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Mary Gilbert Tuma, OSB

Reflection by Sister Christne Kouba, OSB
Wake Service October 16, 2014

On Sunday morning, October 12, 2014, an Angel from God’s throne, came to announce to Sister Mary Gilbert Tuma that God wanted her soul to come to the special mansion prepared for her in eternal life. We weren’t ready for her departure but she was. Here in St. Walburga’s Care Center, day after day, Sister Mary Gilbert followed a set routine by praying her favorite prayers the entire morning after breakfast until she went to Mass. She often remarked that she wanted to be ready when God would open the door and let her come in to her eternal home to be with God who was so good to her all through her life. She also was very eager to see her Mother whom she had never seen.

Sister Mary Gilbert Tuma was born on March 25, 1923 and was baptized Julia. Due to serious complications, baby Julia’s mother died about four hours after giving her birth. Her Father would have liked to take care of her and try to nurture her as her mother would have, but having her to care for and three sons along with a job, which he needed to support the family, he would have had to have the gift of bilocation. So, early on, Julia was placed into the Guardian Angel Home for orphaned children in Chicago. Growing up as a motherless child was a big heart ache for Julia and she found it hard to fit in. She always felt different. As a teen ager, from Guardian Angel Home, her Father brought her to St. Joseph Orphanage here in Lisle where she was able to attend high school at Sacred Heart Academy. This turned out to be a huge blessing for her because it was Sister Mary Borgia who was aware of her musical talent became her violin and piano teacher. Most of all, Sister Borgia was a motherly mentor who understood Julia’s background.

After graduation from Sacred Heart Academy, Julia entered Sacred Heart Convent beginning her lifelong mission as a Benedictine Sister and was given the name of Sister Mary Gilbert. Just a couple weeks ago, on September 26, 2014, we were happy to celebrate with her, her 70th Jubilee and shower her with our love and gratitude for a fruitful life of service. She was quick to share her joy with us and was pleased that God had given her a long life in our Benedictine Community.

Through the years, Sister Mary Gilbert was known to be enthusiastic about her work. Like a Road Runner, she would be seen speeding down the corridor seemingly skimming the floor with her light feet as if there were a fire behind her. She had a mission to fulfill and her intent was straight forward. Her heart was in her work and it showed. We cannot forget how she would wake up at 2:00 a.m. in the morning and start baking Altar Breads in order to be ready for her working crew of Sisters to come after breakfast to cut, count and pack the hosts to be sent to the local parishes. They would produce 70,000 communion hosts per week. For Sister Mary Gilbert this ministry was extremely important and with reverence she knew she was preparing the substance that would become the body of Christ on the altars in the neighboring parishes in the coming days.

Going back to her years in Parish Schools, she was an accomplished Kindergarten or first grade teacher. She was driven with passion to perform her best for the sake of the children. She knew how to make learning enjoyable and vital. When she was missioned to the Monastery, we remember her musical performances in the Little Theater as her students played the pieces she had practiced with them. Then, no matter how tired she might have felt, she was energized to go to the students’ homes to teach them violin or piano when the Little Theater was discontinued.

I recall how in our transition period, moving into our newly constructed Monastery which had been the former gym, she went to Sister Judith Ann, the Prioress, and asked if she could be in charge of the new, monastic dining room. That to me was a heroic request being, that by then, she was in her eighties and in failing health. But yes, she became the care taker of the monastic dining room and with vigor kept the servery spotless, made sure the food was provided, took away the left-over food, cleaned the tables, set up the center pieces, and of course, on holydays and holidays she loved to decorate and fill the refectory with feast day trimmings galore. What pride she took in an attractive environment.

God must have been pleased with Sister Mary Gilbert’s intense dedication and now has come to take her soul to enjoy the beauty of everlasting happiness. May she be our valiant intercessor as she enjoys the glorious life we all hope for. May God be praised for her gift of new life!