Pastor’s Corner from September 03, 2017
Our annual Memorial Mass for Lt. Fr. Joseph Verbis Lafleur will take place this week on Thursday, September 7 at 6:30pm. The main celebrant and homilist for the Mass will be Fr. Brad Guillory, a military chaplain from our diocese. His unique insight into Fr. Lafleur’s life from his perspective as both a priest and chaplain should provide fruitful reflection on the extraordinary life of Fr. Lafleur, a life worthy of emulation in his holiness, selflessness, and dedication. Fr. Lafleur has been an inspiration for me since my arrival here at St. Landry, and being able to celebrate his life in this way makes the Memorial Mass a very special time for me. The Memorial Mass gives all of us an opportunity to learn about his wonderful and holy life. Please make plans to attend this special event celebrating the life of a man we believe is a saint and for whom St. Landry Church is “home.” We especially hope that parents will bring their children so that they can learn of the rich spiritual heritage they have and the gift of faith that has been handed down to them. The following is an invitation to all for the Memorial Mass.
LT. FATHER JOSEPH VERBIS LAFLEUR MEMORIAL MASS
The ‘Friends of Lt. Fr. Lafleur’ request your presence to commemorate the 72nd Anniversary of the death of Lt. Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur, Chaplain-United States Army Air Corps, Thursday, September 7, 2016 at 6:30pm in St. Landry Catholic Church, Opelousas, LA. The Celebrant and Homilist will be Fr. Brad Guillory, priest of the Diocese of Lafayette and Military Chaplain.
Joseph Verbis Lafleur was born in Ville Platte on January 24, 1912. Later, he would move with his family to nearby Opelousas, where he faithfully served as an altar boy at St. Landry Church during his youth. After serving as an altar server here at St. Landry, he left for the seminary under the sponsorship of Fr. Colliard and St. Landry Church. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1938, he celebrated his first Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving here at St. Landry. He then served a short time in the Lafayette Diocese at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Abbeville (where he is still fondly remembered for his piety and work with the youth). He then began to serve as a chaplain in the United States Army in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. Fr. Lafleur was captured by the Japanese and was imprisoned, where he ministered to his fellow prisoners. The story of Fr. Lafleur’s life is extraordinary, especially in his selflessness, kindness and bravery, all the while he himself was being treated cruelly.
For his service, Father Lafleur was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, and Bronze star for his valor. After being taken prisoner by the Japanese, by all accounts he served his brother prisoners with honor and distinction. He had the opportunity to evacuate prior to the Japanese invasion of the Phillipines, but instead stayed in order to serve the men who were entrusted to his pastoral care. On September 7, 1944, he and several hundred other prisoners were killed when the ship upon which they were being transported was torpedoed. Father Lafleur’s body was never recovered, but memories of survivors report that he was last seen aiding others to escape the sinking ship. His memorial monument in front of St. Landry Church serves as our tangible remembrance of his life, as he indicated that if he died during his service to our country that he desired to be buried at St. Landry Church. He is also remembered in the chaplain’s memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. The year 2017 marks the 73rd anniversary of his death.
Fr. Lafleur is certainly a significant figure in our church parish history and a part of our spiritual patronage that we should all cherish. Let us enjoy the celebration of his life this week, become inspired by it, and try to imitate the Christ-like virtues he modeled for us. All are invited and encouraged to attend the Memorial Mass. You can also learn more about Father Lafleur by visiting http://www.fatherlafleur.org or by purchasing the book chronicling his life, “But He Dies Not,” which will be available after the Memorial Mass and is always available in our church office or at Catholic bookstores in Lafayette.