Sr. Gabrielle Tellier
Looking weary but in high spirits, Sister Gabrielle Tellier, a beloved retired Catholic teacher, celebrated her 100th birthday June 19 with cake, flowers and balloons in the company of colleagues and friends.
A member of the Ursulines of Jesus for 80 years and a school teacher for 40, Tellier actually had two birthday celebrations that day – one in the morning at the Providence Centre's infirmary, where she lives, and another in the afternoon at the Ursulines' residence, also at Providence Centre.
Infirmary residents and members of her congregation sang for her and gave her a birthday card and a cake, which she cut in slices.
The centenarian didn't say much during the party but smiled often, confirming she was enjoying the attention.
"She is not doing too well" but agreed to attend her birthday celebrations, said Sister Ann Coster, the Ursulines' administrator.
"She does talk but we don't often get her talking because it seems to take too much energy."
Asked the source of Tellier's secret to longevity, Coster said it's her involvement.
"She has always been very active and very interested in things and I think that's what has kept her going."
Even after retirement, Tellier would visit a seniors' centre and lead Communion services there. She also belonged to a seniors' club and to a seniors' choir.
"Then when she was no longer able to do that, she did a lot of needlework and she still does her word search puzzles so her mind is actually good," Coster said.
"She can look up the words, she knows what they are; yes, she is bright still."
Coster said "everybody loves Sister Gabrielle" because she is gentle, kind and outgoing. "She is a very giving person."
Tellier, one of nine Ursulines of Jesus in Edmonton, was born into a faith-filled family of five girls and one boy in Morinville June 19, 1913.
She attended school at the convent of the Daughters of Jesus' Congregation in Morinville until her mother died at an early age.
At age 12 she came to Edmonton and boarded with the Ursulines of Jesus while attending Mount Carmel School and later St. Mary's High School.
While living with the sisters, Tellier heard God's call to join the Ursulines. Accordingly, she was sent to the congregation's motherhouse in France to discern her calling. She became a novice in August 1931 and received the name Sister Gabrielle of the Annunciation.
Tellier made her first vows Aug. 23, 1932 and returned to Alberta to complete Grade 12. She later went to the Normal School in Camrose and became a teacher.
She taught without a break for 40 years, including 19 years at St. Edmund's School, four years at Mount Carmel School and 15 years in Heisler. She also taught for two years at Mackayville, Quebec.
Tellier retired in 1974 but wasn't one to stay idle. She learned to cook and began serving others as a cook. She also used her many gifts and talents in the Church, her own community and among the poor.
A proficient piano and organ player, Tellier gave music lessons and played the organ at St. Anthony's Church for many years.
Travelling became one of her favourite pastimes, and she visited monasteries in Britain and France and family in New York.
"I thank God for giving me happiness in my religious life, a lot of satisfaction in my career as a teacher and good health," she once wrote.