By Robert Lucke
Some people just simply have names that are so close to how they live and what they do. Regina Gabriel is like that. To hear her name, there is an instant thought of the Blessed Virgin, angels, and the cherubs playing harps on soft white fluffy clouds.
Fitting, considering that Gabriel's occupation is director of music and liturgy at St. Jude Catholic Church in Havre.
But with Gabriel it is not a job, it is a calling. Talk to her for five minutes and that calling comes through loud and clear.
Gabriel came to the parish 11 years ago.
"I was born and grew up in Pennsylvania," Gabriel said. "For a while we lived in New York, Massachusetts and then in 1966 moved back to Bradford, Pa."
After college, Gabriel landed a job working for a Lutheran church in Tucson, Ariz.
"That church asked me to run a lay ministry for their Stephen Ministry," continued Gabriel. "They sent me to school at Berkeley, Calif., and at that school I met Father Joe Showalter, SJ.
"I met him because Stephens Ministry crosses interdenominational lines. They had provided places for different denominations to pray at their Newman Center. It was there I met Father Showalter, SJ. At the time, I wasn't looking to come to Montana."
One year later, Gabriel was looking.
"It was time to make a change in my life and I happened to see an ad for a music director and liturgy in Havre and Father Showalter, SJ said he would love to work with me and there I was. That was in August of 1989."
Gabriel makes it clear that this was not just another job with a religious emphasis. God called her to Havre, Montana that August.
Good thing that Gabriel loves her work, for the list of what she does goes on and on.
"I help prepare the Sunday masses as far as planning the music and training the servers," Gabriel said.
She does much training or oversees the training for various parts of most religious services and helps families plan weddings and funerals.
"I help with school masses twice a month and once a month we take a grade in school and they put on a Mass at the care center," Gabriel said. "And I assist with the religious education programs when they have events. We also have ministers of hospitality/ushers. I train them or oversee their training."
And the list goes on.
"I work with and help plan and execute what happens with the prayer life of the parish," she said. "I work with the choirs and have an organist to work with and I work with the cantors. We have people delegated by the Bishop to lead prayer. I am one who trains them. It is real hard to sit here and think of all the things I do. There is a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes."
Gabriel is quick to emphasize that most all her direction comes from St. Jude's parish priest.
"Father is the big factor in this, too," she said. "He is the one that makes it happen. he is the driving force behind it."
With Easter coming this weekend, this is the middle of a very busy season for Gabriel.
"Lent is always busy, with extra services and Holy Week is the big event in the church," she said.
The time after Easter can be even more hectic for the Havre church.
"Once you get past Easter Sunday, Easter is 50 days long," Gabriel said with a smile. "How do you maintain Easter for seven weeks? That is the trick."
For Gabriel, Easter is very special.
"For me, Holy Week is my favorite time of the church year," she said. "It is a lot of work, because there are so many different services and all are different. It is the week we tell our story and remember. It is so special. There are umpteen rehearsals and thousands of details, but so very moving."
It might be her calling, but this time of year it is a pressure cooker job. Gabriel has learned how to relax in the middle of it all.
"I have a dog, Mickey Charles Mantle," she said. "I have friends and I go out to the mountains. I read. I do all kinds of things take walks and just sit in the sun or get in my car and go for a drive."
But mostly, this time of year, it is a thrill for Gabriel to hear once again, "that old, old story."
"I get to hear again my story of being loved into existence by God and that nothing, nothing is ever going to separate me from that love and that death isn't the end," Gabriel said with tears in her eyes. "Jesus rose from the dead. So will I, and regardless of what happens in my life, God is there and will always be there. When I die, life doesn't end. It changes, and once a year, I need to hear that, like this, and Holy Week does that for me."