Mrs. Gilberte Côté-Mercier would tell us: “If you became someone in life, it is because of your parents.” And she had a great deal of veneration for her father and her mother.
and Rosario Côté
Gilberte Côté-Mercier was born of very Catholic, just, and virtuous parents. Her father, Rosario Côté, met his future wife four years before he married her. She was a very pure young girl who learned about marital obligations only at the time of the engagement. She kept this naivety all her life. In the 50's, she told her daughter, upon seeing women so badly dressed go by in the street: “These bad styles will lead us to great sufferings.” When we see families destroyed, divorces, suicides, etc., we can but admit that this prediction of Gilberte Côté's holy mother has unfortunately been realized. If like Mrs. Côté, women had preserved their sense of modesty and their purity by decent clothing, these great misfortunes would have been avoided.
It was without a doubt to protect the virtue of both that Rosario Côté abstained from keeping company with his future wife during the four years preceding their marriage: “I will come back only when I will be ready to marry you,” he had told her. And he returned. Like a bird prepares its nest to receive its young, in this manner Mr. Côté wanted to offer his spouse a well-established home. He became a shoe manufacturer.
Rosario Côté, 26 years of age, and Josephine Gariepy, aged 25, were married on June 26, 1907, in the church of the Immaculate Conception in Montreal.
The Good Lord gave them a first born son who was baptized under the name of Jean-Baptiste (John the Baptist). At birth, the child was in good health, but after a time, he began to lose weight and become weak. The doctor could not understand it.
Mrs. Côté, a great devotee of St. Joseph, went to the St. Joseph's Oratory with her son to consult Brother Andre (beatified by John Paul II), a miracle-worker, who miraculously cured the sick. But Brother Andre did not cure Jean-Baptiste; instead he asked Mrs. Côté to offer to God her son, her first-born. It was a big sacrifice for the young mother, but she accepted it. The next week, the little angel flew to Heaven.
Was this a sacrifice asked by God of the mother to grant to her daughter a special mission? Nothing is a coincidence in the Divine Plan. And the name of John the Baptist is striking when we know that the funeral of Mrs. Côté-Mercier took place on the feast of Saint John the Baptist.
Mrs. Rosario Côté (Josephine Gariepy) was handicapped in her knee. One day, she had gone to confession at the Marian shrine of Cap de la Madeleine, to the good Father Frederic (beatified by John Paul II). She complained that her handicap prevented her from going to Mass in the morning. The Saint encouraged her to continue assisting at Mass, and he cured her knee.
|Gilberte at 9 months|
Marie Joséphine Gilberte was born on May 25, 1910, the birth date of Saint Padre Pio, (canonized last June 16). And she went up to Heaven (this is our hope) during the octave of the canonization of the holy padre. She had the same harsh character as Padre Pio when it came to scourging wrongs, of condemning injustices and immodesty.
Born in the month of Mary, she was baptized in the church of the Immaculate Conception, in Montreal. Mary Immaculate was her patroness and protectress since her birth. In 1970, when the first Pilgrims of Saint Michael were consecrating themselves to Mary, according to the spirituality of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Gilberte Cote was granted the name of “Gilberte of the Immaculate”, since those consecrated to Mary take the name of the patron of the church where they were baptized.
In 1910, at the time of Gilberte Cote's baptism, Louis Even was a teacher in this same parish of the Immaculate Conception. God was preparing the future.
|Gilberte at the age of 6|
Gilberte had a second brother, Rosaire. He was a great collaborator in the Movement, as long as he lived. Rosaire left this earth in 1963 at 51 years of age. He had one son, Michel, born in 1939, the year of the founding of the “Vers Demain” Journal. Aunt Gilberte was Michel's godmother; he had a great veneration for her. He also was and still is a great supporter of the Work of “Michael”.
Since the age of four, Gilberte received piano lessons from a friend of the family. The child had a great deal of musical talent.
Already, at six years of age, she would put little stones in her shoes in a spirit of sacrifice in order to help Our Lord save souls.
|At her First Communion|
The education she received at home was enriched in grade school, from the first to the seventh grade, under the teaching staff of the Sisters of Jesus and Mary (founded by Blessed Marie-Rose Durcoher), in the parish of St. Stanislas de Koska. And then by the daughters of St. Marguerite Bourgeois, of the Congregation of Notre Dame at Mont Ste. Marie, from the eighth to the tenth grade.
