Sister Gemma Golino (formerly Sister Francis Cabrini), SSND
January 22, 1924 – January 14, 2022
Sister Gemma died eight days short of her 98th birthday, in her 73rd year as a School Sister of Notre Dame
Sister Gemma was the first Canadian-born child for her parents, Peter and Rose, natives of Udine in northern Italy. Gemma’s childhood was a happy one. She was delighted to sit in her small rocking chair and sing while her mother was busy caring for her family of seven children. Gemma attended St. Emeric’s School in Hamilton. Following Grade 8, she registered at the Hamilton Technical Institute and completed a three-year course in typing, salesmanship and dressmaking. For six years she worked as a bookkeeper for a small decorating company and was self-employed as a dressmaker.
In her late teens she had been prefect of Our Lady’s Sodality for her parish. In preparing for the crowning of Mary in May, she visited St. Emeric’s School to ask for First Communicants to participate in the procession for the May crowning. At the school she met the SSNDs, who were most gracious to her. Following a retreat in Waterdown in 1945, she resolved to enter a congregation dedicated to Our Blessed Lady. Gemma entered the candidature in June 1946. During her two years in the candidature, she completed Grade 13. On reception day she became Novice Mary Francis Cabrini and professed her vows on July 29, 1949.
After graduation from Hamilton Teacher’s College, Sister Gemma taught at St. Patrick School, Cambridge, and in Hamilton at Christ the King School, St. Helen School and Bishop Ryan High School.
In the 1950s she attended summer school for Grade 2 theory at the Royal Conservatory of Music and received her Supervisor’s Certificate in Vocal Music. In 1965 she completed her B.A. degree from the University of Toronto, majoring in Mathematics. In 1971 she graduated with a Master’s degree in Mathematics-Applied Analysis Computer Science from the University of Waterloo. In those years, computers were large and lodged against a wall, using punch cards to enter data. For her thesis she wrote on the Theory of Computer Language.
At St. Mary’s High School, Kitchener, she was Department Head for Mathematics and later Principal from 1971 to 1980. She also directed the church choir at St. Mary’s Parish.
The following year, Sister Gemma participated in the ARC program in Rome, a spiritual program conducted by Jesuits for apostolic religious congregations. She was living with religious from 35 congregations and from 21 countries. She referred to this experience as “expanding my horizons, enriching my mind and touching me prayerfully.”
From 1981 to 1985, Sister Gemma was executive director of Children’s Village in St. Agatha, a residential treatment centre for children with behavioral and emotional disorders. Here she encouraged her staff to provide a consistent and nurturing living environment for the children.
Next, she was appointed as local leader of the Marian community in Waterdown.
Then it was back to Rome, Italy, where she was administrator for the Generalate community from 1988-1995. Being fluent in Italian, her next ministry was as community leader for the Italian community in Gorizia, Italy from 1997 to 2000. Through the years, Sister Gemma continued to communicate with members of the Gorizia community.
Upon returning to Ontario she lived at St. Louis Convent, Waterloo and later moved to Notre Dame Convent, Waterdown.
As a child, her parents taught her devotion to St. Anthony of Padua. She also had a special devotion to “Our Blessed Lady.” She was frequently seen at NDC with a rosary in her hand.
Due to COVID -19, visitation for the family was at P.X. Dermody Funeral Home in Hamilton. Mass of Christian Burial at Notre Dame Convent on January 20 was concelebrated by Rev. Pablito Labado, chaplain, and Rev. Dennis Noon, a former student. Only community members were present. Burial followed at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Burlington
Sister Gemma is survived by her sister, Enis Golino.
- Sister Joan Helm