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Bangladeshi Catholics mourn Canadian missionary

Father Gilles Gilbert Lague was known as a spiritual guru and motivational preacher

Canadian Holy Cross priest Father Gilles Gilbert Lague who began serving in Bangladesh in 1966 passed away on Nov. 9 at the age of 84.

Canadian Holy Cross priest Father Gilles Gilbert Lague who began serving in Bangladesh in 1966 passed away on Nov. 9 at the age of 84. (Photo: Holy Cross Congregation)

Published: November 10, 2023 07:22 AM GMT

Updated: November 10, 2023 10:49 AM GMT

Catholics in Bangladesh are mourning Canadian Holy Cross priest Father Gilles Gilbert Lague who died after serving in the country for more than five decades. He was 84.

Lague died at a private hospital in the capital Dhaka on Nov. 9 due to an age-related illness, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Province, the priests’ fraternity of the Holy Cross Congregation, said in a message.

Hundreds flocked to pay their last tributes to him at the Holy Cross Scholasticate and St. Mary’s Cathedral in Dhaka on Nov. 9.

Many paid their respects to Lague on social media sites like Facebook, hailing him as a spiritual guru, a motivational preacher and having an amicable personality.

“Rest in peace, Fr. Gilbert. Gratefully acknowledge your contributions to Bangladesh Church,” said Bernard Gomes, a Catholic from Bangladesh now based in Auckland, New Zealand.

“He was my spiritual director. A good man who guided my on the right way,” wrote Holy Cross priest Bejoy Rebeiro.

In a message posted on Facebook, Chattogram archdiocese paid tribute to Lague for his contributions to the country.

“Father Gilbert Lague, CSC served in various pastoral ministries throughout Chattogram diocese [now Chattogram and Barisal dioceses] for a very long period. The local Church of Bangladesh, Chattogram in particular, lost a genuine friend of God's people,” the message read.

Holy Cross is the largest Catholic religious order serving in Bangladesh. The order's members arrived in East Bengal in 1853 when it was a part of British India.

The congregation is credited for strengthening the foundation of the local Church through pastoral services in parishes and running reputed schools and colleges in various parts of the country. The order also runs Notre Dame University in Dhaka, the only Catholic-run university in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

Currently more than 1,200 Holy Cross priests, nuns and brothers are serving in 16 countries in the world, according to the congregation’s website.

Lague was born to French-Canadian parents — Alfred Lague and Aldea Laplante on Nov. 29, 1939, the first of six children.

He had his elementary education in a local school and entered Holy Cross Minor Seminary in 1952.

He was ordained as a priest on Dec. 18, 1965. He went to the eastern part of erstwhile Pakistan in 1966, which is now Bangladesh.

After learning Bengali, the national language, the priest served in three parishes.

He taught in Holy Spirit National Major Seminary in Dhaka and was the spiritual director for many years.

In 1997, he became the director of the Holy Cross Novitiate in Barishal, southern Bangladesh and served there for about nine years.

He was the spiritual adviser of numerous priests, nuns, brothers, and laypeople for years.

His love for Bangladesh and local people was strong, so he wished to be buried here, a senior Holy Cross priest confirmed.

The first funeral Mass for Lague was held at the Holy Cross Scholasticate on Nov. 9 and a second funeral Mass was on Nov. 10 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Dhaka.

He is scheduled to be buried at Holy Cross Pastoral Center at Bhadun in Gazipur district, about 30 kilometers from Dhaka, later on Nov. 10.

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