Although it was Father Gabe’s lifelong goal to become a priest, one of his first steps on that path was a stumble: he got himself kicked out of diocesean seminary high school.
“I was told not to come back until I ‘matured,’ ” he said.
Perhaps his misadventures were just part of God’s plan because they soon landed him at a La Salette seminary and, ultimately, here at St. Ann, where Father Gabe will mark his 67th birthday on Thursday.
Born John Francis Gabriel, our associate pastor was raised on the south side of Chicago, where he met a kindly priest who would influence his future.
“I always looked forward to his daily visits with all of us,” Father Gabe said. “I don’t remember my teacher’s name, but I’ll always remember Father Henry.” Father Gabe even took Henry as his confirmation name.
Although his mother died when he was just a year old, Father Gabe’s relatives, especially his Aunt Therese, were influential in getting him and his sister into the religious life. He enrolled in seminary with six other men named John and quickly became “Gabe.” By 1973, he was Brother Gabe and working in the La Salette seminary office.
“I was in awe of the story of a mother who would weep for her erring children and beg them to reconcile to one another and to God,” he said. “Brother” became “Father” nearly 30 years ago, and he went on to serve parishes in the Midwest and Northeast. Now he spends much of his days comforting the sick alongside a dedicated group of parishioners.
“I am proud to say I am living out my childhood dream,” he said. “I hope Father Henry is proud of me.”