Br. Gilbert Hensley, O.P. (1928-2014)
Brother Gilbert was one of my first teachers. As a teacher’s aide at St. Vincent Ferrer, he would sit in the hallway with groups of us as we read out loud. He would stop us if we stumbled and would patiently guide us through unfamiliar and difficult words. Both my sister and I say to this day that Brother Gilbert helped teach us how to read.
I recall my excitement when I was old enough to become an altar server. Brother Gilbert was strict with us – gym shoes were not allowed when we served Mass; we could not talk during Mass and we had to sit up straight. There were two small backless benches in the sanctuary. That is where we sat – on either side of the priest on seats with no backs! Yes, Brother Gilbert was one of my first teachers. But whenever I prepare to celebrate the Eucharist, I recall what he taught me about the Mass: everything associated with it is sacred, and it must be celebrated with dignity and solemnity.
– Fr. Dennis Woerter, O.P.
Gilbert Hensley was a servant of the servants of God. He wanted to serve the Dominican community and all those who were serving others as priests, brothers, sisters or dedicated lay people. Whatever personal issues or struggles he had, he sought to resolve or put aside- -which nobody can really do -- by being someone who could do good for others, serve the community and seeks the common good--to be a “brother” to others. He knew that “charity covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4,8), and Gilbert served a multitude of communities.
Whether he was at the House of Studies in River Forest (book binding, laundry), or at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish (sacristan, teacher assistant in the school), or at Blessed Sacrament in Madison (teacher assistant in the primary grades at the Edgewood Campus School), and finally at the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters’ Motherhouse, Gilbert was there to get things done, whether it was part of his job or not; he would go out of his way to see that needs were being fulfilled, whether at the workplace or in the Dominican community.
What all this meant for Gilbert, I think, is that he was creating a “home”, a place where people felt at home and enjoyed community life. Gilbert never really felt at home in his early life as he lost both parents and lived in a foster home. The home that he was looking for he found in the Dominican Order, in the Dominican family, of both friars and sisters.
– Fr. Jack Risley, O.P