Born in Antwerp in 1813, Louis Florent Gillet entered the Redemptorist congregation in 1833 and was ordained in 1838. He volunteered as a missionary to North America and by 1843 was serving as pastor of St. Antoine Parish in Monroe, Michigan, and caring for many outmissions.
He wanted women religious to educate girls and finding none, resolved to create some. His desire matched that of Mother Theresa Maxis Duchemin, an Oblate Sister of Providence of Baltimore. Together, the two established the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1845. When the new institution was barely underway, Gillet was falsely accused of misconduct and recalled to Baltimore.
A series of misunderstandings followed, compounded by poor communication. While he continued to minister in North America, mainly in the Midwest, Gillet lost contact with the sisters. Expelled from the Redemptorists in 1850, he maintained that the decree never reached him, and in 1855 returned to Europe hoping to confirm his membership. There the Superior General confirmed the opposite and refused any appeal.
In 1856 Gillet entered a new branch of Cistercian monks in southern France, being known thereafter as Père Marie-Célestin. He served in a number of influential posts, including Prior-Abbot of the Royal Abbey of Notre-Dame de Hautecombe in Savoy.
In 1891, Gillet learned that the women religious he co-founded had flourished and become a respected group of Catholic educators. He maintained a happy correspondence with them until his death on November 14, 1892. In 1929 The IHM Sisters were able to return his remains to Monroe.
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