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Church starts canonization process for Canadian missioner

Updated: February 26, 2009 06:27 AM GMT
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The Church in Chittagong has announced that a Canadian missioner, founder of a popular Marian shrine here, is now a "servant of God," the first step toward being proclaimed a saint. Holy Cross Bishop Patrick D´Rozario of Chittagong announced the opening of the sainthood cause of Brother Flavian Laplante on Feb. 13, the second day of an annual pilgrimage to the shrine in Diang, Chittagong diocese. He also declared that the shrine, founded by Brother Laplante in 1976, is now elevated to a parish dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Diang presently has over 600 Catholics. Bishop D´Rozario also announced that a diocesan tribunal has been formed to evaluate Brother Laplante´s holiness and his work. About 7,000 devotees from all over Bangladesh visited the shrine during this pilgrimage period. Many welcomed the announcement, saying that the Brother Laplante deserved it. "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." Another Holy Cross Brother, Toren Palma, 30, said the servant of God inspired him as a founder of schools for poor children. Ranu Gomes, 52, also welcomed the news. "It adds significance to this shrine that its founder is in the process of being canonized," she said. "It will attract more pilgrims in the coming years." Brother Laplante is known for his service to the underprivileged. In 1946, he set up an orphanage for the children of poor fishermen and people who died in World War II in the area . The orphanage ran until orphans were rehabilitated and settled in homes or provided with work. He also established primary and high schools, a boys´ hostel, a health center, adult women´s education center, a technical school for dropouts, residences for nuns and brothers, and the Diang Ashram, a study and meditation center. Church people say he loved ordinary people so much that he kissed their feet when they met him. Brother Laplante was born in Quebec province, Canada in 1907. He entered the Holy Cross Novitiate in 1923 and made his final profession in 1932. The French-Canadian Province of the Holy Cross Congregation sent him to Bangladesh in 1933, where he worked in various places of Chittagong diocese before arriving to Diang in 1945. He died in 1981. The declaration of "servant of God" is the formal prelude to a three-stage process by which a candidate for sainthood may be declared venerable, then proclaimed blessed and, lastly, canonized. Diang is one of the oldest Catholic settlements in Bangladesh. Its history goes back to the arrival of Portuguese Christians in 1535 and the first Portuguese missioner Jesuit Father Francesco Fernandez in 1598. Previously, Holy Cross Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly of Dhaka was declared a servant of God in 2007. He died in 1977. END

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