Monday, September 24, 2007

Shreveport's own martyrs

This fall marks the 134th anniversary of the terrible Yellow Fever epidemic that swept through Shreveport infecting more than 2500 and killing 759 people.

Among those killed were five Catholic priests who ministered to the sick at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Monsignor Earl Provenza, now pastor of the church in Downtown Shreveport paid tribute to them in his Masses this weekend. One of the dead, Fr. Pierre, was the first pastor of the church. A couple of the other priests came from out of town against the advice of others, but they felt a stronger call by God to be here for the people.

Here's a clip from a diary entry written by the Rev. Joseph Gentille, the second pastor of the church:

(Father Pierre's) young Assistant, Father Isidore Queremais, who was laboring under the dreadful disease Consumption, was the first to pay his tribute to the epidemic. On the 15th of September he died. Father Pierre followed his assistant on the 16th of September. His death was a public calamity. He was beloved and esteemed by all.

Death was not yet satisfied. Father Biler, Chaplain to the Sisters at St. Vincent's, stood alone on the ramparts....

Rev. L. Gergaud parish priest of Monroe arrived in time to assist poor Father Biler who on the 26th of September answered the call of the Savior and received the reward of his Christian charity and heroism. Father Gergaud ministered to the wants of the plague stricken on by four days. Yellow fever struck him dead on the 1st of October 1873.

Father F. LeVezouet came from Natchitoches in time to assist and console dear Father Gergaud. Out of five one was yet standing animated, worn and he fell, but before falling had entreated Most Rev. Bishop Perche of N.O. (New Orleans) to send help and assistance. He fought the dreadful disease until he himself could be anointed. Then he breathed his last Oct. 8th, 1973.

The five priests are immortalized in stained glass and in portraits in the
church. Provenza told me no one has ever taken up their cause for sainthood, but it sounds like a worthy one to me. What better example of Christian charity than to serve regardless of the cost?

1 comment:

MS said...

Great story.

I first learned of the priests after photographing St. Joseph's Cemetery, the final resting place of the five priests.