Valeria Catherine Gerschutz was born on September 19, 1925 and was baptized the following day at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in New Bavaria, Ohio. She is one of 12 children (nine daughters and three sons) of John A. and Florence Schondel Gerschutz.
She attended Markley School, a one-room “little red school house” in Putnam County and gained her religious education from her family. She said, “In the eighth grade I was attracted to the Tiffin Franciscans when they came to teach CCD summer school.” In the fall she began her high school studies at the convent high school in Tiffin, Ohio.
At the beginning of the second semester of the 10th grade, Valeria entered St. Francis Convent on January 5, 1942 and, as Sister Mary Gilberta, made her first profession of vows on August 12, 1944 in this very chapel in the presence of the Most Reverend Karl J. Alter and Mother Mary Cecilia Wonderly.
Sister Gilberta spent the early years of her religious life ministering to the Sisters as a housekeeper and seamstress in the Franciscan missions in Ohio at Peru, Reed, Landeck, Carey, Edgerton, North Auburn, New Washington, and St. Anthony Villa, Toledo.
With a special love for the sick and elderly, Sister Gilberta and Sister Gertrude decided to take the written exam being offered that would lead to licensure as practical nurses. They were granted licensure by waiver with examination on April 14, 1970. It was several years later that they mused, “Since we passed the LPN exam, let’s try for our GED.”
Sister Gilberta was rightly excited and proud, as she records in her individual annals, when she received her Ohio Certificate of High School Equivalence on February 2, 1978.
A love for learning is confirmed in her records showing hundreds of hours of continuing education largely in the areas of nursing and elder
care. She also had a great desire to strengthen her spiritual life so she could minister humbly and simply with others. The beauty of nature stirred her heart and she enjoyed flowers, especially making bouquets and she delighted in being outside.
Loving care for elderly men and women has been the special gift Sister Gilberta showered on many residents and family members during her 33 years of ministry at St. Francis Home where she served as nurse aid, LPN, floor coordinator, volunteer, and special praying partner. Reflecting on this gift given to her, she notes: “My hands are Christ’s hands – for Him now to do the work He needs done for His people.”
Sister Gilberta was a missionary at heart as is evidenced in her prayer and collecting cancelled stamps giving the proceeds to her chosen missions. She loved to visit and to have visitors and truly enjoyed the activity opportunities offered by St. Francis Home. She especially liked to have the Sisters visit her. At one point she noted that “the example of the Sisters I live with” helped her grow spiritually and personally.
Love for her family threads through the years of Sister Gilberta’s life. She cared for her sister Angela during the last year of her life. With the family she grieved at the deaths of her parents, three brothers (Clem, Albert and Albinus) and five sisters (Angela Niese, Ida Phillips, Mary Agnes Gerschutz, Bernardine Ellerbrock and Bernetta Pletcher). Most recently, her prayer and concern focused on her sisters still living: Helen Phillips of Hamler, OH, Elizabeth Nowicki of Toledo, OH, and Rita Maag of Ottawa, OH.
Sister Gilberta was welcomed home by Sister Death early in the morning on May 29, 2010 at St. Francis Home where she had been a resident since Nov. 2, 2005. We rejoice with Sister Gilberta as now she sings will full voice and grateful joy, the song she has chosen as the theme for her funeral, “My God and my All?”
Sister Patricia Froning