Father Lafortune celebrates 50 years of priesthood


28-June-2013

Incidentally, Father Lafortune is originally from the Cascade district, and he got his calling Father Lafortunejust outside the house he is living in today.

It all started when he was 12 years old. During the holidays, unlike other kids, Father Lafortune used to help the nuns who lived not far from his home with writing their questions down for the exams because in those days they did not have typewriters. As a sign of gratitude, the nuns gave him a prayer book as a gift. His brother-in-law who was in the army also gave him a book entitled “My daily reading from the new testament”. He loved to read his books and he prayed a lot.

Being an altar boy, every Sunday after mass he and his peers joined the priest and the nuns in the church to have a thanksgiving prayer. He remembered that all of his friends prayed for only two minutes and even the nuns left the church before he did. Father Paul, who was replacing the parish priest at that time, found it strange to see a boy at his age who loved to pray. Father Paul called him to his house one Sunday after mass and asked him if he has ever thought of becoming a priest. The priest asked him to go and think about it before giving him an answer. Father Lafortune stopped under a zanmalak tree just outside the priest’s house and talked to himself.

“I becoming a priest?” he mused. “I never knew that Seychellois can become priest. If that is so, I will tell Father Paul, Yes! I will like to become a priest.” 

The trunk of the zanmalak tree is still standing next to the priest’s house at Cascade and Father Lafortune says that he is leaving the trunk there as a reminder of where he got his calling.
Father Lafortune has been parish priest in a lot of districts but he has never been parish priest in the North of Mahé and on La Digue.

As a priest, Father Lafortune was in charge of the Roman Catholic’s L’Echo des Îles magazine for three years and that was in the mid 1970s. He was responsible for reintroducing the procession on Good Friday. He has planted crosses in parishes that believers use as calvary on Good Friday.

Many would remember the lyrics of Father Lafortune’s song En soley i a pe leve lo nou legliz he wrote when Pope John Paul II came to Seychelles in 1986. He has written many Creole hymns that can be heard in Roman Catholic churches during mass. He was responsible for the building of three chapels -- the Christ the King Chapel at Anse la Blague, Baie St. Anne, Mont Plaisir Chapel and La Chalette Chapel Anse Boileau.

“My joy of being a priest is the joy of helping others. I go out of my way to help someone in need,” Father Lafortune says with a smile on his face.

In a sombre tone he however laments having to put on hold his project of bringing together young people with the vocation to serve God.

He said he knows that it is not easy for young people nowadays to take the path he has taken for he too has gone through hard rock before he has come to celebrate his 50 years of priesthood. He remembers being tempted to abandon his studies when he met a young girl, but then he realised that he was meant to live his life as a servant of God.

Asked how he thinks Roman Catholic believers in the parishes he has been will remember him, Father Lafortune, after laughing his head off, simply says with a smile: “I have always been known for my lateness and for preaching too long and repeating myself.”

 

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