By the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word
Mother Mary Gabriel’s life might be summed up in two words: God and Truth. It is through this union that she brought forth the best of life in herself and in others. This order in life left its impression on the mission in which Mother herself chose always to seek God and His goodness and truth in His light. This life was not only efficacious to all that where touched by her charity, kindness and joy but also manifested to all life’s eternal structure as she chose to live a life for others in the imitation of Christ. Physical sufferings were part of her daily life ever since she was a young religious Sister. She cared greatly for the sufferings of others and sought to help all that she could. She would not “leave a stone unturned” to help find a solution if possible. Her heart of love for others would not allow it. Mother Mary Gabriel, our Foundress, will be ever present to us and to others as the love of God never fades and His faithful ones help show us the way in which to love, in Charity and Truth. The following is the obituary that was published in The Birmingham News on July 28, 2017. Reverend Mother Mary Gabriel Long, Foundress of the Religious Community, Sister Servants of the Eternal Word, Birmingham, died on Sunday, July 23, 2017, at the age of 89. She will be dearly missed by her religious family and by all who knew her, for she was given a rare gift from God of inspiring people by her gifts of wisdom, intelligence, humor, and her great love of God. Mother Mary Gabriel was born Florence Marie Long on September 18, 1927, in Jackson, TN, to James Oliver and Nell “Nellie” Mae (Legg) Long. After high school, she joined the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN, and served as teacher and principal in 13 schools, including St. Rose Academy, Birmingham, AL (while she was principal there, St. Rose was the first private school to integrate in Birmingham); St. Cecilia Academy, Nashville, TN; St. Henry’s School, Nashville, TN (Principal); Overbrook Grade School, Nashville, TN (8th Grade); and Mt. de Sales High School for Girls, Baltimore, MD (first Dominican Principal). While she was at St. Rose during the turbulent sixties, Mother Mary Gabriel was elected as co-chairman of the Formation Committee in preparation for the Chapter of Affairs, to which she was a delegate. During this time she was elected Vicaress General of the Congregation and served for six years. In 1986, she was invited by Mother Mary Angelica, P.C.P.A., to work with her on a project in Pennsylvania for single-parent families. In 1987, Mother Mary Gabriel founded the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word, Birmingham. As she wrote, “St. Francis and St. Dominic, examples of poverty and learning as well as their heroic obedience to the Pope and to the Magisterium of the Church, have been chosen as the patrons of the Sister Servants. The unity of their hearts in Jesus Christ and their loving devotion to his Immaculate Mother typify the unity, love and zeal that gave impetus to and sealed their friendship. They inspire us how to teach the faith by the holy witness of their lives. We must be convinced that personal holiness is necessary in order to be an effective teacher of the Catholic Faith. It is not possible to teach the Catholic Faith without love, because charity is the greatest of God’s commandments.” Mother Mary Gabriel established Casa Maria Retreat House, which offers retreats and catechesis in the Catholic faith within the context of beautiful liturgies and Eucharistic devotion. Retreatants come from all over the United States to take part in these retreats. Mother Mary Gabriel was also deeply devoted to the message of Our Lady of Fatima, zealously promoted Her “Peace Plan” for the world, and encouraged the First Saturday Devotions. Mother Mary Gabriel is survived by her brothers and sisters: Anna Mae Coleman from Springfield, MO; Charles Reid Long from Kennesaw, GA; Martha Nell Bryant from Jackson, TN; Mother Assumpta Long, OP, from Ann Arbor, MI; and James Owen Long from Portland, OR; as well as numerous nephews and nieces and their families. In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Reverend Mother Mary Gabriel, S.s.E.W., may be made to the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word, 3721 Belmont Road, Irondale, AL 35210. Following are excerpts from Father Thomas O’Flanagan's homliy at Mother's funeral Mass, which was held at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham on July 29. Father O'Flanagan is a chaplain in the United States Navy. "The Beatitudes are the fulfillment of Christ, the joy we can experience both here and in the life to come, because it aligns us sufficiently with Christ to push all other distractions away so that we may be faithful to Him in all things… The Beatitudes are about seeking constantly for truth, beauty, and goodness, in everything that we do, that we think, in the way we interact with one another. Our Lord gives us the strength necessary to do that. "…Mother reflected [The Beatitudes]… she sat on the mountain top, and she herself said to Almighty God, 'I turn myself over to You.' She knew at the age of six that she wanted to be a religious. She told one of the [Dominican] Sisters that she wanted to be a Little Sister of the Poor. Now I don’t know if this is great marketing, but the Sister said, 'No, the Little Sisters of the Poor can’t take you because you’re too tall.' So Mother believed her. They [the Sisters] set up a curriculum of studies… she went to Saint Cecilia’s [Dominican Sisters of Nashville, TN], and eventually followed religious life in that path. "As a dedicated person, she always said, 'What is the most beautiful, the most truthful, what is the best thing to do for others?' … She lived a hidden life, and she wished it to be so, so that she never drew attention to herself but only to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart. Her dedication was always to others… She was about Christ in all things, about joy, and about love of the Church. "When we think about Mother’s love, we think about how she noticed the smallest of things. She always thought of others. She always thought about, 'What is the best? I see the potential in that individual. It may take a little while for me to coax it out of him, but I’m taking the opportunity,' and she set forth the conditions necessary to do so. "Through her discernment, she prayed and said, 'There is a void here, and I believe that, with St. Dominic and St. Francis, we can have a contemplative/active community that will provide for retreats, provide for the education that we sorely need in this world for our beautiful Catholic Faith.' … It must have been extremely frustrating for Mother to see - especially one of the greatest sins we have right now is bearing false witness - from people who claim to be Catholic but are not living the Faith publicly, people who slander the Church. But we have many encouraging things. We have good holy leaders, we have good holy priests. We have things like the Sister Servants, the Dominicans, we have Magnificat, FOCUS, FORMED.org. We have some tremendous opportunities in this world so that we can reignite the hope that she saw in her life, which was to communicate that love and will of almighty God so that we too can sit on that mountain top and say, 'I will exemplify the Cross.' "I firmly believe, and I told Mother this many times: that she was a victim soul, she was suffering meritoriously for others, for poor souls in purgatory, and I believe that she was suffering for the graces to be showered upon the community. I know that God was merciful to her, especially when she met Saint John Paul II and he said, 'I will bless you and [pray] you will be 7,000 through the world.' "And this beautiful gift [Mother’s witness] that they have, the Sister Servants… Now they are entrusted with a great responsibility as are most of us - to be able to say to almighty God, 'I know that I have been given that example. I have no excuses. I know that response that I have must be for Christ and for Christ alone, at all times, and His Eucharist, together with Our Lady and protected by His grace, so that I may empty everything that is not of Him, that there would be no daylight that would divide me from His will.' "Late last night, as the Sisters were gathered around Mother as she was lying in repose in the chapel, under arguably one of the most beautiful crucifixes that I have seen… the shadow was cast upon her casket, she was surrounded by flowers, and that was the perfect summary of her life: Our Lord looking down upon her who had been so faithful to Him. This is a person who we need to always remember, the qualities that she had. "When we received the phone call at 10:04, …that Mother had passed, I immediately shifted from praying for her to [praying] to her. "Now this is not an effort to canonize Mother, but I firmly believe that Mother is a holy, holy, holy leader, and I ask Our Lord to show His Mercy as Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, Dominic and Francis, Saint Therese the Little Flower, Tarcissus, and all the Saints to whom she was so close, that they would bless her as she has blessed us, that they would mercifully guide her and Our Lady present her to our Lord Most High. "'Well done, my good and faithful servant.'