Afterwards, she attended Marguerite Bourgeois College, founded by Mother Saint Anne-Marie for whom Gilberte Côté had a great deal of admiration. This college, founded in 1908, opened the door to higher education for young girls, who followed their university courses at Marguerite Bourgeois College, and the University of Montreal awarded the diplomas. Being a Bachelor of Arts and a graduate in philosophy and literature, for six years she took courses in politics and social sciences at the University of Montreal. In those days, it was a lot of studies for a young girl. Before 1908, young ladies did not attend the university, in order not to be turned aside from their principal role of wife and mother. Teachers and nurses received their education in regular schools and in hospitals, under the direction of the religious.
Gilberte was very intelligent; the top of the class, confirmed her classmates. We ourselves, who lived with her, were able to note the superiority of her intelligence, her talents, and her virtues.
When she finished her studies at Mont Ste. Marie, the teacher had asked her: “Will you have the courage to abandon your studies, Gilberte?” The former repeated these words of the good religious to her father. Without saying another word, Mr. Côté went to Marguerite Bourgeois College to pay in advance for her studies. Few fathers of families could do this at that time.
|As a young girl|
In the yearbook of activities of Marguerite Bourgeois College, it says of Gilberte Côté:
“Gilberte Côté, president of the Notre Dame study group: Harmony! Here is the rule of all her actions; this discipline leads her to cultivate the sciences, the arts and music. In the sciences, she knew success in the university exams. Over there she represented the college brilliantly... Often, after serious study, you would find Gilberte at the piano... She `proved' — contrary to prejudice — that scientific accuracy and an artistic temperament can be harmonious, and enrich each other...”
In rhetoric, Gilberte Côté was decorated with the medal offered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs from France.
She also held a music license from Dr. Robert Schmitz's Music School in Chicago. She would have made it her career, if she had not feared to lose her soul in the center of the worldly limelight.
Her good father had offered her a baby grand piano of high quality, an excellent piano signed by a great artist. For her, this was a treasure, but she made a sacrifice of it and left it silent for many years, in order to sacrifice all her time for the Movement. Only on Christmas and on New Year's Day would she give us the pleasure of playing a few numbers. Even at Christmas 2001, she still gave us this small pleasure.
Gilberte Côté and her study companion, Eliane Lefebvre, were invited to compete against the boys in an oral debate at the University of Montreal. Gerard Fillion, who would later on become director of the newspaper “Le Devoir”, was one of the participants in the debate.
The young ladies had prepared themselves well; they had asked the advice of a lawyer, and they carried away the palm of victory, to the great displeasure of the boys, who, in those days considered it to be a great humiliation to be beaten by girls. It had only been for a few years since girls were accepted at the university.
Mr. Rosario Côté attended the oral debate. He was proud of his daughter, but he did not compliment her so as not to awaken pride in her. He contented himself with telling her: “It took a lot of work to arrive at this victory.” Gilberte highly appreciated the prudence of her father who wanted to give her an excellent training.
When she was 20 years of age, her father offered her a trip to Europe. She refused, and asked him instead to make her a gift of the ”Theological Works of Saint Thomas Aquinas”, which allows us to see the height of her vision.
One phrase of the Angelic Doctor guided her life: “The perfection of wisdom is not in the intellectual line but in the line of love.” Her reflection was this: “I am going to hell with my intellectual baggage, if I do not use it to serve others.”
On the occasion of a reunion at her alma mater, she had repeated this phrase by Saint Thomas to her companions who were asking themselves if the degrees from Heaven were higher for cultivated people than for others. The intervention of Gilberte Côté had stopped their verbiage cold, but the nuns employed in the kitchen applauded.
As we have said, Mr. Rosario Côté was a shoe manufacturer. We were, in 1930, at the beginning of the Depression. He said to his wife: “I barely make a penny per pair of shoes. I should lay off some employees, but I cannot do it; they have to, like me, assure the daily bread of their families.”
Like all businessmen, Mr. Côté was approached by the bankers. He said to his wife: “I do not understand what the bankers want from us; there is something crooked in it.” Which made Gilberte Côté say later on: “If my father had lived, he would have understood Social Credit and he would have helped us. He could already see that there was something crooked in the banking system.”
