Sister Renee ---Nun With A Past
Copied from the St. Louis Park DISPATCH newspaper
Thursday August 20, 1959


A full and meaningful life, brimming with contacts in the music world, overflowing with the satisfaction of training young fingers in the melodies of the masters, motivated by the desire for a religious life in the Order of St. Benedict, is a partial composite of Sister Renee, director of the Most Holy Trinity school of music.

In the quiet orderly atmosphere of the convent, located at 4029 Utica Ave. St. Louis Park, Sister Renee has scrap books and a filing system recording her family history and genealogies of both parents since the seventeenth century in Canada, and a century previous to that in France.

Sister Renee is the eldest and only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. August LaBelle. She has three younger brothers, one living in Montana and the others in Washington state. Her grandparents homesteaded a tract of land near Lake Calhoun. She was born in Minneapolis.

After entering the Order of St. Benedict at St. Joseph, Minn., Sister Renee taught music at Eau Claire, Wis., the Cathedral High School of Bismarck, N.D.


Eleven years ago, she became one of the group of Benedictines who at the request of Pope Pius XII formed the nucelus of the present St. Paul's priory in St. Paul. During her life as a nun, she has directed orchestras, choral groups, choirs, and has had much experience in private and class piano teaching.

She holds a bachelor of Music degree from the MacPhail school of music, has done graduate work at the University of Minnesota, Marquette university, Milwaukee, and the Sherwood school of music in Chicago. She has held membership in the National Guild of Piano Teachers for the past 15 years, and has been a member of the Minneapolis Teachers association for man years.

All this is the dedicated world of music in which Sister Renee walks. Her avocation is genealogy and the branches of her family tree reach out to every direction. Her grandparents, Francois and Caroline Gagne came from Quebec, Canada, and are descendants of Pierre and Louis Gagne wo homesteaded the land at the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre, Canada, in 1650.


Descendants in Hennepin County have formed an Association of 300 members, and elected officers in 1950. A family reunion is held yearly in Folwell Park, North Minneapolis, in 1953, a Tercentennial observance was held in St. Anne de Beaupre, Canada, where 5000 descendants gathered for a three day celebration.

The climax of his gathering was a Mass celebrated by Quebec's auxiliary Bishop Omer Garant and a sermon preached by Bishop LaBrie of Saint-Laurent, both descendants of the Gagnes. At this time alos, Mayor Gagne of Quebec place da bronze plaque on the ancient town church, built in 1658, to honor the Gagne family. Each year on the first Sunday in September 1500 or more descendents gather in the Basilica of St. Anne to assist at a Mass of reunion.

This year's Mass will be the 306th observance of the arrival of the Gagne family in North America.

Since 1951, bi-monthly bulletins have been issued from headquarters in Quebec to each member of the association throughout the North American and European continents. Each bulletin, printed in French, is dedicated to a different member of the Gagne ancestors giving detailed information regarding that particular branch--their place of birth, family into which they married, where they homestead, personal achievements etc. To date these bulletins have covered the first five generations. Sister Renee belongs to the 12th generation and is a descendent of Pierre.


The formal name of the Gagne Family Association is the Gagne--Bellavance group. The name Gagne, meaning to win, was changed by some members of the family in the early 17th century to Bellavance. Tis meaning, "to win" is exemplified in Vern Gagne, former University of Minnesota athlete and professional champion wrestler.

Soft spoken, Sister Renee, is a nun with a past, present and a future. Her past is the knowledge and record of her ancestors from the Fifteenth century; her present is her (illegible) interest in her walk of life, and her guture will (illegible) the growth of the past and present with immediate plans towards the registration of pupils.