Jacques Laval was born on September 18, 1803 in Croth (northern France). After studying humanities at the Collège Stanislas de Paris, he earned his medical doctorate in 1830 and was a practicing physician in France for several years. In 1834, a near-fatal accident changed his life, inspiring him to close his medical practice and begin studies to enter the priesthood. He was ordained in 1838, served as a parish priest until 1840, and then joined the Spiritans.
As a Spiritan priest, Fr. Jacques Laval ministered on the island of Mauritius, where most of his parishioners were poor and former slaves. He lived with them, learned their language and culture, and helped them improve their teacher education, sanitation, and agriculture. He also used his medical training to help those who suffered illnesses. He was so successful and beloved there, converting 67,000 parishioners, that he came to be known as the Apostle of Mauritius.
When Laval died on September 9, 1864, it is said that more than 30,000 mourners followed his casket. He became the first beatified Spiritan on April 29, 1979. A building on Duquesne University’s campus is named “Laval House” in his honor, and students in Spiritan formation reside there during their theological studies.
As we celebrate the Feast Day in his honor on September 9, may we strive always to lift up, empower, and care for others with Blessed Jacques Laval as our inspiration.