NOTE: Due to adverse weather conditions expected for December 16, the funeral has been moved to Saturday, December 18, with Wake at 10:00 am and funeral Mass at 11:00 am.
To watch the live-stream of the funeral, go to the Dougherty Funeral Home’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/dfhduluth.
Sister Melanie Gagne, OSB, age 96, died on December 11, 2021, in her 77th year of vowed monastic life. She was born May 7, 1925, to French Canadian immigrants Andre and Lumina (Laviolette) Gagne in Proctor, Minnesota, a railroad town west of Duluth. The third of eight children, she was named after St. Thérèse of Lisieux, whose canonization occurred ten days later.
She grew up in a warm and loving family where she learned strong moral and religious values and a sturdy common sense. She attended St. Rose Elementary and loved her Benedictine teachers, who introduced her to religious life and encouraged the slow flowering of her vocation. After graduating from Proctor High School in 1943, she spent that wartime summer working in the trainyards as hostler’s helper, operating the railroad turntable and cleaning and refueling the engines. In September, she entered St. Scholastica Priory as postulant. On becoming a novice in 1944, she was given the name Sister Melanie. She made her triennial vows the next year and her perpetual vows in 1948. In 2020, she celebrated her diamond jubilee of 75 years.
Sister Melanie gave back to the young what she had been given as a child. From 1946 until 1990, she taught elementary school students and is remembered as a kind, loving, and inspiring teacher. She taught at St. John’s School in Duluth’s Woodland neighborhood and St. Timothy’s School in Chicago, and for ten sunny years at St. Thomas the Apostle in Phoenix. Returning home, she served as principal and teacher at St. Jean and St. Lawrence schools in Duluth and at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Cloquet, then as a full-time teacher at Assumption and St. Leo schools in Hibbing. She loved being involved in parish life, singing in the choir and working in liturgy, and being part of St. Leo Parish’s Befriender Program.
During her summers she attended classes and earned a BS in Elementary Education from The College of St. Scholastica (1959) and a Master’s in Religious Education from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles (1966).
In 1990, Sister Melanie turned 65 and was ready for a new challenge for, as she said, “I was still green and full of sap.” She completed the Clinical Pastoral Education program at St. Mary’s Medical Center, became a certified Catholic chaplain, and served the residents of the Benedictine Health Center (now Benedictine Living Center-Duluth) for ten years. Retiring again at age 76, she continued to volunteer at the Benedictine and Miller Dwan Hospital, and was the Community’s sacristan.
Sister Melanie will be remembered for her beautiful smile and for the way she lived fully in the present moment, whether playing cards or praying. Getting old held no fear for her. On her 90th birthday she said, “Ageing is a blossoming time, a time of transformation. There is time to spend in prayer, reading, and learning new things.”
Sister Melanie was preceded in death by her parents; her brothers Rene Joseph, Robert Lee, and Alfred John; and her sisters Marie Patricia Gagne and Irene (Gagne) Graham. She is survived by the Sisters of St. Scholastica Monastery, her brother Rev. Ronald Gagne, her sister Mary June (Gagne) Jaeb, and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Wake and Morning Prayer (10:00 am) and funeral Mass (11:00 am) will be held Saturday, December 18, 2021, in Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel at the Monastery, with Father Ronald Gagne as Presider. Interment will be in Gethsemane Cemetery. Arrangements by Dougherty Funeral Home. Memorials are preferred to St. Scholastica Monastery.