On Memorial of “Apostle of Mauritius”, Blessed Laval, Cardinal Urges Closeness to Youth

Maurice Cardinal Piat, Bishop of Port Louis in Mauritius. Credit: Port Louis Diocese

On the occasion of the 181st anniversary of the arrival of Blessed Jacques-Désiré Laval in Mauritius and the 158th anniversary of his death, the head of the Catholic Church in the Indian Ocean island nation has called upon pastoral agents to reach out to young people in view of addressing their challenges in the footsteps of the late Missionary Priest.

Born in France in September 1803, Blessed Laval abandoned his career as a medical doctor and dedicated his life to serve the ill and the poor people in Mauritius as a missionary from 1841 to the time of his death on 9 September 1864.

Following his ministry among the people of God in the Indian Ocean Island nation, he earned himself the title, “Apostle of Mauritius”.

He was beatified on 29 April 1979, becoming the first Frenchman to be beatified by Pope St. John Paul II and the first member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans) to be proclaimed as Blessed.

In his homily Thursday, September 8, the eve of the feast of Blessed Laval, the Bishop of Port Louis Diocese, Maurice Cardinal Piat acknowledged the role of the youth in the Church.


“Like Jesus before the sheep without a shepherd of his time, like Father Laval before the old slaves of his time, let us not be afraid; let us go to meet young people; let us listen to them; let us speak with them; let us trust them, they have much to offer us,” Cardinal Piat said.

The Mauritian Cardinal added in reference to young people, “Let us share with them the treasure of the Gospel of Jesus. They are eager to discover that they are loved by God, that they have value in his eyes, that they have dignity, and a role in life.”

The Spiritan Cardinal recalled the words of Pope Francis when he visited Mauritius in 2019  in reference to the youth. 

The Holy Father said in reference to the Indian Ocean Island, “It is a hard thing to say, but, despite the economic growth your country has experienced in recent decades, it is the young who are suffering the most.”

Pope Francis explained referencing young people in Mauritius, “They suffer from unemployment, which not only creates uncertainty about the future, but also prevents them from believing that they play a significant part in your shared history.”

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In his September 8 homily, Cardinal Piat regretted the fact that young people in Mauritius face “an uncertain future that pushes them aside and forces them to conceive their lives on the margins of society, leaving them vulnerable and almost without reference points in the face of the new forms of slavery of this 21st century.”

“We must invite young people to find their happiness in Jesus,” he said, adding, “but not in a sanitized way or from afar, but by learning to give them a place, by knowing their language, by listening to their stories, by living alongside them, by making them feel that they are blessed by God.”

The 81-year-old Mauritian Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry as Coadjutor Bishop of Port Louis Diocese in May 1991 continued, “Let us not steal the young face of the Church and of society; let us not let the merchants of death steal the first fruits of this earth.”

The Cardinal Piat also highlighted the challenges young people in Mauritius face as a result of the education system, which he said is “not adapted to their needs and culture”.

“These young people are left to their own devices; some of them live on the streets. They are exploited by drug dealers or by unscrupulous bosses - they are exposed to becoming drug addicts themselves - and often they end up in prison for several months,” Cardinal Piat lamented.  


As drug addicts or ex-prisoners, young people in Mauritius “are despised, pointed at; their parents suffer greatly; they are unemployed,” the Local Ordinary of Port Louis Diocese said, and called upon education stakeholders in the country to “work together” to find “new pedagogies to adapt to the needs of young people”.

Reflecting on Blessed Laval, Cardinal Piat recalled the virtue of compassion that guided the ministry of the French Spiritan Missionary Priest among slaves amid criticisms.

“At the time of Father Laval, the freed slaves were like sheep without a shepherd because they were released on the plain, without work, without a home, without education, exploited often by bourgeois owners, rejected to the last rank in the Church, the rich whites were in front, the poor blacks behind, and their language was despised,” he said.

The Cardinal added, “Father Laval, like Jesus, is moved with compassion before this crowd. He listens to them at length, learns their language and spends time with them.”

“Like Jesus, he too was criticized – he was told that he would not succeed, that there was nothing to do with these poor people. But, like Jesus, he perseveres,” Cardinal Piat said, recalling the spirit of determination of Blessed Laval in Mauritius.

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Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.