Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Sr. Gilberte felt the first stirrings of her missionary vocation at 11 years. She was in a church where a missionary from Africa was speaking. He told the congregation about the African people andtheir needs, and spoke about the sad faces of the chi1dren. Gilberte made an inner promise that very moment to go to Africa to get the African children to smile.
Since a promise was always very important for Gilberte, she thought seriously of religious life as a young
woman, and then, in 1941, followed her sister Annette into the only missionary order she knew.
Believing that to enter in Canada, away from her hometown Providence, would be better for her
perseverance, Gilberte went to Quebec and spent her novitiate there during the war years.
Grand Allee, Quebec had a large printing press and Sr. Gilberte served there running the printing machines
for ten years. Because the French Province needed her skills for their printing press in Vanves, Sr. Gilberte
was missioned there and worked the presses for twenty years. Sr. Gilberte believed that her dream of
going to Africa was fulfilled in this very indirect way because of her part in the written word coming from
and going to Africa and many other parts of the world.
In 1971, Sr. Gilberte was missioned to Holy Family Community in North Providence. Because of her
mother’s advanced age and failing health, Gilberte received permission to be, as she described, ”a
presence in the house” to help her mother to be independent and to take care of herself. This Gilberte
did for twelve years. After her mother's death, Gilberte was missioned to St. Francis Community in
Roslyn, NY, for a short time and then missioned to the Infirmary at Fruit Hill where she assisted in caring
for the sisters' many practical and pastoral needs. Many who have experienced Gilberte describe her as a
”gentle breeze - a quiet, devoted presence - one who works faithfully without complaint.” Even though
she never went to Africa to make the children smile, Gilberte felt that there were many little ways in which she was able make our sick and elderly sisters smile. Gilbert’s large, loving family kept in contact with her over the years and visited her often.
Most of her life, Gilberte walked to every place she needed to go. Even after many years, when she was
able, Gilberte liked to take long walks. She believed that as a religious it was important to be a presence
in the world. Her prayer life and adoration were precious to her and she hoped that religion would
become more and more important to people in their everyday lives, not just in crisis situations.
Gilberte remembered stories of men in the trenches during war battles, crying out to God. If only they
could have this same thirst for and realization of God in other situations as well, she felt, then the Church
would be more important and alive to people. This inspiration became an intention in her daily prayer,
and we can believe that she will continue to pray this prayer now that she has gone home to God.