(Seychelles News Agency) – The Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Seychelles is mourning the passing of its longest serving member of the clergy, Father Gustave Lafortune.
Lafortune, who was 86, died on Friday after dedicating 60 years of his life as a priest. He celebrated his diamond jubilee on June 30 this year, although he officially retired in 2015.
Lafortune lived at the Saint Therese Church Parish at Plaisance, where he moved after living at the Domus – the official residence of Catholic priests in the capital Victoria.
In a message of condolence to the Roman Catholic Church, congregation, family and friends of the late Lafortune, the President of Seychelles, Wavel Ramkalawan, said “we share in the sorrow of the Roman Catholic Church and congregation and offer our deepest condolences. May God’s love and courage strengthen you all during this trying time.”
|Father Lafortune was a highly respected priest with many talents, including being editor of the main church publication and a church song writer (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
The head of state added: “Father Lafortune is one of the pioneer figures of the Catholic Church and his passing marks a great loss for Seychelles. His contribution to his country and dedication to his faith will remain an inspiration to all. We will miss him and the country is grateful for having been gifted with a believer of such profound faith.”
The vicar general of the diocese, Father Eric Leon, made the first statement about the passing of Father Lafortune. “I announce to you the sad news of the departure of our dear Father Gustave Lafortune to the father’s house. We entrust Father Lafortune to Jesus who is the resurrection and the life,” said Leon, himself a colleague of the priest for the past 28 years.
|Father Lafortune with Bishop Denis Wiehe during a special mass at the St Andrews Parish at Cascade to honour the work done by Father Lafortune in 2015. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
Lafortune, who would have turned 87 on November 3, grew up in the eastern district of Cascade on the main island of Mahe. Following his schooling in Seychelles in 1956, he travelled to Switzerland for his A-level and theology studies at the College Royale Abbaye College of St. Maurice.
In 1963, he was ordained as a priest at the Saint Michel College Chapel in Fribourg. After one year in the parish of Morges in Lausanne, Father Lafortune returned to the islands on December 21, 1964, and on December 24, Father Lafortune celebrated the Christmas Eve mass at the St Andre parish of his native district.
Over the years Father Lafortune worked in several parishes on Mahe and Praslin. These included Mont Fleuri, Plaisance, Baie Ste Anne, Cascade, Anse Royale and Anse Boileau. He also served as editor of L’Echo des Iles – a Roman Catholic publication and the only publication in Seychelles that has not missed any publications since its inception in 1935.
|Father Lafortune with his parishioners at Cascade (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY|
A highly respected and loved spiritual father, Father Lafortune is remembered for his devotion to his faith and the church he served, his work with church groups such as Neo Catechumenal, as well as with catechism and his compositions – songs and hymns in Creole still being sung at mass in churches today, and a special song as homage to Pope John Paul II who visited Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – in 1986.
In May this year, the island nation lost another long-serving man of the cloth – its first Anglican priest and bishop, Archbishop Emeritus French Chang-Him, who passed away aged 85 years. On June 9, Chang-Him would have celebrated 60 years of service and devotion to the Anglican Diocese of Seychelles and the province of the Indian Ocean.