The Path to Sainthood: The Candidacies of Three Cajun Catholics

Friday, April 5th
Sliman Theater
129 East Main St.

Father Don is the Pastor at Saint Edward’s Catholic Church and Saint Edwards School in New Iberia LA. Father Don and a panel will delve into the lives of these Catholics and learn where they are in the process of Sainthood

The following people that will be discussed during the panel:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted June 17 to advance the cause of canonization for 1st Lt. Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur, a World War II military chaplain, prisoner of war and a Knight of Columbus whose courageous witness in the Pacific theater of the war brought many souls to Christ.
Joseph Verbis Lafleur was ordained a priest April 2, 1938, at 26 years old, and in 1941, he answered the call to join the military as a chaplain. While stationed in Albuquerque, N.M., Father Lafleur’s commander noticed his exceptional performance. The young chaplain’s next posting was to Clark Field, a U.S. Army airfield in the Philippines.
The 19th Bombardment Group was later attacked by Japanese planes while evacuating to another island by ship. Father Lafleur crawled through a hail of bullets to rescue a wounded officer on deck. He was the last man on the boat after assisting with the evacuation of the other soldiers.
After U.S. and Philippine forces surrendered to the Japanese following the Battle of Bataan, Father Lafleur and the rest of the 19th Bombardment Group were captured. The military chaplain spent the rest of his life as a POW.
As American forces advanced, the Japanese decided to move the prisoners to mainland Japan. Father Lafleur and hundreds of POWs were loaded into a ship — the Shinyo Maru — which had no white flag to denote it was carrying prisoners.
Without that signal, it became a target for Allied forces. On Sept. 7, 1944, the Shinyo Maru was torpedoed by the USS Paddle. During the attack, Father Lafleur led his fellow prisoners in the ship’s hold in praying the rosary. Father Lafleur was killed as he continued to rescue prisoners from drowning. His case for Sainthood was opened June 17, 2021.

Fr. Michael Richard will be available to represent the Fr. Lafleur cause which is still in its diocesan phase. Fr. Richard is working on the historical commission for this cause. Fr. Michael Richard Pastor in Henderson and Butte La Rose. 

Auguste Robert “Nonco” Pelafigue joined the Apostleship of Prayer League of the Sacred Heart while a college student and maintained a lifelong devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Blessed Mother.“On Saturdays he taught religion to public school children, and during the summer, Christmas and Lent, he introduced children and adults of the area to the stage by inviting them to perform in Sacred Heart programs and plays he personally wrote and directed for the children,” according to a biography of Pelafigue submitted by the Lafayette Diocese.
Pelafigue organized a League of the Sacred Heart with about 1,200 members, traveling on foot to spread the word. Offered rides “even in the poorest of weather conditions, he always declined, saying it was his way of doing penance for conversions and for the poor souls in purgatory,” the biography said.
“As he grew up, he was given the nickname ‘Nonco,’ derivative of the French uncle. He was everybody’s uncle,” said Bishop Deshotel in addressing the bishops Nov. 17.
Pelafigue’s ministry spanned 68 years, and ended only with his death June 6, 1977, the feast of the Sacred Heart. A foundation in is name was established in 2012 to carry on his work and explore the possibility of beatification and canonization.

Servant of God August “Nonco” Pelafigue 

Representing this cause will be Fr. Travis Abadie  who served as the Bishop’s delegate for the diocesan phase of the “Nonco” cause which concluded April 16th. Fr. Travis Abadie is pastor in Arnaudville, La. 

Auguste Robert “Nonco” Pelafigue, a sainthood candidate with the title “Servant of God,” is seen in this undated photo. In the Diocese of Lafayette, La., he is known for his decades of ministry in the League of Sacred Heart, Apostleship of Prayer, which is now called the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Lafayette) EDITOR’S NOTE: BEST IMAGE AVAILABLE.

Charlene Richard was described as a “laywoman,” but she was just 12 and a half years old when she died in 1959 from acute lymphatic leukemia.
Charlene was described as “a normal little girl” who liked sports and went to church — until four months before her death, when she read a book about St. Therese of Lisieux. She asked her grandmother if “she, too, could become a saint by praying like Therese,” according to a diocesan biography of the girl.
The last two weeks of her life — the only time she spent outside her rural town — “were gifts of grace,” Bishop Deshotel told his fellow bishops. “Priests who attended to her spiritual needs were asked by her who she could suffer for on that day.”
The biography said when the hospital chaplain, a newly ordained priest, was sent to tell her of her prognosis, Charlene replied, “Father, when the Blessed Mother comes, I’ll tell her you said hello.”
Franciscan Sister Theresita Crowley, who witnessed Charlene’s acceptance of her suffering, would later say, “I can’t forget her. I feel her presence. I feel her smile,” adding she prayed to Charlene daily.
The religious sister’s devotion spread to others in the area, where people prayed to “the Little Cajun Saint,” asking for her intercession for situations ranging from marital problems, to finding jobs to seeking good weather for their crops.
One story is told of another girl with cancer who kept asking for Charlene, even though she had never been told of her existence. When someone supplied her with a prayer card bearing Charlene’s picture, the girl said, “Charlene,” and her cancer went into remission. Although the case was never submitted as a potential miracle, many people in the area considered it one.
By 1989, the biography said, hundreds of people were visiting Charlene’s grave each week. The cemetery installed a light so visitors could more easily identify the gravesite, and added a box so they could leave written requests.
“Her gravesite is visited by busloads of people,” Bishop Deshotel said. Charlene is considered “near and far as an example of redemptive suffering … this innocent child who has proven to be an inspiration to all of us as we carry the cross of illness,” he said. Her case for Sainthood was opened November 17, 2021.

A childhood image of Charlene Richard, a sainthood candidate who has the title “Servant of God,” is seen in this undated photo. Charlene, a young Cajun girl in the Diocese of Lafayette, La., who died of leukemia in 1959 at age 12, is regarded by many in south Louisiana and beyond as a saint, saying her intercession has resulted in miracles in their lives. She is known as “The little Cajun saint.” (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of Lafayette) EDITOR’S NOTE: BEST IMAGE AVAILABLE.

Representing this cause will be Fr. Taylor Reynolds of the Diocese of Alexandria who is the Bishop’s delegate for the diocesan phase which concluded January 13, 2024. Fr. Reynolds is Pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Mission (Waterproof) and St. Joseph Church (St. Joseph).