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Archives Sr. Gabriel Marie on the joys of adoption work

June 21, 2017

By Deacon Kevin Mastellon
Staff writer

Watertown – St. Joseph Sister Gabriel Marie Meyer never wanted to be a teacher.  She admits that. She wantedSr. Gabriel Marie to do social work. 

"What gave you the greatest joy in your varied career?" I had the temerity to ask.

Sister Gabriel responded without hesitation. "Oh, it was the adoption work,” she said. “My heart ached for those girls who had to make the decision. When they decided to surrender their child, it was the greatest act of love to give their child for adoption."

Sister Gabriel worked for Catholic Charities when Msgr. Robert Lawler was the director. She principally worked in Jefferson and Lewis Counties in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Adoption cases were plentiful; "we were averaging one a month," she said.

Times have changed and now adoptions are usually channeled through local county social service agencies, foster parent programs or private agencies.

"My greatest heartache was going with the girl to surrender her child,” Sister Gabriel said. “She cried, and I cried with her; but the joy this child brought to the adoptive parents who were so anxious.  It was a win-win." 

Sister Gabriel was responsible for the due diligence. She interviewed and counseled the young girls "who were definitely incapable of taking care of a child" and examining the prospective adopting couple.

She looked at the couple's religious background, their financial ability, their suitability as parents, their commitment to marriage and parenting.

"Over the years I believe I only had two adopting couples who split-up," she said.

The North Country Catholic published this autobiographical sketch in 2012 on the occasion of her 65th anniversary as a Sister of St. Joseph:

Friday, the 13th of November, 1925, what a lucky day for me! I was born the third child to John and Anastasia (Marilley) Meyer. We lived on a farm outside the village of Croghan and were members of St. Stephen's Church.  I worked as a secretary for three years before entering the Sisters of St. Joseph Community.

A degree in Education from the College of St. Rose in Albany and a Masters in Social Work from St. Patrick's School of Social Work, Ottawa, Canada followed.

Her ministry included teaching, "but only for a while," administration at St. Patrick's Children's Home, Catholic Charities and as pastoral associate at St. James Parish, Carthage, St. James Parish, Gouverneur and St. Martin/St. John, Port Leyden/Lyons Falls.

Sister Gabriel Marie was recognized by Catholic Charities as its Caritas Award recipient in 2010.  The Caritas medal is awarded to the individual who "makes a significant difference in the lives of the people of the North Country."

At the dinner marking the presentation Bishop Terry LaValley said of Sister Gabriel, "she lives the charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph of love of God and love of neighbor so generously."

Now retired at 91 years of age and living at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Watertown. Sister Gabriel says, "God has blessed me with a joyful, fulfilling life in His service."

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