Gillet the Man
Francis Louis Florent Gillet was born in Antwerp, Belgium, January 12, 1813 and baptized the same day at the Franciscan Church of St. Anthony. Although little of his childhood can be documented, it is known that education was highly prized in the family. Louis received the best that the times could provide.
In 1827, he began his classical studies at the Royal College of Liege; his religious education was pursued at the seminary in the ancient Abbey of Rolduc. In 1832, having completed his philosophy studies at the State University of Louvain, he announced his decision to enter the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists).
Gillet the Redemptorist
At age 20, Louis entered the Redemptorist House at St. Trond, Belgium. Two years later, he pronounced his religious vows, and on March 10, 1838, he was ordained a priest. During the next four years, he served as secretary to Fr. DeHeld at Tournai, Beligium, but his great desire was to join his brothers priests who had begun missions in the United States. In 1843, with Father Poilvache, Gillet departed for the United States' missions.
Gillet the Missionary/Founder
Fathers Poilvache and Gillet preached many successful missions, one of which was at St. Anthony in Monroe. The parish was to become a missionary base for the Redemptorists and its name would be changed to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Father Gillet became pastor of the church and superior of the Monroe foundation.
In 1844, Gillet met Theresa Maxis, a member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore. He convinced her of the great needs of the children in Michigan. In 1845, she left the Oblates and, with Father Gillet, founded the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In his later years, Father Gillet returned to Europe and entered a Cistercian monastery where he was known as Pere Marie Celestin. He remained a Cistercian until his death in 1892.
Learn more about Louis Florent Gillet by reading excerpts from the Gift of Fire, a chronology of Gillet's life compiled by the IHM Archives staff in Monroe, Michigan.