Suddenly there was a bereavement. Her good father, upon whom she could lean, died suddenly, on November 25, 1932. She was 22 years old. Her mother, Mrs. Josephine, was inconsolable. Gilberte was obliged to see to the funeral arrangements. “It was at this moment,” she said, “that I understood what it was to have a father who took all responsibilities and on whom we could lean.”
Two years later, Mr. Côté's brother, an associate in the shoe factory, had borrowed money from the bank, and he found himself in the position of having to file bankruptcy. Fortunately, Mrs. Rosario Côté's part had been protected. She utilized her income by purchasing apartment houses. Miss Gilberte would go collect the rent for the apartments each month. This was during the heart of the Depression. She had to return three or four times to obtain a small $5 from the tenant families. She would come out of there, her heart crushed. She would say to herself: “I have taken the bread from their mouths.” “The five dollars burned my hands,” she avowed. But, if she had not acted in this way, she would have lost these houses, and the poor would no longer have had a roof over their heads. What a horrible dilemma!
She met Father Alexandre Dugré, a Jesuit, who was trying to come to the help of the numerous unemployed. He was sending them to Abitibi to work in the colonization effort. Taking to heart the salvation of the poor, Gilberte Côté offered to help Father Dugré. Her mission in this work consisted of gathering funds to send the wives of the colonists to join their husbands in Abitibi. But, afterwards, the ladies wrote to her, “Our situation is worse in Abitibi than in Montreal. In Montreal, we were in misery, but here, we are starving.” Miss Côté went to show these letters to Father Dugré, and she stopped her activities for this work.
But, how to come to the assistance of the poor who were more and more numerous? There were no old age pensions, no family allowances, no welfare, no unemployment insurance benefits, etc. For those who did not have farms, it was abject poverty.
The light was explosive in her mind when, one evening, she attended a meeting of landlords from Montreal, where each one was lamenting not being able to be paid for their apartments. One participant, Mrs. Louart, presented very interesting propositions in the midst of the others. Gilberte Côté went to sit next to her. Mrs. Louart invited her to her home that night, and she explained Social Credit to her. Gilberte Côté returned home after the evening, running, such was her enthusiasm. Finally, she had uncovered what she was looking for: the solution to the problem of poverty. She understood that it was only an artificial problem. The production system furnished food in abundance in Canada, as in other countries; the stores and warehouses overflowed with products, even in the hardest years of the Depression. But all these misfortunes were caused by the outdated system of distribution: the bankers' debt-money system!
These bankers took over the monetary system. They create the money of each country, and they lend it to the governments and to individuals with interest. They are putting everyone into debt. When they decide to have their loans reimbursed, and not to give out more, they take money out of circulation, provoking in this way the economic crises, bankruptcies, and unemployment. The worse swindle of all times! The people are starving before the abundance of products that they themselves produce. What could be more illogical! What could be more barbaric! What could be more inhuman!
Miss Côté found more information in J. J. Caldwell's book “Money, what is it?” In December of 1936, she was invited to give a conference. Her subject was, obviously, Social Credit. Her conference was greatly appreciated and understood. The newspapers gave it a good review.
Social Crediters, disciples of Louis Even, having read this report in the newspaper, could well see that it pertained to Social Credit. They invited Gilberte Côté to a meeting held by Louis Even, in the east end of Montreal in February, 1937. She went, accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Rosario Côté, and her brother, Rosaire.
They were delighted to hear Louis Even, a true teacher, explain in such a logical manner and so clearly the solution to the economic crises that had been raging for eight long years across the world, and that was causing so much misery among the people. All three, each in their own way, became great collaborators of Louis Even.
Gilberte Côté told herself, that night, and she repeated it to us often in her life: “I went to the university to enlighten my mind with the light of great men and to find the solutions to the problems of the time, and I found nothing. When I heard Louis Even, I said to myself: `Here is a teacher'!” A few days before leaving for the hospital, she had confided to me that the years she liked the least in her life were her university years.
Even in those years, the Marxist influences were beginning to infiltrate among the professors and students at the university. This spirit of revolution made its way among the great. Gilberte Côté did not let herself be carried on the winds of Marxism. On the contrary, she fought it with all the strength of her Catholic Faith. She had a clear understanding of the situation.
