Père Laval Pilgrimage
Every year on 8 September, men, women and children from every part of the island, leave their houses and start on a long march to the shrine of Father Jacques Désiré Laval at Sainte Croix, where prayers are said. The death of Père Laval is commemorated on 9 September.
On September 18, 1803, Jacques Désiré Laval was born in Normandy. He was born into an eight-child family and worked as a doctor before entering the seminary in 1839. At the age of 38, he arrived in Mauritius in 1841. He taught catechism to freed slaves while fully committed to his life of prayer, gradually gaining acceptance from everyone.
Through his dedication to God and desire to support the needy, he is thought to have rescued over 67,000 souls during his tenure on the island. Jacques Desire Laval died in 1864, which was a great loss to the Mauritian community; he was beatified in 1979 during a visit by Pope John Paul II, and he was buried in the graveyard at the old church of Sainte Croix with more than 30,000 people crying out the loss during the funeral procession.
Père Laval is a well-known figure among Mauritanians of all faiths. Pilgrims travel from as far as South Africa, the United Kingdom, and France to mourn his death on September 9th. Today the remains of the priest rest in a massive modern stone vault and is an object of great respect to the Mauritians of all ethnicities combined.
The shrine is relatively quiet at other times of the year, but the Friday services at 1pm and 5pm draw a decent crowd. A big, modern church and a shop with a permanent exhibition of Père Laval's robe, mitre, letters, and photographs are both located in the same complex.
The Shrine is dedicated to the French Catholic Missionary and priest Pere Jacques Desire Laval and it is the most important religious site in Mauritius, and also around the Indian Ocean.
The church is an interesting example of modern architecture and design, with an unusual and effective use of mosaic and stained glass window.