Bro. Charles Gilbert, OMI: The Varied Ministry of a Religious Brother

By Brother Charles Gilbert, OMI,   Originally Published by the Boston Pilot



Bro. Charles Gilbert, OMI

I send you Greetings from Lowell on the shores of the Merrimack River.

About 51 years ago I made my first vows as a religious brother. Recently, a lady in a church foyer asked me “What’s the difference between a priest and a brother?” It’s a perennial question, but it’s been a while since I was asked so directly. In my answer I mentioned the sacramental ministry of the priests — Masses and Confessions, weddings, etc. Brothers can do some of that, but quite often the brothers do just about everything else to keep the places of ministry functioning.

When I saw that many questions seemed to remain on her face, I found myself using what one of my South African confreres told me of his experience traveling through the many border crossings to eventually get on a plane to Rome. When other explanations failed, the idea of a “male nun” worked. He simply told the border authorities and customs officials of all the different works and jobs that religious sisters did. When he saw recognition and understanding come across their faces he told them, “That is what brothers do, too.”

You name it and just about in any job there is, a brother doing it. I know of brothers who are doctors in the streets of Manila and the mountain villages of Bolivia. There are other brothers who are mechanics, cooks, farmers, teachers and bio-nano lab techs in research laboratories. The list could be endless.

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