ACADIA PARISH, LA — The Diocese of Lafayette is nominating three Acadiana residents for sainthood in the Catholic church.
This weekend clergy from Rome will hear the case for Charlene Richard, an Acadia Parish girl known affectionately as “The Little Cajun Saint”,
Auguste Nonco Pelafigue, an Arnaudville teacher and evangelist, and Lieutenant Father J. Verbis LaFleur of Ville Platte, a military chaplain who gave his life saving on others on a prisoner of war ship in WWII.
Charlene Richard was only 12 years old when she became gravely ill and died two weeks later. Those who knew her say her attitude through it all is an example for us all.
The year was 1959, and Charlene Richard, a basketball captain and farm girl at Acadia Parish Middle School, had just learned she had a horrible disease, lymphocytic leukemia, which at that time was a death sentence.”
Her older brother, John Dale Richard, remembers how Charlene’s reacted when the hospital chaplain, Father Joseph Brennan, gave her the news, “He said, ‘Soon a beautiful lady is going to come and take you with her.’ she said, ‘Oh, I know, father. When the virgin mary comes, I’ll tell her, ‘Father Brennan says hi.”
For 13 days she offered her suffering to God in prayers for others. For 60 years her impact has been felt worldwide.
John Dale said, “Momma would get letters from Africa, the Philippines, Belgium, France, etc.”
Miracles of healing have been attributed to Charlene’s prayers, but her brother believes her biggest impact has been at home, where she’s known by many as “The Little Cajun Saint.”
“We need somebody who can teach us the way, how to live and how to die,” John Dale Richard said. “I think that’s why she’s worldwide and why so many people want to be so close to her.”
For 30 years, thousands of people have come to Charlene Richard’s grave for an annual commemorative mass, and Saturday the Diocese of Lafayette will officially open the “Cause for Canonization”, the first step toward possibly making her a real saint.
“Everybody is just so proud of that,” admits Richard. “To be from our community, from our people, from our culture, that we have someone that we can talk to, that understands us, that, you know, that is one of us.”
Thursday morning about 50 people will meet with clergy in Richard to shares stories and miracles attributed to Charlene.
The cause for canonization is Saturday at 10 A.M. at the Immaculata Chapel in Lafayette.