Those close to him called him “Nonco” for “Uncle.” A representative of the Auguste “Nonco” Pelafigue Foundation, Charles Hardy, said that he earned the nickname because he was "like a good uncle to everyone who came into his (circle) of influence."
That circle of influence was a large one. A teacher, Pelafigue joined the faculty of the Little Flower School in Arnaudville as the only lay member after teaching in public school. At the same time, he joined The Apostleship of Prayer, an organization with French roots dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
According to Hardy, who spoke at the ceremony where Bishop Deshotel opened the cause of his canonization in 2020, “Nonco was known for his passionate devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
“He devoutly attended daily Mass and served wherever he was needed,” Hardy said. “Perhaps most inspiringly, with a rosary looped around his arm, Nonco traversed the highways and byways of his community, spreading devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”
He also walked along rural roads visiting the sick and less fortunate, refusing rides from his neighbors as an act of penance for the conversion of souls and for those in purgatory.
Even on his weekends, Pelafigue worked tirelessly. He taught religion to public school students and organized the League of the Sacred Heart, which produced monthly pamphlets about the special devotion. Pelafigue also put together plays around Christmas and other feasts that often highlighted the Sacred Heart.
Pope Pius XII later awarded Pelafigue in 1953 with the Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice medal.
“Mr. Pelafigue has organized the League of the Sacred Heart with some 1,200 members and 101 promoters. He goes out on foot to visit the fallen away and invites them to prayer of the league,” his pastor at the time, Fr. Daniel Bernard wrote, according to The Auguste “Nonco” Pelafigue Foundation. “He teaches in the Catholic School, teaches Catechism to the public school children – all out of love of God – with no pay. He organizes religious programs for the encouragement of the weak and edification of the strong. He has been in this parish, another priest. He is most humble. He attends Holy Mass and receives Holy Communion daily. He assists at all Masses on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.”
“In a word,” Bernard added, “he is a living example of the REAL CHRISTIAN.”
On the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, on Jun 6, 1977, Pelafigue passed away at the age 89 years old.
Servant of God Joseph Dutton
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Ira Joseph Dutton was born on April 27, 1843 in Stowe, Vermont, to Protestant parents. Four years later, his family relocated to Janesville, Wisconsin.
This Servant of God fought in the Civil War for the Union Army where he was elevated to the rank of captain with the 13th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment Infantry. After he was discharged in 1866, Dutton faced a new set of challenges: a failed marriage to an unfaithful woman and a drinking problem.
Dutton “perhaps had what we might call now PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder,” Bishop Silva told the bishops.
He volunteered to bury the dead left on the battlefields at a site now known as the National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. He later worked at a distillery in Alabama, built railroads in Memphis, and settled claims for the War Department.
In the early 1880s, Dutton resolved to do penance for his past. He entered the Church on his 40th birthday and accepted Joseph as his baptismal name. After he joined a Trappist monastery in Kentucky, he realized that he was called to a more active life.
Inspired by the story of St. Damien of Molokai, he left his belongings behind to travel to Hawaii, and, in 1886, joined Father Damien in ministering to those with leprosy. St. Damien called his new friend “Brother” and, before dying, stressed, “I can die now. Brother Joseph will take care of my orphans.”