Catholic Church Moves Three Candidates to Sainthood

The Catholic Church is moving three noted Americans toward sainthood: a 12-year old diagnosed with cancer who offered up her suffering, a man with a special devotion to the Sacred Heart, and a Civil War veteran who joined St. Damian of Molokai in his ministry to lepers.

Charlene Marie Richard, Auguste Robert Pelafigue, and Joseph Ira Dutton.

On November 17, 2021 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to advance the three on the local level.

Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette, La., and Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu requested the votes during the bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore. (Under Canon Church, a diocesan bishop promoting a sainthood cause must consult with the regional bishops before the cause can advance to the Holy See).

“We are not asked to approve the cause,” Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ canonical affairs and Church governance committee, said. “Rather [what] we are invited to do is to observe, related to the cause, any advancements of views of social, religious, or even political significance.”

Below are brief biographical sketches of three new candidates:

Servant of God Charlene Marie Richard

Charlene Marie Richard was born on January 13, 1947. Raised in the small town of Richard, Louisanna, to a loving family, Richard at a young age developed a special devotion to St. Therese of Lisieux. The second of 10 children, she enjoyed “playing Mass” with her brother John Dale and basketball in her spare time.

During her middle school years she was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow and lymphatic system. She responded by offering up her pain and suffering for others.

Every day, when visited by her local priest, she would ask, “Father, who am I to offer my sufferings for today?”

Dying just 16 days after diagnosis on August 11, 1959, she has affectionately become known as the “little Cajun saint.”

Servant of God Auguste Robert Pelafigue

Auguste Robert Pelafigue was born January 10, 1888 near Lourdes in France. He and his family relocated to Arnaudville, Louisiana as a toddler where he would spend most of the remainder of his life.

Known affectionately as “Nonco” for “Uncle,”

A representative of the Auguste “Nonco” Pelafigue Foundation, Charles Hardy, said that he earned the nickname because he was “like a good uncle to everyone who came into his (circle) of influence.”

That circle of influence was a large one. A teacher,

Pelafigue was a teacher on the faculty of the Little Flower School in Arnaudville serving as the only lay person after teaching in local public schools. Active in parish life, he was a member of The Apostleship of Prayer, an organization with French roots dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

A devout attendee of mass, he worked tirelessly to educate his students even on the weekends where he was known for providing supplemental instruction to the students of his religion courses.

When not teaching he worked with the League of the Sacred Heart, an organization he helped found which produced monthly pamphlets about the special devotion. Additionally, Pelafigue organized plays and theatrical productions during Advent and feast days to help teach children about the importance of faith and the noted saints in history.

His pastor at the time, the late Father. Daniel Bernard wrote, “Mr. Pelafigue has organized the League of the Sacred Heart with some 1,200 members and 101 promoters. He goes out on foot to visit the fallen away and invites them to pray for the league.

“He teaches in the Catholic School, teaches Catechism to the public school children – all out of love of God – with no pay. He organizes religious programs for the encouragement of the weak and edification of the strong. He has been in this parish, another priest. He is the most humble. He attends Holy Mass and receives Holy Communion daily. He assists at all Masses on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.”

“In a word,” Bernard added, “he is a living example of the REAL CHRISTIAN.” 

He died on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on Jun 6, 1977, at the age of 89-years-old.

Servant of God Joseph Dutton

Ira Joseph Dutton was born on April 27, 1843 in Stowe, Vermont, to Protestant parents. At the age of four, he and his family relocated to Janesville, Wisconsin.

During the American Civil War, Dutton fought for the Union Army where he earned the rank of captain with the 13th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment. After his discharge in 1866, Dutton grappled with the tragedy of an unsuccessful marriage due to the excessive drinking of his wife and her unfaithfulness.

Suffering from today what would probably be diagnosed as PTSD, he volunteered in his spare time to bury the dead left on the battlefields at a site that is now Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Resolving to do penance for his past, in the 1880s he joined the Catholic Church on his 40th birthday and accepted Joseph as his baptismal name. After his baptism he joined a Trappist monastery in Kentucky.

Inspired by the story of St. Damien of Molokai, he left his possessions and travelled to Hawaii, and, in 1886, joined Father Damien in ministering to those with leprosy.

Calling his new friend “Brother,” St. Damien said, “I can die now. Brother Joseph will take care of my orphans.”

In 1889, Father Damien died of leprosy, leaving Dutton in Molokai to run the Baldwin Home for boys​​. Dutton’s faithfulness attracted the attention of two U.S. Presidents. . In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt diverted a fleet of battleships to sail past Molokai in honor of him.

Dutton died just shy of his 88th birthday, on March 26, 1931. His grave is located next to St. Damien’s in Kalawao.

Source: Catholic News Agency