At 26 years of age, young, full of talents, cultivated and financially secure, Gilberte Côté left the world of music and science to henceforth follow the evangelical path of self-giving for the love of the poor.
Mrs. Rosario Côté invited Louis Even to come to give a conference on Social Credit in her large living room on St. Joseph's Boulevard. The first two meetings took place in March of 1937 at two-week intervals. The best friends of the family were invited: priests, Fathers from different communities, who received charitable donations from Mrs. Cote, lawyers, doctors, and people from other professions, 75 people each time, and not the same ones.
Louis Even began his meetings with the recitation of the Rosary. He clearly explained Social Credit, so that all understood him perfectly. From that time on, Louis Even gained the full collaboration of the Côté family.
|Juliette Lavigne, the first companion of Gilberte Côté. In the back, Mrs. Rosario Côté. Congress of Drummondville, 1965|
In January of 1938, Louis Even, with family commitments, a wife and four children, putting himself totally in the hands of Providence, and on the charity of Mrs. Côté, left his employment as supervisor at the Garden City Press printing company in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. He traveled across the country, begging for his meals and places to sleep in the families. Nevertheless, never did he nor his family lack necessities.
Being fairly comfortable in these times, Mrs. Côté rented a house for the summer in Labelle County. It is therefore in this place that began the great apostolate of the Côté family with Louis Even in favor of Social Credit, without any other goal but to free the poor from their misery.
During the day, Gilberte Côté, accompanied by Juliette Lavigne, looked for places to hold meetings; they announced them on leaflets, and distributed them door to door. She herself delivered lectures; the people were won over and amazed.
But the politicians were at bay. They put all their efforts into destroying, as they went along, that which they were building with so much dedication. An ecclesiastic even went to see Mrs. Côté, the mother, to tell her to pick up her daughter. What a scandal, a girl that gives conferences! Mrs. Côté cried. But providentially after this visit, on the same day, without knowing what had happened, a man came to Mrs. Côté's home to tell her how much her daughter enlightened the crowds on the cause of poverty by her brilliant conferences, and that she rekindled in them hope for a better future. Mrs. Côté answered her visitor: “You are sent by heaven.” And from that moment on, she did not let herself be impressed by lies pronounced against her valiant daughter.
The speakers were well received in Ferme Neuve, in Mont St. Michel, and in many other places; the halls were full. They were understood, and apostles raised up to follow them. But in Mont Laurier, a political stronghold, it was another matter. Miss Côté organized a meeting for the evening in this small town. She had retained a hall. She had made leaflets to announce it, and they had distributed them door to door. Some politicians went to bribe the landlord who withdrew the hall from our heroine. Without losing courage, she went to retain the hall at the hotel, and began her leaflets again. The politicians again won over the owner of the hotel to refuse to hold the meeting in his hall. Five times, Miss Côté had retained a place; five times she had to begin distributing leaflets again, in one day!
In the end, the meeting was held on the blacksmith's porch. (It resembled the stable in Bethlehem a little bit.) The street was full of people. Louis Even had climbed on a chair to give his conference. As soon as he began to say a word, the crowd howled like a bunch of savages. To finish, the loudmouths, always pushed by the politicians, picked up all of Louis Even's literature, threw it into the street, and burned it, while yelling and blaspheming. Here was the reward of the man who wanted to open the eyes of these people to the source of their misery. (The disciple is not greater than the Master.) This is but an example of the difficulties in the beginning.
|Mrs. Côté-Mercier with her husband Gérard, and Louis Even, in 1959|
In 1939, our founders were at L'Annonciation, in Labelle County, in the house rented by Mrs. Côté, as usual. People came to tell them that war had been declared in Europe. Louis Even began to cry. His answer was, “We will found a journal.” It was not the time, because of censorship of the newspapers because of the war. But Louis Even was not a man to give in. The “Vers Demain” Journal saw the light of day in September 1939. (The version in English, now called “Michael”, began in 1953.)
But with the war, it was not easy to find a printer for a journal with ideas that denounced the bankers. Miss Côté went to see one printer, and then a second printer. The second, after having accepted the text, kept it for three weeks without giving them any news. Finally, he refused to do the work, being afraid of sanctions. Miss Cote went to see L'Eclaireur, from Beauceville. They accepted, and printed the “Vers Demain” Journal for 40 years, without any reprisals nor censures.
