Throughout September, but especially on September 9, which is the anniversary of the death in 1864 of Father Jacques Desire Laval (known locally as Père Laval), pilgrims gather at the priest’s grave in Ste Croix. Father Laval was born in France in 1803 and brought up in a strict religious atmosphere, qualifying as a medical doctor before becoming a priest. In 1841 he arrived in Mauritius as a missionary and converted thousands of recently freed slaves to Catholicism, becoming known as the Apostle of the Blacks. He is regarded as the 'national saint’ of Mauritius, recognised by the Vatican and venerated by followers of all faiths who attribute miraculous healing powers to his name.
Père Laval is credited with converting 67,000 people to Christianity during his 23 years in Mauritius and he quickly became a soul savior, labelled Mauritius’ Apostle. Today the remains of the priest rest in a massive modern stone vault and is object of great respect to the Mauritians all ethnicities combined.