An interesting story pertaining to my home, Lousiana. God bless those brave & heroic priests who sacrificed their lives to assure the salvation of souls.
Louisiana Is Proud of the Sons of St. Yves
The Catholic community of Shreveport in Louisiana is reviving the memory of five priests from Brittany who sacrificed their lives for their flock during a yellow fever outbreak in 1873.
An entire ocean lies between Louisiana and the diocese of Saint-Brieuc-et-Tréguier. In February 2019, a delegation led by Fr. Peter Mangum, administrator of the diocese of Shreveport, traveled to Brittany with the mission to trace back the history of five Breton priests.
Late in the summer of 1873, Louisiana was hit by the third largest yellow fever epidemic in its history: nearly a quarter of the population perished. Among the 1200 victims were five priests as well as two Sisters and a young novice of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross.
The five priests, François Le Vezouët, Isidore Quémerais, Louis Gergaud, Narcisse Le Biler and Jean Pierre, had been sent to the diocese of Natchitoches, that had been created in 1853 and would later become Shreveport. In a mostly Protestant city with a large Jewish community, they sacrificed their lives to care for the sick.
“When the epidemic struck, the Protestant pastors and the rabbis left the city. The Catholic priests stayed to take care of the sick, even though they knew they would be contaminated too,” explained Fr. Magnum to the newspaper La Croix on March 20, 2019.
“We did not know this surprising and beautiful story,” admitted Bishop Denis Moutel, bishop of Saint-Brieuc. But in Shreveport, that has become Louisiana’s third-largest city with a population of 200,000, the sacrifice of these five priests has not been forgotten: “There are magnificent stained-glass windows depicting them in one of our churches, but there are also paintings and blessed holy cards,” explained Fr. Mangum.
He hopes that for the 150th anniversary of the yellow fever outbreak in Shreveport, in 2023, the Vatican will recognize the heroic virtues of these five Breton priests, worthy sons of their patron, in whose honor a song from Tréguier recalls that “for the poor and those who suffer, there is no one kinder than St. Yves.”