Sainthood cause opened for Canadian missionary

By  Catholic News Service
  • February 27, 2009
{mosimage}CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh - Bishop Patrick D'Rozario of Chittagong announced the opening of the sainthood cause of Canadian Holy Cross Brother Flavian Laplante, founder of a popular Marian shrine in Bangladesh.

D'Rozario also said that the shrine in Diang, which Brother Laplante started in 1976, has been elevated to a parish dedicated to Mary, reported the Asian church news agency UCA News.

A diocesan tribunal has been formed to evaluate Brother Laplante's holiness and his work, D'Rozario said.

About 7,000 devotees from all over Bangladesh visited the shrine during the pilgrimage period in mid-February, UCA News reported Feb. 26. Many welcomed the bishop's announcement and told UCA News that Brother Laplante deserved to be a saint.

"Brother Flavian used to interact with fishermen so cordially and even stayed with them at sea overnight to protect them from pirates," recalled 80-year-old Holy Cross Brother Jarlath D'Suza. "That's why he is called 'the apostle to the fishermen.' ”

Brother Laplante is also known for his service to the underprivileged. In 1946, he set up an orphanage for the children of poor fishermen and of local residents who died in the Second World War. The orphanage ran until orphans were rehabilitated and settled in homes or provided with work.

He also established primary schools and high schools, a boys' hostel, a health centre, an adult women's education centre, a technical school, residences for nuns and brothers and the Diang Ashram, a study and meditation centre.

Local Catholics said he loved ordinary people so much that he kissed their feet when they met him.

Brother Laplante was born in Quebec in 1907. He entered the Holy Cross novitiate in 1923 and made his final profession in 1932. In 1933 the French-Canadian province of the Holy Cross Brothers sent him to Bangladesh, where he worked in various places of the Chittagong diocese before arriving in Diang in 1945. He died in 1981.

The Catholic Church's canonization process involves three major steps. The first is the declaration of a person's heroic virtues. The second is beatification and the third is canonization, or the declaration of sainthood. In general, two miracles must be accepted by the church as having occurred through the intercession of a prospective saint, one before beatification and the other before canonization.

Diang is one of the oldest Catholic settlements in Bangladesh. Its history goes back to the arrival of Portuguese Christians in 1535 and Portuguese Jesuit Father Francesco Fernandez in 1598.

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