Fr. Lafleur Mass and Dedication

Written by Reed Bellingham, Diocese of Lafayette

This past Thursday, October 14th, Notre Dame seminary celebrated the heroic life and death of Fr. Joseph Verbis Lafleur (1912-44), the first Alumni of Notre Dame seminary to begin the process of Canonization by the Roman Catholic Church. NDS Bishop Douglas Deshotel led the NDS community, other bishops of Louisiana, and Fr. Lafleur’s family in mass followed by the special blessing of a plaque in the lobby of the seminary which commemorates Fr. Lafleur.

Fr. Lafleur grew up in Ville Platte and Opelousas, Louisiana. He entered St. Joseph’s minor seminary in Covington as a seminarian for the diocese of Lafayette in 1927, and, after 6 years, went to the Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. Fr. Lafleur was ordained a priest for the diocese of Lafayette in 1938 and served as Parochial vicar in Abbeville before becoming a chaplain for the military. World War II began within the year and Fr. Lafleur received a Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in action during an attack while he was stationed at Clark Field in the Philippine Islands. Fr. became a prisoner of war and, and though it was not necessary as an officer, he volunteered to do hard labor alongside the enlisted men in order to minister to them. Finally when the ship, on which he and 700 other POWs were being transported, was torpedoed, Fr. Lafleur laid down his life for his sheep by assisting the departure of the other prisoners until the ship went down.

The plaque of Fr. Lafleur in our lobby stands out as a reminder that God calls all people to be saints including us from south Louisiana. As a seminarian of the diocese of Lafayette, and having attended both Joseph’s seminary and Notre Dame, I have walked the same grounds as Fr. Lafleur for almost 8 years now. His heroic witness will remain in my mind as a model of what it means to be a shepherd of souls. We may not all be called to do heroic acts of love in the way Fr. Lafleur did, but we are all called to act with heroic love.