Father Gustave Lafortune celebrates 60 years of Roman Catholic priesthood in Seychelles
Father Lafortune started his journey into the priesthood in Fribourg Switzerland. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Father Gustave Lafortune, now 86 years old, celebrated 60 years of priesthood on June 30 for his service to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Seychelles.
Hailing from the eastern district of Cascade, Gustave Charles Baromee Lafortune was born on November 3, 1936. From humble beginnings, Lafortune was a sickly child who at a young age showed devotion to the church by serving as an altar boy and assisting the nuns who lived in his community.
A bright child, Father Lafortune did his primary schooling at Cascade, followed by five years at Seychelles College. He then proceeded to Switzerland for his A-level and theology studies at the College Royale Abbaye College of St. Maurice in September 1956.
Longest serving Seychellois Catholic priest
Father Lafortune started his journey into the priesthood in Fribourg Switzerland, where he also did his studies at the Capuchins Convent and at the Abhaye College of St. Maurice—surrounded by his Capuchins brothers, Bishop Francois Charier – a close friend of Bishop Olivier Maradan of the Victoria Diocese at that time, who ordained Lafortune on June, 30 at the Saint Michel College Chapel in Fribourg. After one year in the parish of Morges in Lausanne, Father Lafortune returned to the islands.
He arrived back on Mahe on December 21, 1964, and on December 24, Father Lafortune celebrated the Christmas eve mass at the St Andre parish of his native district of Cascade. Over the years Father Lafortune worked in several parishes on Mahe and Praslin; these included Mt. Fleuri, Plaisance, Baie Ste Anne, Cascade, Anse Royale and Anse Boileau.
|The former Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Seychelles Denis Wiehe celebrated a special mass at the St Andrews Parish at Cascade in 2015 to honour the work done by Father Lafortune. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
Singer, songwriter and poet
Aside from his priestly duties, Lafortune loved the arts and is a renowned songwriter and singer. Poetry is something which he also loved, and which he started to write in his childhood. Over the years he worked and released 4 cassettes of his songs. These were mostly gospel songs that were very popular, sung not only in church but also played on the local radio.
Amongst his composition are "Wi nou kapab viv lamour Zezi Kri" (yes we can live the love of Jesus Christ),"En soley pe leve" (A Sun is Rising), the latter is still popular today
Special homage to Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005. Born in Poland, John Paul II was the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX. He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate.
Pope John Paul II visited Seychelles in December 1986 and Father Lafortune composed a special song to coincide with John Paul II's visit, marked by a mass attended by thousands, who braved the rain on that day.
Editor of L'Echo de Iles - longest publication of the island nation
In 1974, Lafortune returned to Fribourg, Lausanne where he followed a course in journalism, and upon his return to Seychelles he was appointed as editor of L'Echo des Iles - a Roman Catholic publication.
On September 1, 1935, the mouthpiece of the Roman Catholic Mission was launched by Father Maurice Roh entitled L'Action Catholique. In 1957 it was renamed L'Echo des Iles. The publication, which comes out every fortnight, is the only publication in Seychelles that has not missed any publications since its inception.
Leaving his mark in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Seychelles
Lafortune retired officially from the church in 2015. Today, his days are spent quietly at the St. Therese parish, where he moved after living at the Domus – the official residence of Catholic priests.
Father Lafortune is known for his devotion, his compositions – songs and hymns in Creole still being sung at mass in churches today – his work with church groups such as Neo Catechumenal, as well as with catechism.
Lafortune was instrumental in building three chapels -- the Christ the King Chapel at Anse la Blague, and the Mont Plaisir Chapel on the second most populated island of Praslin, and La Salette Chapel in the western district of Anse Boileau, where Lafortune worked in the parish of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, for nearly 20 years, the longest time he had served in any parish.