Fr. Lawrence Maria Gabriel (81/56), fondly called Gabiri by fellow Jesuits, passed away at 8.15 a.m. on 29th May 2021, within hours after the demise of Fr. Maria Jeyaraj. As the death of Gabiri was also COVID-related, the two funerals were held simultaneously at Beschi Illam, Dindigul, strictly following the Corona protocols.
Gabiri hails from Maravankudieruppu, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari Dt. He grew up in a Catholic atmosphere thoroughly inculturated in the Tamil language and culture.
He joined the novitiate in Beschi Illam, Dindigul, in 1964, at the age of 24. During his Philosophy studies, his involvement in the parish ministries at Shembaganur parish was marvelous; he was generous and committed to this ministry. It was during this period that he started composing devotional hymns in Tamil.
He was ordained a Priest in 1974, and the long list of different types of work he was engaged in over the years is quite impressive: he was Retreat Director in Beschi Illam, Dindigul, Superior of Arul Kadal, Chennai, Superior and Pastor in Oriyur, Vocation Promoter in Beschi, Socius to the Novice Master, Superior and Teacher in St. Mary’s, Dindigul, Headmaster in Viragalur, Pastor in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Madurai, Minister in Beschi, Dindigul, Spiritual Guide in Xaveriana, Tuticorin, Team Leader in Thozhamai Illam, Kanyakumari, and Campus Minister in LTI, Madurai.
Gabiri was not only a prolific writer, good poet, inspiring preacher, motivating teacher and compassionate pastor, but also a gentle companion. He was a humorous person, bringing laughter and cheer to all those who sat around him.
During his last years in Beschi, Gabiri spent time writing, teaching co-workers and doing spiritual ministry in the campus. Visitors entering Arrupe Bhavan could not miss Gabiri sitting outside his room with a pile of books on a table. He would stop reading, look up and cheerfully greet the visitors. It is God’s will that he was called back to the eternal company of the Lord in these pandemic times.
Williams Christopher, SJ