Obviously, the office was founded in the home of Mrs. Côté on St. Joseph's Boulevard. Miss Côté held the office, and answered letters and the telephone between her apostolic ventures. The first year, the number of subscribers to “Vers Demain” went up to 6,000, and the second year, 25,000. This was more than enough to awaken the pack of financiers who used their influence and their money to have honorable persons denounce these liberating ideas that were spreading like wildfire across the country.
Therefore, it took a lot of courage for the founders to continue the battle, and to regain the confidence of the population. Bad tongues do not know the good and beautiful they destroy when they spread their venom, without thought.
Gilberte Côté-Mercier addresses the huge crowd of our Quebec City Congress in 1955
In 1941, the founders launched an appeal to young people to devote themselves full-time in the Movement. Gérard Mercier, from St. Anne de Beaupre, employed at St. Anne's Annals, and head of the Youth Christian Workers, was the first to answer the call. He was already doing work locally, and he distinguished himself by his vigor and audacity. He became closely attached to the founders, and he supported them with all his strength. He married Gilberte Côté on February 14, 1946, especially with the aim of protecting the reputation of our heroic co-founder. He always treated her with great respect and veneration, recognizing the worth of the person God had confided to him. And they both made the necessary sacrifices to be able to totally consecrate their time for the Movement.
The house on St. Joseph's Boulevard was no longer big enough to hold the office of the journal that was a large-scale enterprise. Mrs. Côté sold her house, and had another one built at 4885 Chabot Street. The whole basement and half of the second floor were reserved for the office of the “Vers Demain” Journal. In the beginning, they employed paid secretaries. They had to be dressed modestly at work. And all had to stop to say the Rosary before dinner. One summer day, the employees arrived badly dressed. Gilberte Côté simply fired them all, and she replaced them with her cousin Juliette. She always congratulated herself for this. In the 50's, she made an appeal to some ideal girls who, like she, offered their services to the Cause benevolently. Florentine Seguin and myself responded, and we are still here with several others who joined the team.
Gilberte Côté gave of herself wholeheartedly. She never took a vacation. She made the road program for the Full-timers; she herself went on conference tours on weekends. She gave weekly conferences on the radio and television, on top of helping with the compilation of the journal. She took care of all of the problems of the members of the Movement. The telephone was next to her bed to answer calls during the night when the apostles had problems.
Often, the police, out of pure persecution, arrested them. She had to take care of all of this. The civil authorities knew very well that we had every right to spread our propaganda, because in Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights protects freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. Even knowing this, a few malevolent souls stopped our apostles only with the aim of causing us worry and to oblige us to pay lawyers.
Mrs. Côté-Mercier was uncompromising when it came to defending justice and the rights of the poor. She traveled across all the areas of Quebec, Ontario, and New Brunswick. She went as far as Western Canada, even to France, Switzerland, and Brazil. And her writings and those of Louis Even go all over the world by the hundreds of thousands.
|Gilberte Côté-Mercier in 1985|
In 1962, the offices of the Movement are moved from Montreal to Rougemont, with the construction of the House of Saint Michael. A call was made for voluntary workers. One day up to 106 workers from different occupations came to help. It was the eve of Pentecost. Mrs. Côté had seen a multitude of arrows, coming from the mountain in Rougemont, fly towards heaven, and descend and disappear over the grounds of the House of Saint Michael. It made her say: “People will come from every country in the world to be enlightened in this house with the light of Social Credit.”
In 1975, the House of the Immaculate was built with a large hall to hold our annual Congress and to house the men full-time Pilgrims.
Today's youth need an example of the lives of true heroes, in order to put themselves back on the road of duty and of virtue, qualities necessary to rebuild civilization in our countries.
Gilberte Côté did not waste her life in frivolity. She consecrated all the time of her youth to serious things, to serving the truth, and defending justice. She found true happiness there. She built around herself a better terrestrial city for her brothers and sisters. Also, how many souls she brought back to the Church and onto the road to Heaven!
For us, those close to her, we owe her thanks: Thank you for having taught us to dress as Christians, without self-respect. Thank you for having protected our minds from the corruption of television. Thank you for having given us the example of devotion, of the gift of oneself, of love of God and of the poor. Thank you for having made of us apostles, soldiers of Christ and defenders of our neighbor.