Company | Father Guy Gilbert: “Young people never forget the time spent in Rougon”

What will happen to Father Guy Gilbert? Listen well. He lives happily ever after in his fortress near La Palu-sur-Verdon, at the Bergerie du Faucon, which he founded 47 years ago. Here, with his team of educators, he tries to reintegrate youth who have found themselves in a difficult situation through work and communication with animals. Ordained as a priest on Saturday, July 3, 1965, he has never ceased to intervene as closely as possible in the lives of the flayed, whom he accompanies to a gentler way of life. Her long white hair flows under a black hat. Her rings capture her fingers. His black jacket seems to weigh a ton and his collection of studs are hung everywhere. He hasn’t changed. However, wrinkles have been added, signs of his 87th birthday, which he will celebrate in a month. Combined with his undying energy and his always loud words, he welcomes us to his quiet chalet high up in La Bergerie. He lived here for two years after leaving Paris, from his first imprisonment. The “hooligan priest”, who in 2006 received the order of the Legion of Honor from the hands of Abbé Pierre, and in 2018 made a canon of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, continues to operate here, but in peace. Always strives to share his values, starting with respect for others. Get to know each other.

How are you ?
Listen, okay, 87 in a month. I left Paris after Covid and my work as a specialist teacher I was doing there. At the age of 85, it became difficult to run after children.

How was the Bergerie du Faucon born?
It was 47 years ago. The young man told me to buy something far from Paris. We found an old ruin that we rebuilt together. 50 marginalized young people built this house. It was also an extraordinary and difficult adventure. It took them eight years to equip it to receive young people. I put animals because these are young people who have serious life difficulties, they love animals. The beast does not lie, does not deceive. She returns what she gave. Something that was often absent in the family. They usually do not like people, but they appreciate animals. I have 120 20 different breeds, camels, boars, deer, chickens, rabbits… Have you seen them?

Who are these young people? How many are there now?
They come from the south of Provence. La Bergerie depends on the Ministry of the Family, it is secular. Today they are six.

What will you bring to them, these young people here?
They come from Ddass (Department of Health and Social Affairs, ed.). They have had many problems and they need solidity to finally live a simple life. We give them orders. These are young people who have not often received orders and who, at the age of 15, arrive in a state of considerable decomposition. They are created here, little by little. They are often illiterate and have skipped school altogether.

What will you tell them?
I listen to them! Young people don’t listen. Listening to them is very important. Hundreds of young people came here. They don’t want to do anything at first and say so. They ask me if there are any laws here, I say yes. I am told that at home they usually go to bed at midnight, at one o’clock, and get up at noon. Here you go to bed at 9:30 p.m., get up at 8:00 a.m., prepare breakfast yourself, and at 8:30 a.m. you are in front of the farm to feed the animals. If you come at 8:31 in the morning, you will be sanctioned. Well, these are very simple things. Other laws obviously exist. We have an iron fist in a velvet glove. They run away from time to time, but do not go far. They are afraid of wild boars at night.

How can you sum up all that you have accomplished?
I am a 56-year-old priest, I was trained by young people in my 30s. I met one at night who was tortured. He didn’t want to sleep at home. His mother-in-law was cruel. I offered to sleep in the presbytery, I had a room. I kept it for five years. I am the third of 15 children, we were loved very much. So I didn’t know you could kill a child. The church recognized that I could do it.

Is that strange to you?
It is strange because when a priest has specific abilities for something, the church says “Parish! Parish first!’.

Who is Guy Gilbert today? Just like thirty years ago?
Yes, the same, with an ever so eager desire to help young people out of the mess they’ve gotten themselves into. Passionate about listening to them, making them grow and developing them with my team. Without my team, I’m in a mess.

Has nothing changed inside you? Nothing changed?
No I do not think so. The youth of forty years ago and today are very different. They are more brutal, more defeatist. They are in an indifferent world and I imagine life is pretty hard.

The reason for this?
Lack of education. In the future, the parents separate or divorce. These are young people destabilized by a very difficult childhood. Young people need a framework. Here they return to a certain order, to their favorite work. We work a lot, gardening, etc. A young person needs classes.

Life today is not as structured as it used to be?
Life is different. The sign is indifference. We want to make money, we want to own, we want, we want, we want…

When you need to do the opposite…
So. We must share, respect each other, respect each other’s religion. Share also with the poorest. This is the gospel I have tried to teach for 56 years.

Are you really a rock and roll priest?
You can say that, I don’t care. I am a priest of the Catholic Church, happy to be so. I am a priest who says mass every day, a priest who prays. I am a delegated priest here in Rougon, I had a funeral two days ago. I say mass every day here in the fold at 6:00 p.m. They tell me that I am a priest of hooligans. 40 years ago, she had a great response. I wrote books about it, 55 to be exact, on various topics, about forgiveness, love for others, respect for others…

You are still an original priest!
Listen, I was told, but I don’t care (laughs).

What to wear a leather jacket with? How many pounds does it weigh?
3.5 kg! I was in civilian clothes in Paris, on my motorcycle, with five priests looking for young people on the street. I was surrounded by young people in black jackets. The cops came and called them “dirty scum.” I told the guy that “I wasn’t a diamond in the middle of shit, I was.” One of these young men handed me his jacket: “Take my jacket, see you tomorrow.” They didn’t say anything to me in front of these cops. I tried the jacket on and the policeman sent me overé “But what is this old idiot doing?” I answered him “Let you.” He took me to the police station. The commissar was surprised that a priest was being taken with him. So he let me go: “my respect, my father.” i told him “Come on, my son”. I have kept the jacket ever since.

What does a jacket mean to you?
It was to enter the world, to speak the language. The elders knew me very well. The look changed when you put on the jacket. I remember sitting next to an elderly woman in the subway. She was reading a book. Seeing me, she took her purse to put it on the other side. “Ma’am, is this reading interesting?” – What’s your business? Madam, I wrote this. It was A priest among hooligans. She put the purse back on my side. We always judge each other by appearance.

Where is this Rougon party from?
It has existed for 49 years. A good old lady, Emilien, asked me to redo the St. Christopher procession, which had not been done for 70 years. Five people came. One day the bikers arrived, and since then they have appeared in large numbers. I say mass at 10 a.m., there is a procession in the evening, and on Sundays there is a mass with the bishop. Eight days after the Fête de Faucon, we show plays put on by young people.

How do the local population treat you?
We are very well received here. Well, when I came 47 years ago, two young men stole two cars, the mayor’s and the priest’s. Only the priest filed a complaint. But then we helped the farmers with the harvest… So we integrated really well after that episode. They are not gangsters or criminals. They just didn’t grow well and we’re trying to get them to stand up. Young people never forget the time spent here.

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