Notre Dame, Ind. Rev. Lawrence Albert LeVasseur, C.S.C., 91, died on Wednesday, December 16, 2015, at Holy Cross House.
He was born on Dec. 7, 1924, in New Orleans, to Albert A. and Edna (Ramos) LeVasseur. He graduated from Holy Cross High School in 1941. He entered Holy Cross Seminary at the University of Notre Dame in 1941 and was received into the Congregation on Aug. 15, 1942. Fr. LeVasseur made his first profession of vows on Feb. 2, 1944. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and went on to Holy Cross College in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1951 with a degree in theology. Fr. LeVasseur made his final profession on June 3, 1948, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 6, 1951, at Sacred Heart Church at Notre Dame. Fr. LeVasseur earned a master’s degree in English from Notre Dame in 1958. He served at Holy Cross Seminary at Notre Dame from 1951 to 1961, including assignments as steward, assistant superior and superior. He was superior of St. Joseph Hall at Notre Dame from 1961 to 1963 and then was assigned as superior of the District of Chile and director of Seminario de Santa Cruz from 1963 to 1970. From 1970 to 1979, Fr. LeVasseur served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in New Orleans. In 1980, he was assigned to Rome as general assistant and steward of the Holy Cross Community. From 1986 to 1987, Fr. LeVasseur was associate pastor of St. Ignatius Martyr Parish in Austin, Texas, where he also served as pastor from 1987 to 1991, when he was assigned as assistant director of the Br. Charles Andersen-Theology Formation House in San Antonio, Texas. In 2006, Fr. LeVasseur became chaplain for the brothers at Holy Cross High School in San Antonio, as well as chaplain at St. Francis Nursing Home. He moved to Holy Cross House, Notre Dame, Ind., in 2012.
Preceding him in death are his parents, Albert and Edna LeVasseur; his sister, Lois LeVasseur Ray; and his nephew, Gregory Lawrence Ray.
He is survived by his nephew, Gary Ray, and a cousin, Justin LeVasseur.
The Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Day (Dec. 20, 2015) at Moreau Seminary, where there will be a Wake Service at 7:30 p.m. The Funeral Mass will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday (Dec. 21, 2015) at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame. Burial will be in the community cemetery at Notre Dame. Kaniewski Funeral Home, South Bend, is in charge of the arrangements.
Memorial contributions in support of the mission and ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross can be made to: United States Province of Priests and Brothers, Office of Development, P.O. Box 765, Notre Dame, IN 46556-0765 or online atdonate.holycrossusa.org.
Wake Eulogy by Rev. Peter Logsdon, C.S.C.
Dec. 20, 2015
First of all, we want to express our condolences to you, Gary, on the loss of your Uncle Larry and we extend our condolences, of course, to other family members who couldn’t be here.
Secondly, I want to say that it is a privilege for me to have been asked to give this eulogy for Father Larry LeVasseur.
I first met Father Larry when I was a seminarian way back in the 1960s and later I had the opportunity to work together with him in the Southern Province for over 40 years. And I was fortunate to have been with him during his last months at Holy Cross House.
Larry was born and raised in Sacred Heart Parish in New Orleans in an area that is called “Mid City”. Holy Cross founded Sacred Heart Parish in 1879 and we served there until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. That’s when the parish was closed for good. Larry not only grew up in the parish and went to Sacred Heart grade school but he also graduated from Holy Cross High School which was run by our Holy Cross Brothers. That’s probably one of the reasons that Larry was always close to the Brothers wherever he served. Larry loved New Orleans and even rode with the Mardi Gras “Crew of Endymion” that passed right in front of Sacred Heart Church on Canal Street. Now, if you don’t know, that’s a big deal in New Orleans! Just ask Larry’s friends there and, of course, the Marianite Sisters.
After ordination in 1951 here at Notre Dame, Larry taught and later was Superior of the Holy Cross Minor Seminary. It was called “The Little Sem” and I know that some of you were there during Fr. LeVasseur’s time.
After 10 years at the Little Sem, Larry was made Superior of the Postulant Program at the old Moreau Seminary, then called St. Joe Hall and some of you were with him there.
