Sainthood considered for 5 priests who died serving in Shreveport’s 1873 pandemic

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Vatican is considering the canonization of five priests who served during Shreveport’s yellow fever pandemic in 1873, according to the Associated Press.

The priests — Isidore Quemerais, Jean Pierre, Jean Marie LeBiler were serving in Shreveport when the country-wide pandemic hit, while Louis Gergaud and Francois Le Vezouet were assigned to nearby parishes and came to help after the first three priest lost their lives to the virus.

In addition to the five priests nominated for canonization, two nuns and one novice from the Daughters of the Cross religious order lost their lives caring for those who had contracted yellow fever.

The priests’ decision to come to Shreveport would cost them their lives. All five contracted yellow fever just days apart, all dying in September and October of 1873.

Although at the time, Shreveport was mostly Protestant, had a large Jewish presence, with Roman Catholics a small part of the population, the priests and nuns served everyone.

Founding pastor of Holy Trinity, Pierre built Holy Trinity and by the time the fever broke out, had been recently joined Quemerais, who served as assistant pastor. LeBiler served as chaplain at the Daughters of the Cross convent in Shreveport.

When the virus broke out and quickly began to spread, Holy Trinity opened its doors to treat the sick, as did the Daughters of the Cross and many churches and private homes.

First, Quemeralis died of the virus Sept. 15, 1873 and Pierre died the next day. The day after Pierre died, LeBiler realized he was sick and sent a message to Gergaud, pastor of St. Matthews in Monroe asking him to come to Shreveport to help.

Gergaud came by stagecoach, but after only a few days in Shreveport, became ill. He died on Oct. 1, 1873.

It was then that the fifth priest, LeVezouet, who was serving in Natchitoches, came to Shreveport, but became ill almost immediately, succumbing to the illness on Oct. 8, 1873.

 The Vatican hasn’t set a timetable on when a decision might be made about whether to grant sainthood.

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