LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — A Louisiana girl often called “The Little Cajun Saint” has been moved a second step toward actual sainthood, along with a teacher who evangelized door to door in Cajun country and a man who worked for decades at a Hansen’s disease colony in Hawaii.
During its November meeting in Baltimore, the U.S. Conference of Bishops held voice votes to advance the cause of beatification and canonization of Charlene Richard of Richard, August “Nonco” Pelafigue of Arnaudville, and Ira Barnes Dutton, who took the name Joseph Dutton when he converted to Catholicism.
“It was a joyful moment to hear a unanimous voice vote supporting our pursuit of both causes for beatifying and canonizing both local parishioners of our Diocese,” Bishop Douglas Deshotel of the Diocese of Lafayette said in a news release.
Now that both their local parishes and the bishops have found them worthy, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints will document the candidates’ lives and investigate any miracles attributed to them, the diocese said.
Richard was 12 when she died of leukemia in 1959. Pelafigue died in 1977 at age 89. Dutton, 87, died in 1931.
Another candidate from the Diocese of Lafayette — a priest who volunteered as a military chaplain during World War II and died while a prisoner of war in 1944 — was advanced during the bishops’ spring meeting, the diocese’s news release noted.
Richard died at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette about two weeks after the hospital’s chaplain told her that her disease was terminal, the Conference of Bishops news release said.
“Though the illness was painful, Charlene remained cheerful, meekly accepted her fate, and offered up her suffering to God. … While dying, the young girl prayed for other individuals to be healed or to be converted to Catholicism,” the statement said.
The chaplain and the hospital’s nursing director both maintained that the people she prayed for were healed or converted, it said.
Thousands of people visit her grave each year, the news release said. She is credited with healing potentially fatal limbic encephalitis of a Chicago woman who ran her hands over the grave, it reported.
Pelafigue was a longtime resident of Arnaudville. He was a teacher, a producer of children’s plays and a door-to-door evangelist who devoted his life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Advertiser reported.
Dutton, whose parents moved from Vermont to Wisconsin when he was about 4, converted to Catholicism on his 40th birthday in 1883, in Memphis, Tennessee. His conversion and 35 years working in the Hansen’s disease colony at Molokai were part of penance for what he called his “degenerate decade” — a hard-drinking period that began in 1867, after his wife left him, according to the conference’s news release.