Then, in 1963, Larry got the shock of his life. He was asked to go to Santiago, Chile to become the Director of Formation and District Superior. Larry was shocked because he didn’t know Spanish and I don’t think he ever thought that he would be asked to serve outside of the United States. But I really believe that it was during those years in Chile that his life was changed forever.
For one thing seminary formation was changing. But also Larry got very involved, maybe for the first time in his life, in the issues of Social Justice. And, of course, he had to adapt to the culture!
One little story that he told about himself showed how everything was different for him in Chile. It seems that just after he got to the house of formation in Santiago he and several of the seminarians were invited to a family home for an evening meal. The invitation said 6 PM. So just before six, Larry was all set to leave the formation house and go to the family home. But when he tried to round up the seminarians they said that it was too early to leave. And Larry got very upset. He is reputed to have said: “I’ve never been late for anything in my life!” And so he left the house alone. As he arrived at the family home he noticed that some of the family members were leaving their house. So he asked “where are you going” and they answered “oh, we are going to the market to buy the food to prepare for dinner”! Right then Larry knew that he had a lot to learn about living in a new culture.
After he finished his term as District Superior in Santiago, Larry received word that his father was very ill. So he returned to New Orleans where he took up residence at his home parish of Sacred Heart. And very soon after his return, his father passed away. So Larry began getting ready for a new assignment. That is when another big change happened in his life. In June of 1970, the beloved Pastor at Sacred Heart Parish, Father Gene Dore, suffered a heart attack. The Provincial of the Southern Province, Father Christopher O’Toole, asked Larry to be the new pastor at Sacred Heart Parish. Now this is when I really learned that Father Larry had become a changed person during his time in Chile. Before accepting the assignment as Pastor Larry asked the two newly ordained Associate Pastors at Sacred Heart, namely Father Len Collins and myself, to go with him to the hospital room of Father Dore and have a little meeting. There Larry proposed that we have a new model for running a parish. It would not only be a “team effort” but that we would give the laity a real voice in decision-making and that we would focus on Social Justice Issues.
Back in 1970 the Sacred Heart Parish neighborhoods were changing from all-Anglo to African American and Latino. Racial tensions were very high. So, there in the hospital room we all made that commitment. The truth of the matter is that Larry stuck to that form of running things for the rest of his life whether he was a Pastor or Superior or Formation Director.
During these last few days I have received emails from several of his coworkers from years gone by testifying to Larry’s inspirational and courageous leadership. (I only have time to mention two comments). Holy Cross Sister Judy Hallock wrote: “Larry touched us all so deeply because of the kind, generous, loving child of God that he was he encouraged us to build a truly beautiful faith-filled community at Sacred Heart.” And Gerianne Savage wrote: “Larry believed in us and allowed us to share ministry with him and others. My husband Frank and I are grateful for his leadership, trust and, above all, his love.”
In 1980, Larry was again surprised when he was elected to the General Administration in Rome. As some of you remember, he traveled the world from 1980 to 1986 encouraging Holy Crossers to make an option for the poor in every apostolate.
After his time in Rome, Larry was appointed Pastor of the large and very active parish of St. Ignatius the Martyr in Austin Texas. To this day people remember his wonderful homilies!
After his term at St. Ignatius, he was asked to again do internal ministry in Holy Cross. And so he became the Director of the Post Novitiate House of Formation for the South-West and Southern Provinces in San Antonio, Texas. Some of you, Brothers and Priests, were there with him. And just as he did in his time in Santiago, in New Orleans, in Rome and in Austin, Larry promoted the idea that all of us in Holy Cross are called to make a commitment to stand with the poor and marginalized in society.
After the Southern Province rejoined the Indiana Province in 2006 Larry spent his last years of active ministry living with the Holy Cross Brothers in San Antonio, participating in many Marriage Encounters all over Texas and serving as chaplain in a nursing home.
So when Larry finally came here to Holy Cross House he knew what conditions could be like in a nursing home. And that’s probably why, over the past few years, he has told everyone who would listen especially the nursing staff that he was so happy and appreciative to be at Holy Cross House.
He would ask over and over again “how many other religious communities have this kind of Retirement Home?”
So, for me and for many, many people, Fr. Larry was a model of a very good and faithful Holy Cross religious who gave everything he had for the Holy Cross community and for the wider church. May Fr. Larry’s life inspire us to do the same.