Sister Mary Gabriel Soong, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, 93, died on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at Villa St. Joseph, La Crosse, Wisconsin. She was in the 67th year of her religious profession.
Sister Mary Gabriel (Hsin Chen Soong) was born on December 24, 1924, to Paul Soong and Mary Lee in Shanghai, China. She was related to the Soong dynasty of 960-1279. Her father was a banker. There is still a prominent Soong bank in Shanghai. She was the youngest of eight children. At her baptism, she received the name Agatha Ann. At the age of two, Agatha lost her mother and Agatha’s father died when she was ten years old. Her brother Norbert became her guardian. Agatha attended St. Theresa Grade School in Shanghai. “I was not always a model child and the scoldings I received were good for me,” she wrote. Agatha completed her secondary education at Aurora High School followed by two years of college. During her high school and college years, Agatha made contact with several Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) who were interned by the Japanese at the convent school run by the Madames of the Sacred Heart that Agatha was attending. Agatha would often cook for the FSPA, “The sisters did not have enough to eat. I went home after classes and cooked and brought food back for them.”
I have loved you. You are mine. – Jeremiah 31:3
Having felt the call to religious life for several years, Agatha sent an application to St. Rose Convent, La Crosse, Wisconsin. She was accepted and in 1946 entered St. Rose Convent in Wuchang, China. A year later she traveled to the United States to enter the postulancy in La Crosse, Wis. Agatha was received into the novitiate on August 12, 1948, and was given the name Sister Mary Gabriel. She made first profession of vows on August 12, 1950 and final profession on August 9, 1956.
Having received a bachelor’s degree in Education and Biology from Viterbo College (University), Sister Mary Gabriel ministered as an elementary teacher for two years at St. Mary’s School in La Crosse, an instructor at Viterbo College (University) for three years, and a Junior/Senior High School science teacher for a total of fourteen years in Guam and Provo, Utah. She then went on for further study and received a master’s degree from Syracuse University in General Science. She also completed a program in medical record technology. At that time, she changed careers and moved to California where she served as a medical lab technologist at Brookside Hospital in El Cerrito from 1974-1993. She retired in El Cerrito, visiting the sick and elderly, especially at St. John the Baptist Parish, where she worshiped. Sister Mary Gabriel retired to St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wis. in 2004 and moved to Villa St. Joseph in 2010.
Community members, family and colleagues remember Sister Mary Gabriel for her sparkle and quick wit. Even though she became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1965, she continually entertained her sisters and colleagues by twisting up American idioms. “The traffic in California was ‘bump to bump.’” Her love for her profession of teaching and serving as a lab technologist flowed over to her care and kindness for the sick and elderly. She was a great cook and shared many Chinese meals with her sisters, family and friends.
Sister Mary Gabriel is survived by her Franciscan Community and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, her sisters: Mary, Therese and Catherine and her brothers: Joseph, Thomas, Norbert and Nicholas.
Since Sister Mary Gabriel requested a natural burial, her wake was on Wednesday, June 21, 2017 at 4 p.m. at Villa St. Joseph. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 22 in the Villa chapel. Burial followed immediately at Villa St. Joseph. There will be a memorial service for Sister Mary Gabriel at a date still to be arranged at St. Rose Convent, with sharing following. Coulee Region Cremation Group is assisting with the arrangements.
Memorials may be sent to Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, 912 Market Street, La Crosse, WI 54601-4782.
Provided by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration