There are only a few churches around the world that are named after St Gilbert, who was born in Sempringham, Lincolnshire and is the founder of the religious order of Gilbertines.

Research by the Saint Gilbert Roman Catholic Church in the United States revealed that, in addition to their church, there are only two others outside the UK – one in Brazil and one in Canada. In the UK there is one Anglican church in Brothertoft,  two Roman Catholic churches, (located in Bourne and Eccles in Lancashire) and one Church of Scotland place of worship in Pollokshields, Glasgow, which also celebrate the saint.  

In the US, the church and its school are located in Grayslake, about an hour’s drive north of central Chicago. Their school has 348 students compared to 115 pupils at Sempringham primary school, which is based in Pointon. These schools are two of the only three in existence dedicated to St Gilbert; with the other being in Stamford, Lincolnshire. 

Because of the special connection, St Andrew's in Sempringham recently welcomed a group of pilgrims from Grayslake to their church, which is also known as Sempringham Abbey. This is the medieval parish church situated adjacent to the ruins of Sempringham Priory founded by St Gilbert which was the home to the only native English Saint to found a religious order.  

The pilgrims reported that they found it “an amazing and grace filled experience” and said how they enjoyed visiting the Abbey, meeting Father Neil, Interim Priest in Charge in the Billingborough group and some members of the local community. They also celebrated Sunday Eucharist in the church.

Following the connections made between the two churches, the two primary schools have now forged a collaboration. The Revd John Chrzan, Pastor at St Gilbert’s, reports that the children at the US school are fascinated by the history and connection with the saint and are keen to learn about Gilbert’s life and ministry. They are particularly interested in the fact that he lived in the 11th and 12th centuries which, when compared with their school being only 75 years old, makes it very young indeed!

St Gilbert’s in Grayslake recently held their annual Christmas music concert, presented by the students, and during the performance recorded a special “We wish you a Merry Christmas” greeting for their peers in Pointon.  You can see the video at the YouTube link below. Listen out for them shouting “Merry Christmas, St Gilbert’s!” at the end.

Please watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY-W2Vtt-34 

The image is courtesy of the Billingborough Group website.