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    Our dear departed

    Gilbert Van Gansberghe

    Gilbert Van Gansberghe

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    Jozef Dehandschutter smallGilbert Van Gansberghe (1925-2020)

     

    Born in Zottegem (B) on December 7, 1925
    First vows on September 8, 1944
    Ordained Priest on December 8, 1949
    Missionary in Japan and Belgium
    Died in Torhout (B) on November 6, 2020, at the age of 94.

    The last thing we heard from Fa­ther Gilbert was his calm breathing. He could neither drink nor eat. From time to time, his lips were wet. What was left of him was his breath. A quiet breath of someone who had accomplished everything. He put his spirit and breath of life into the hands of the Father, who had given them to him.
    Father Gilbert followed the ordi­nary path of CICM Formation of his time. In 1943, he did his Novitiate in Zuun, and then spent two years of philosophy, and four years of theology in Scheut and Leuven, respectively. During his fourth year of theology, he was ordained a priest, not in August with like his classmates, but in December, upon reaching the canonical age of 24.
    Before leaving for his mission in Japan, he was sent to the Catholic University of Leuven (1950-1952), where he obtained a licentiate in political and social sciences.
    After a year of language studies in Nibuno, he began his missionary and pastoral work in 1953. Father Gilbert was a man of direct parish pastoral care. The latter was the main thread of his life, which was interrupted only twice, for his studies at the Osaka University to obtain a master’s degree in Eco­nomics (1961-1963) and to serve as Superior of the Province of Japan (1989-1995).
    Even in his apostolate, he fol­lowed the ordinary path: first as vicar in Ikuno and Toyooka, then as a parish priest in Nibuno, with the second task of teaching Japanese to the newly arrived confreres. He was so gifted that he was always one step ahead. He knew what he wanted.
    From 1964 to 1989, Father Gilbert served as parish priest in the “big” parishes served by Scheut: Okayama, Matsubara (Tokyo), and Himeji. He searched for baptismal candidates from house to house by motorcycle with zeal.
    He was not only a pastor but also a born manager. He was not afraid of making radical decisions and managed money with a secure hand. In Himeji, he co-founded the local department of inochinodenwa, a permanent telephone counseling service, and provided space for it in the church itself.
    In 1989, he was appointed Pro­vincial Superior. He would have preferred to stay in the parish, but he always remained in a good mood, even in difficult situations of conflicts. The confreres testify that they never heard Gilbert speak ill of anyone.
    After his term as Provincial Su­perior, Gilbert was called by the Bishop of Hiroshima to become a vicar at the cathedral. For 12 years and with great motivation, he ful­filled this task and bore fruit. He meticulously mentioned the people he had visited and those who were candidates for baptism.
    In 2007, a young Indonesian confrere took over his duties. At the age of 82, Father Gilbert let go of the reins and returned to Nibuno, this time to rest.
    In 2008, he returned perma­nently to Belgium. He was first a member of the community of Kortrijk for 9 years and then joined the community of Torhout since 2017. He had always been up to date but suddenly became hard of hearing. Fortunately, he could use his computer until the last days and keep in touch with the whole world.
    When he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, Father Gilbert was entirely overwhelmed by it. He died peacefully and without much pain at home in Torhout. He accomplished every­thing, but his work is not finished.
    May the Spirit that inspired and made of him a fiery missionary live on in each one of us. ■

    Werner Lesage

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