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Laval, Jacques Désiré, Bl.


Doctor, priest of the Congregation of the Holy Heart of Mary (now merged with the Holy Ghost Fathers); apostle of Mauritius; b. Sept. 18, 1803, Croth, Diocese of Évreux, Normandy, France; d. Sept. 9, 1864, Port-Louis, Mauritius.

Laval, the son of a lawyer with extensive land holdings and a pious mother who tended the needy, owned his own farm by age 13. After attending local schools, he completed his secondary studies at Évreux, then studied the humanities in Paris, theology at Saint Stanislaus College in Évreux, and medicine in Paris, where he earned a doctorate at the Sorbonne Aug. 21, 1830. He opened a successful medical practice in Saint-André near Évreux, while serving as captain of the national guard and maintaining a large household. He returned to the practice of the faith following a riding accident in 1835. That summer he decided to continue his theological studies at Saint-Sulpice Seminary in Paris, where he became acquainted with François Libermann.

Laval was ordained a priest in 1838 and decided to join Libermann in a single mission for the welfare of Black slaves. Until they established their mission, Laval administered the parish of Pinterville, Évreux Diocese. During the summer of 1841, Laval donated his entire wealth to Libermann, joined the Congregation of the Holy Heart of Mary, and accompanied the newly appointed bishop to the island of Mauritius. Thus, on Sept. 11, 1841, Father Laval, whose companions remembered him as "the saint who always says he does nothing," began his 23 year ministry to a parish of 80,000. He is responsible for baptizing 67,000 emancipated slaves and instituting works for economic, social, and technical development on the island.

Laval's cause for canonization was opened in 1918. In the first beatification ceremony presided over by John Paul II, April 29, 1979, he was raised to the altars as a blessed. Patron of slaves.

Bibliography: Works. j. d. laval, Extraits de sa correspondance, ed. j. lÉcuyer (Paris 1978); Le Serviteur de Dieu, Jacques-Désiré Laval, de la Congr. du St. Espirit et du St. Coeur de Marie (Paris 1912). Literature. j. acking, Père Laval (Port Louis 1986). b. bocage, Le Père Jacques Laval: un saint de chez nous (Pacysur-Eure, France 1989). f. delaplace and m. pivault, Le Père Jacques-Desirè Laval, Apôtre de Lile Maurice (Paris 1932). j. fitzsimmons, Father Laval (London 1973). j. michel, Les auxiliaires laïcs du bienheureux Jacques Laval, apôtre de l'île Maurice (Paris 1988). j. t. rath, Jakob Laval, der Apostel von Mauritius (Dormagen 1978). Acta Apostolicae Sedis 72 (1980) 15457. L'Osservatore Romano, Eng. ed. 19 (1979) 67.

[k. i. rabenstein]

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