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    Our dear departed

    Lieven Laga

    Lieven Laga

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    Frederic Vital Mees smallLieven Laga (1937-2021)

     

    Born in Kortrijk (B) on September 4, 1937
    First vows on September 8, 1957
    Ordained Priest on August 5, 1962
    Missionary in Haiti and Belgium
    Died in Kortrijk on January 7, 2021 at the age of 83


    For Lieven, the missionary desire started in the family home. It was there that the seed of the warm person that Lieven would become was sown. The spark that triggered this missionary desire would undoubtedly be his high-school years.

    His Formation at Scheut was marked by the Second Vatican Council, a period of great expectations that gradually expanded to Latin America and later to the island of Haiti with the Medellin document.

    Lieven started his mission in Haiti, in the vast mountain parish of Vallières. An area without passable roads. Some communities in this parish could only be reached by horse or mule. He was the parish priest there and had two other assistant priests. Lieven was known as someone who had good relations with everyone and who was open to new initiatives. He was also known everywhere as an excellent horseman. He crossed mountains, valleys, and deep ravines, visiting Christian communities and proclaiming the Good News. Together with the Christians of these communities, he read the Bible, insisting that a new world was possible: a world of forgiveness and reconciliation and a world of brotherhood and solidarity.

    Lieven lived among many oppressed people, seeking with them the realization of God’s reign in this world. Many people who had never been to school were encouraged to read and write about their own reality. They were gradually made aware of the importance of literacy for understanding that the situation in which they lived was unjust, cruel, and not at all in line with God’s plan for all people in this world.

    After many years of flourishing in the mountains, Lieven was ap­pointed in the valley at a large parish in Pignon. He found him­self in a new pastoral landscape, with a growing attempt at cooperation between neighboring parishes. For me, his closest neighbor, it was a very enriching and rich experience. I will never forget Lieven as a friend with a listening ear, an inquiring eye, and an openness to others’ participation in his parish work. Lieven always fought for peace and brotherhood. In front of the political authorities, he was firm in his attitude against injustice.

    After many years in Pignon, Lieven was appointed parish priest in Saltadère, a village on the border with the Dominican Republic. There he continued to work to construct a more just and viable Haiti, to realize God’s dream for this tormented country.

    The last stage of his missionary activity brought him back to his starting point, Bois de Laurence, once an outpost of his first parish of Vallières, now an independent parish. He worked there for many years until his health forced him, after almost 50 years of missionary activity, to return to Belgium, where he gave his best for ten more years at the MRS Heilige Familie in Deerlijk. When I visited him, I felt like I was back in Haiti. You could understand that this was his life: that hospitality, that inquiring eye, and that attentive ear to the messages coming from the distant island.

    Having lost his physical strength, he had to abandon what was dear to him and joined the community of Kortrijk, his hometown. Unfortunately, just a short time afterward, his journey on earth unexpectedly came to an end. He will undoubtedly be welcomed by one of the poor people he served with these words: “m byen kontan ou la zanmim antre lakay papa ou” (welcome my friend, enter your Father’s house). ■

    Paul Hanson


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