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Brother Louis de Lavagna: The Capuchin Saint of Toronto

Luigi de Lavagna, Capuchin saint of Toronto

Claudio Auger

Cesare Sambuceti (1801-1857) was born in Lavagna, northern Italy, to a family of bankers. He moved to Genoa where he studied and began working for a stockbroker. Gifted with languages, he quickly learned English and French. At twenty-three he joined the Capuchins; he then took on a religious name followed by his place of birth: Luigi da Lavagna.

In 1838 he was sent to France to restore the Capuchin order, abolished during the Revolution. From then on he will be known as Father Louis. During a stay in Aix-en-Provence, he met a French Sulpician, Armand de Charbonnel. He had spent several years in the United States and Canada and had been asked to become a bishop. He suggested the monk accompany him to found a Capuchin convent in Toronto. In 1850, Father Louis accepted and left for London. What was supposed to be a step became a six-year stay.

Lavagna's father ended up crossing the Atlantic in 1856. Welcomed by Monsignor de Charbonnel, who became the second bishop of Toronto, he began working as a parish priest in the parish of Sainte-Marie. Having always led a life of penance, he continues to wear the Capuchin habit and walk barefoot and with sandals. The Canadian winter, however, put a strain on the monk's health, and he died of pleurisy on March 17, 1857. Even then he was considered a saint. His reputation grew further in 1887, when his remains were moved to the new Sainte-Marie church and his body was found to be incorrupt. It still rests there.

WITNESSES OF FAITH / Claude Auger (17 March 2024)

(March 17, 2024)

Life of Father Luigi da Lavagna (1801 -1857): Study of the sources / Luigi Pautasso

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“The parish was then served by Father John O'Neill, the second parish priest, who was responsible for building a rectory next to the church. But it was in 1856 that St. Mary received its third and most important pastor, Father Louis de Lavagna, a Capuchin Franciscan who had earned a reputation as a saint for his ascetic lifestyle and his ability to restore the Capuchin order both in France and in England. His time as pastor of St Mary was not long as he died of pneumonia shortly after his first Canadian winter. His body was taken to the cathedral where it remained on display for two days because the first church of Santa Maria was falling apart due to foundation problems.


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