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St. Gabriel School History

In 1925, Father J.M. Drapeau, the parish priest of Biggar, began a two-year campaign to establish a convent boarding school in town. After several letters and a personal visit to the Sisters of the Assumption in Nicolet, Quebec, Father Drapeau's efforts were rewarded.

On August 13, 1927, the Sisters arrived in Biggar. They immediately began the task of setting up and settling in. This was no easy feat for supplies were scant, if not non-existent, making the facility huge in comparison.

 

The building named L' Academie de St. Therese, measured 104 feet long by 84 feet deep. The left wing housed a parish hall on the ground-level which doubled as a lunch room for the day students. Above that was the church and sacristy. The right and back wings housed the boarding facilities.

During that first harvest season, the boarding students were few but the numbers steadily increased the end of the first year, the enrolment totaled 126 students, 53 of whom were boarders as well.

 

Not everyone was ready to welcome the Sisters into the community though.  They endured hostilities ranging from having dogs set upon them to having crosses burned in front of the church.


In spite of the fear raised by such demonstrations, the Sisters continued their mission, only to be faced with a new period of difficulty – the Great Depression. By 1938, the boarding students numbered less than 10.  Undaunted and faith-driven, the Sisters continued their work with the students.  Enrolment began to grow again and community support increased.  By 1945, the parishioners and trustees were able to offer $500.00/year as a rental fee for the facilities.

 


In return, besides teaching and supervising the children, the Sisters continued to heat and clean the Chapel, look after the vestry and altar, wash and iron the linens, light the Chapel and play the organ.

As music filled the church, it filled the school. Medals, trophies, and scholarships for singing and music were received as early as 1930 and have continued to present time. As the years accumulated so did the successes. Awards in sports, math, literature and the arts have continued to grace our students.

Regardless of the successes, or perhaps it is because of them, the Sisters considered leaving Biggar.  By 1967, the need for boarding students was eliminated by a busing system, the atmosphere of the community was supportive/and the Sisters had a calling to work again among francophone settings. Official notice of their departure was announced on June 2, 1968.

The Sisters of the Assumption left Biggar one month later. However, to quote Sister Alice Mignault, "In Biggar the work of the Sisters continues and people keep the memory of their presence vividly alive. The new school, St.Gabriel School, can point with pride to its character as a Catholic school.  Mr. Roger Martin, grandson of pioneers in the Biggar area, remembered being a boarder during the holidays for Catechism for First Communion. Later, he became the first male teacher at the school.

A few years after the departure of the Sisters, Mrs. Edna Quilichini found herself entrusted with the principalship, which she maintained for more than twenty years, with the same concern for Christian education as those that taught before her.

Divine providence sent us the people who tremendously helped the Parish School but special tribute must be paid to the Sisters of the Assumption and the lay teachers who taught at very low salaries because they understood the importance of their tasks."

The former House, which served as School, boarding facilities and parish church as demolished in 1973 and a new school, St. Gabriel, occupied in its present location. Since then, we have continued to carry on the work started by the Sisters. From meager beginnings to comfortable surroundings to present day facilities with almost 200 students, we have maintained the most important focus for our existence, our Faith and the teaching of it.

Just as the sculpture of Christ the Educator was passed in Faith from an Academy in Edmonton, to the one in Biggar, it was later passed in Faith from the L' Academie de St. Therese to St. Gabriel School. It commensurate our beginnings and graces our future. In the spring of 2002, St. Gabriel School celebrated its 75th Anniversary. 


On Jan. 1, 2006, St. Gabriel R.C.S.S.D. #23 (St. Gabriel School) entered a new era by joining St. Paul's Roman Catholic Separate School Division (RCSSD) #20. Since that time, it has maintained its legal name of St. Paul's RCSSD # 20 and has also adopted a common name of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.

Throughout the 2011-2012 school year, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools marked its 100th anniversary. The anniversary slogan was "Celebrating a Century of Faith and Learning. "GSCS currently included 50 schools; 43 elementary schools and 7 high schools located in Saskatoon and area, Biggar, Humboldt, Martensville and Warman.

 


Last update: April 2020