US Bishops Advance 2 Causes of Canonization

The bishops voted that the causes for Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur, a World War II military chaplain, and Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, a merchant mariner who became a Benedictine monk, should proceed.

The cause of canonization for Father Joseph Lafleur is one of those that will be considered at the USCCB assembly this week
The cause of canonization for Father Joseph Lafleur is one of those that will be considered at the USCCB assembly this week (photo: Andrepont Printing via CNA)

The U.S. bishops voted Thursday to advance two causes of canonization, for Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur, a World War II military chaplain, and for Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, a merchant mariner who became a Benedictine monk.

“It was something I would have never thought would have happened in my lifetime,” said Carrol Lafleur, the wife of Father Lafleur’s nephew, Richard. “I had always hoped that my children would have gotten to see it. But for Richard and I [sic] to actually see it, see it in progress, and to have people want to know about Father Lafleur is just beyond words.”

Father Lafleur is most remembered for his heroic service during World War II.

He was born Jan. 24, 1912, in Ville Platte, Louisiana. During his summer breaks from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Lafleur would spend his time teaching catechism and first communicants.

He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, on April 2, 1938, and requested to be a military chaplain just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Initially, his request was denied, but when the priest asked a second time, it was granted. 

Carrol told CNA that Father Lafleur wished to accompany the drafted men who had no choice but to fight in the war. 

He was deployed to the Philippines and spent two and a half years as a prisoner of war of the Japanese.

“Father Lafleur did a lot of work in the prison camps, as well,” said nephew Richard Lafleur. “He gave his own food when they were starving to death.”

Richard Lafleur told CNA that men in the camps with Father Lafleur testified that his character caused the conversion of about 200 men to Catholicism while in the prison camp.

Father Lafleur earned the Distinguished Service Cross for Valor, and he ended up on a ship with other Japanese POWs that was torpedoed, unwittingly, by an American submarine that did not realize the ship was carrying POWs. 

He was last seen Sept. 7, 1944, helping men out of the hull of the sinking ship, for which he posthumously earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and a second Distinguished Service Cross for his acts as a POW.

Of the hundreds of prisoners on the ship, 82 survived, according to Father Lafleur’s nephew. Each surviving man came back to the United States telling stories about Father Lafleur’s heroic actions of leadership, sacrifice and courage amid the prisoners’ conditions. 

Father Lafleur’s body was never found, but a shrine and monument exist at St. Landry Catholic Church, where he grew up. Each year Mass is celebrated in honor of his life around the date of his death. 

Bishop Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette opened Father Lafleur’s cause for canonization Sept. 5, 2020.

Father Lafleur was recognized in a keynote to the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington on June 6, 2017, by Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the military archdiocese, who said: 

“He was a man for others right to the end. … Father Lafleur responded to his POW situation with creative courage. He drew on his virtue to care for, protect and fortify the men imprisoned with him.”

“Many survived because he was a man of virtue who gave unstintingly of himself. To speak of the greatness of our country is to speak of men and women of virtue who gave of themselves for the benefit of all. We build for a new tomorrow when we draw from that wellspring of virtue.”

On Thursday 99% of bishops voted for the cause of Father Lafleur to proceed.


Brother Marinus LaRue was also involved in military efforts during an American war. 

Born Jan. 14, 1914, LaRue attended the Pennsylvania Nautical School. After his graduation in 1934, he served as the U.S. Merchant Marine Captain of the SS Meredith Victory during the Korean War. 

LaRue was tasked with delivering military supplies to a port in Hungnam, North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of soldiers and refugees were searching for safety from advancing communist forces.

Arriving before Christmas, LaRue came to discover the multitudes of people who were awaiting help. LaRue chose to unload almost all of the ship’s weapons and supplies in order to provide space for as many refugees as possible on the ship. 

The USS Meredith Victory, which was designed to serve around 50 passengers, sailed away from the coast with approximately 14,000 refugees.

Father Pawel Tomczyk, postulator for LaRue’s canonization cause, said, “The fact that he was able to rescue so many without losing a single life” was inspiring. 

LaRue later discerned a religious vocation and entered St. Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Newton, New Jersey, in 1954, taking the name Brother Marinus in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Brother Marinus lived a humble life, dishwashing, working in a gift shop, and serving his brother monks. 

“This is the uniqueness of this cause, in that he was one man but almost had two lives,” Father Tomczyk told CNA. 

“He combines the two vocations: One as a layperson, as a successful captain of a ship, and then the latter part of his life as a religious monk, as a Benedictine, a man of prayer and simplicity.”

Brother Marinus died Oct. 14, 2001. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, issued a decree opening Brother Marinus’ cause March 25, 2019.

On Thursday, 99% of bishops also voted that the cause of Brother Marinus should proceed.



Register staff updated this report.

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