact, during a discussion of the graduation ceremonies — that I decided to enter the Sisters of Loretto … novitiate in October of that same year. The realities of that decision did not fully dawn on me until I arrived at Loretto. For two months I was completely miserable but promised myself and my counselor that I would not consider going home until after Christmas. [As I write this account in 1976], I have just spent my 26th Christmas as a Sister of Loretto!
“Ours was the first class to go into the ‘Juniorate,’ but since there were nine of us who had come with bachelor’s degrees, we were missioned in late August of 1954. I was sent to Los Angeles where I could teach at Holy Family Elementary School, South Pasadena, and attend Immaculate Heart College. There, I was beginning a degree in art, attending classes on Saturdays and during summers. [At Immaculate Heart Gabe studied serigraphy under IHM Sister Corita Kent.]
“These were incredibly happy years. I loved California, soaked up my new experiences in art, (I had no formal art education except for one watercolor class in college) and had the great joy of preparing a First Communion class. I couldn’t believe that it could happen, but at the end of my second summer at Immaculate Heart, I received a new assignment: I was to be the art teacher at Nerinx Hall High School in St. Louis.
“The first year there, (1956-57) was difficult. I was teaching senior girls who had had two years more exposure to art than I had had. It’s not that I was so young — I was 27 — but I had been teaching first- and second-graders, and the girls let me know that I was treating them similarly. Besides art, I taught sophomore religion and was director of dramatic activities.
“The pattern of Saturday classes continued at Webster College where I was continuing to accumulate enough hours in art to enter Notre Dame University. I spent five summers at N.D working toward the M.A. in art and continuing to participate in theater activities through the Genesian Club. Each summer I was able to take parts in one or two plays. This for me, was an ideal set-up: It was a total immersion in art and theater. The summer I received my master’s degree, 1962, my sister received her master’s in education. I received a change of assignment: I was to be the Head of the Art Department at Webster College.
“At Webster I served as chairperson for seven years, teaching design, serigraphy and art education. These were exciting years [1963-70] both for the college and for the congregation. In the college curriculum, innovation was a primary focus and significant changes were taking place in the student [body, which was growing rapidly with males admitted for the first time and many more students of modest means enrolled.] The second Vatican Council was causing great changes in the Church. Being in this place at this time was probably one of the most important educational experiences of my life.
“In 1968 I was granted a leave from the college to study. With the assistance of an NDSL [National Direct Student] Loan I enrolled in the School of Environmental Design at the U. of California at Berkeley — Jan 1 to Aug 1. There I did studies in architecture and education under the direction of Dr. Christopher Alexander, a British environmental planner. My interest in how our environment affects our learning led me to the U. of Michigan four years later to work with another architect, Dr. Leon Pastelon. This time [my] focus was on older people. I received a certificate in gerontology, December 1972. [The first half of 1973] I traveled … spending a few weeks in each of our retirement centers, visiting retirement communities and nursing homes in order to acquaint myself with the lifestyles and preferences of older people. his enabled me to make some evaluation, giving thought to the betterment of the environments and educational opportunities of older people.
“When I returned to Webster, I was hoping to work half time in the Art Department and half time developing programs for older adults. As it worked out, the art department needed my full-time commitment. The following year, 1974, [a faculty position] of Assistant Dean for Academic Advising was created. Since I …enjoyed working with students in an advisory capacity, I nominated myself and was accepted.”
Gabe continued as Assistant Dean for 10 years while also chairing the Art Department. Meanwhile she trained teachers, worked with older adults and explored art as therapy. She founded and coordinated Webster’s Downtowner’s Program for senior adults and the Generation to Generation Program, which promotes mutual learning for young and old. Gabe taught art at the St. Louis City Juvenile Detention Center and sang with Webster’s University Choral Society. A 1999 ceremony honoring Gabe’s contributions to Webster included this summary of her 45 years: “Sister Gabe’s generosity of time and talent made her presence felt throughout every aspect of campus life. … Although Gabe’s academic credentials and achievements are truly impressive, she is so much more than the sum of her accomplishments. … Gabe brings beauty and gentleness to everything she does.”
Gabe gave a talk in 2001 to her 50th reunion classmates at Loretto Heights. Gabe’s conclusion brings Gabe’s work history full circle:
“After resigning from Webster University, I became a member of the Loretto Administrative Staff and worked with the retired and aged members of our Community for about 10 years. While I was engaged in that work, my office was on the Loretto/Nerinx Hall campus. In 1994, I was asked if I could teach a painting class in the high school; the next year a design class; and then a Humanities class — only one class a year. But when the Coordinator of Aesthetic Education suddenly moved to Colorado, I was asked to apply for her position. In this full-time work in the high school where I started so long ago, I am enjoying the position probably more than any other. Fifty years have prepared me handsomely for it, with a greater confidence and a deeper and much mellower view of the education process.”
Gabe continued at Nerinx until 2007 when she retired again. She remained in St. Louis, engaged in her many volunteer activities, entertaining at the Garden House and on Catalina in University housing, and then moved in with her good friend Carol Colligan September 2002. In June of 2013 she moved with the help of many friends into the Loretto Motherhouse Infirmary, where her beauty and gentleness never dimmed.