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After more than 35 years in Mauritius, Father Bernard Hym left the island on Tuesday June 18. However, his mission as vice-postulator for the canonization of Father Laval was not completed; he will continue it in Paris until his successor is designated.

“I have more trouble packing than leaving, because I know that it is the plane that will carry them and not me,” says Father Bernard Hym with a burst of laughter. When we met him at the Père Laval Center in Sainte-Croix a few days before his departure on Tuesday June 18, he was busy packing his suitcase for his big return to France, his native country. Even if it is with serenity and the feeling of duty accomplished that he leaves, it is the goodbyes that weigh him the most. He says he feels a little pang in his heart at the idea of ​​leaving the island after more than 35 years of service to the Mauritians, during which he provided various religious training.

It was in September 1988 that he arrived on mission in Mauritius. At the time, he didn't know much about the country. And even less of Father Laval, whom he discovered in a book. A few days later, while attending the pilgrimage to Father Laval's tomb, he understood the importance of the latter for the Mauritians. “This is what set me on the path to try to know a little more about his life and his works in Mauritius,” remembers Father Hym, who was appointed vice-postulator for the canonization of Father Laval by Cardinal Maurice Piat in 2017 (see box).

On vacation in France some time later, he discovered the first files and began his research. Since then, Father Hym has continued to delve into the life of the man who is described as the apostle of Mauritius, beatified in 1979, to prepare the files for his canonization by the Vatican. “From 1994 to 2017, I excavated, began to give conferences and visited the emblematic places of Father Laval in Mauritius thanks to Mgr Amédée Nagapen. »

Father Hym observes the love of the Mauritians for Father Laval. And yet, they don't know him well, he notes. “I am happy when people dare to ask questions, and I am saddened to see that they know the false truths about Father Laval better than the reality,” he said. While he has tried to fill this historical knowledge gap, he wonders how to share the information if people aren't reading. After meeting students from the Collège du Saint Esprit some time ago, he asked them to share their knowledge with their parents.

Testimonials

As vice-postulator for the canonization of Father Laval, his mission consists of receiving people's testimonies, determining whether there is material to prepare a file for canonization and obtaining the patient's medical file. This is hard work at which he “failed” in 2018, speaking of three months of work “for nothing” because Father Laval has not yet become “saint”.

The ancient procedure for canonization required complete, physical healing. However, with the new relaxed procedures, a cure from a recurring illness and an inexplicable event may be enough. An irrefutable “miracle”, where the healing must be physical, complete, immediate and not progressive.

“Doctors must also state that with the treatments carried out, healing is too rapid or that there should be consequences but that there are no after-effects. There must be something medically inexplicable,” emphasizes Father Hym. “We may have a better chance of having a case to present. But for that to happen, people need to come and testify,” he points out.

“The numerous ex-voto (objects in the form of plaques, paintings, jewelry or other symbolic objects, given in recognition or in fulfillment of a wish addressed to a divinity or a saint) deposited in the vault of Father Laval are testimonies of gratitude, but people never came to see me,” laments Father Hym. For him, these elements could have been included in Father Laval's canonization file. Ex-votos are often placed in a place of worship to express gratitude for a favor obtained or a prayer answered. The term comes from the Latin “ex voto suscepto”, meaning “following a vow made”.

According to Father Hym, some people think it’s not worth testifying or don’t want to “disturb.” Those who speak of graces obtained give information that cannot be presented as miracles. Paradoxically, those who place ex-votos help others to bear witness, but do not speak to a priest or the vice-postulator. However, it is from these testimonies that the files are put together to be presented to the bishopric of Port-Louis, and then to the Vatican in Rome.

“After the work of preparing the file, it is up to the diocese of Port-Louis to take over by bringing together the witnesses, the doctors and all those involved in the file, by asking them the questions in the order desired by the Vatican” , indicates Father Hym. If the file is conclusive, the diocese sends it to Rome, where there are more than four meters of files awaiting canonization. The file will then be studied at the Vatican with the contribution of seven doctors specializing in the disease. Theologians must argue that what doctors say can be considered a miracle, Father Hym explains.

Even though he will no longer be physically next to Father Laval's tomb, he says he remains with him through his writings and research. He specifies that the role of vice-postulator is more of a mission of drafting files, a job that he will continue in Paris and that he will be able to do better, according to him.

Father Hym found, a few weeks ago, information that he did not know about Father Laval, because he is going through the letters of his contemporaries which give more information than Father Laval himself gave. “The Lord will give us the canonization of Father Laval in due time, when He judges that it is the right time,” he said with confidence.

His journey in Mauritius

Born September 16, 1944 in Saint-Bonnet-Tronçais, Allier, France, Bernard Hym was ordained priest on June 17, 1972. He joined the diocese of Port-Louis on September 3, 1988. He was appointed vice -postulator for the cause of canonization of Blessed Father Jacques-Désiré Laval by Cardinal Maurice Piat. Chaplain of the Terre-Rouge Reception Center, he resided at the Père Laval Center in Sainte-Croix. Back in France, he will retain his position as vice-postulator until a replacement is found. Father Bernard Hym is co-author of several books with Dr. Lindsay Édouard, his research accomplice and just as passionate about Father Laval as he is.

  • September 3, 1988: arrival in Sainte-Croix
  • September 11 to December 24, 1988: integration course in Sainte-Hélène, alongside Fathers Michel Boullé and Jacques Piat
  • 1988 to 2000: 4 years vicar and 8 years priest at Sainte-Croix
  • 1998 to 2004: superior of the Spiritan group in Mauritius
  • 2000 to 2005: Spiritan Novitiate and Notre-Dame-de-la-Trinité Seminary
  • 2005 to 2018: responsible for the Père Laval pilgrimage
  • September 2014 to February 2024: 9 books on Father Laval with Dr. Lindsay Edouard as co-author
  • September 6, 2017: appointment as vice-postulator
  • June 17, 2022: 50 years of priesthood celebrated in Saint-Julien
  • June 18, 2024: departure for Chevilly-Larue, France

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