United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Gives Assent to the Cause of Beatification and Canonization for the Shreveport Martyrs
Imagine having Five Saints in the Diocese of Shreveport! Well, we are one step closer to that reality. This morning, June 15, 2023, the 200+ bishops of the USCCB, during their plenary meeting in Orlando, Florida, gave their unanimous assent that the Cause for canonization continues for the five Shreveport Servants of God: Fathers Isidore Quémerais, Jean Pierre, and Jean-Marie Biler (from Shreveport), Louis Gergaud (from Monroe), and François Le Vézouët (from Many and Natchitoches). This is such wonderful news which so many have prayed for! This would be a first for North Louisiana!
Bishop Francis Malone, who opened the diocesan phase of the inquiry on December 8, 2020, in a ceremony at Holy Trinity Church, the only Catholic Church in Shreveport in 1873, made the presentation to the gathered United States bishops. This placet (“it is pleasing to us”) vote from the USCCB means that their Cause now goes to the Vatican’s “Dicastery for the Causes of Saints” for a further formal inquiry into their sanctity of life. The Dicastery will submit a recommendation to the pope, by whose authority they would be deemed Venerable, the next step in the path toward sainthood. The third and fourth stages of the canonization process are beatification (Blessed) and canonization (Saint). These final two recognitions require verified miracles.
As mid-19th century missionary priests from Brittany who answered a call to leave their homeland and travel to the frontier of Louisiana, they labored with piety and unselfish dedication, inspired by charity, before offering their own lives for the sake of their fellow man during the devastating Yellow Fever Epidemic… These holy priests live on in the people’s memory not only because of their apostolic work in helping to build the Church in that part of Louisiana but, above all, because of their heroic sacrifices.
As the Monroe pastor Father Gergaud boarded a stagecoach bound for Shreveport, his final words to his assistant were, “Write to the bishop and tell him I go to my death. It is my duty, and I must go.” Father Le Vézouët prepared to leave Natchitoches, and someone called to him, “You are going to your death.” He responded, “I believe it. But it is the shortest and surest path to heaven.” Indeed, the priests’ own prophecies proved true, for both contracted the virus upon arriving in Shreveport.
These Servants of God form part of our nation’s history of holiness. Their story, with transcends history to reveal complex themes of virtue, sacrifice, and response in times of human crisis and suffering, needs to be told in a society that has lost this spiritual fighting spirit and the salvation of souls as the ultimate horizon. Their lives resonate powerfully even beyond the Catholic world. They are also a beautiful, inspirational reminder that, even in dark times and dark places, human beings are spiritual beings who can sacrifice themselves for the common good and to imitate God’s love.
For more information about the events to mark the 150th
anniversary of the Yellow Fever in Shreveport, visit shreveportyellowfever.com.