Nonco was always stopping in at our house to visit. Mama (Madame Sam, Alice Mistrot Hardy) would always have a little treat for him to eat. He would never eat in our house (only about 300 yds. from his house) but he would take food with him to eat at his house.
Nonco was my "sponsor" for my Confirmation and my Confirmation Name was "Augustine." I will always remember Nonco preparing me for this Sacrament but mainly his deep faith and excitement to escort me down the aisle. To have the Bishop confirm me with Nonco's hand on my shoulder I will remember forever. Always providing soft words of comfort and support, I never ever heard him complain about anything other than he did not like cold weather.
I often went with him to his house to feed the variety of his family members...chickens, ducks, pigeons, turkeys, rabbits, dogs (never saw a cat) that lived in his yard or in pens/cages he had situated in different spots in his back yard. They were always there for him, even though some had freedom to run away, it was incredible to see them get excited when Nonco arrived. Where he got all the food for them I'll never know, but they were all fat.
When I would ride around with my daddy (Samuel Hardy) to potato fields to visit farmers, we would see Nonco often, walking and delivering his Sacred Heart leaflets. Daddy would always stop and ask him if he wanted a ride. He would just wave us off and keep on walking. No one ever turned him away from their home when he would come knocking, he wouldn't stay long, just drop off a leaflet and move on to the next friend. He knew everybody. He was doing this as a friend and Catholic. It was his calling.
At Little Flower School we would get excited to participate in his school plays. We would practice at the Little Flower Auditorium. He would color code all the arrows on the stage and let us know what "color" team we were on and we would follow that color arrow during the performance. Pretty simple, but so was Nonco.
I am so lucky to have grown up during his time. Mama's affection for him was unending, I only got upset when she would give him that last slice of her delicious chicken pie, my favorite.
Mike Stutes, who was the janitor at St. Francis and Little
Flower School, had this moment with Nonco....
"I would unlock the doors of the church at 5:30 in the morning for 6 o'clock Mass. One winter day I first opened the door on the south side of the Church, entered and walked to the door on the north side, under protection from the blistering north wind. When I opened the door, Nonco was standing there, shivering in the cold in the teeth of that North wind. I let him in and said " Nonco when you arrive before me go wait for me on the south side of the church so the north wind doesn't hit you so hard. Nonco simply said ‘That's OK. I just offer my suffering up to Jesus, thank you.’”
I remember the children's plays he
would put together and direct for Christmas and Easter at the Little
Flower Auditorium. I remember he either delivered the scripts I had to recite directly to
me or to my Mom. The scripts were written on a torn piece of paper. I guess I
was doing this between the ages of 6 to 10.
I remember going to his house with my Mom and he had all kinds of animals... his goose chased me around the yard one afternoon and pecked me.
I remember him at church in the
morning during the week and on Sundays. I always remember him in a suit. He
would pass out the Sacred Heart leaflets before and after Mass.
I remember the little house on the bayou where Mom said he would watch my oldest brother Charles during the day while she worked at the store. The shutters had like a pine tree image cut out of them. I remember Mom saying he was a teacher in either northern or central Louisiana before he came to Arnaudville... I think?
He was such a kind, spiritual, dedicated to his faith man.
As I ponder what
prompted me to agree to work with Jerry Richard, someone I did not know, on the
beatification and canonization of an old man from my childhood, I realize that
special forces were at work.
The story begins…
About four years ago now, I
was visited by Jerry Richard. I knew his
parents, Wilma Miller and Lawrence Richard.
I knew his brother Lawrence Richard, Jr. who had married Gloria Schexnayder. Wilma and Lawrence Sr. were friends of my parents, Nola Artigue and Clarence “Choat”
Arnaud. They were about the same ages and Lawrence and my father were in the
Little Flower Council 3621 of the Knights of Columbus. They were also both farmers and as farmers in
the area often did, they would lend a helping hand when needed.
When Jerry and I met at my kitchen table, he asked if I remembered Nonco and told me that he wanted to work on his canonization. Would I be willing to help? he asked. Well, in my family, we have a hard time saying “No.” I immediately heard myself agreeing without thinking what might be involved. As Jerry and my husband recounted K.C. stories, I was already questioning my sanity.
It had been a difficult eight years. The 10 years or so before then, I had devoted to caring for my mother and volunteering at my church parish. One day, my life fell completely apart. I found pornography on a church computer. My pastor had me train in the program called "Create a Safe Environment for Children." I knew that the matter had to be reported. And, it had to be reported to the F.B.I. The next morning when I attended Mass, my world had changed. My church parish -- my friends -- had turned against ME! What did I do wrong?
Now, Jerry was asking ME to help canonize Nonco. I was not even sure I knew what I believed anymore. But, as soon as I was able, I started researching the process of beatification and canonization and realized that in my lifetime, I would not see it happen. It does take time. I was getting pretty close to my seventies; but, instead of throwing in the towel, I could not let it go. My next reaction was: I had better get a move on!
forms and studied how others had become saints.
In particular, never curious about him before, I read about St. John
Francis Regis, the patron saint of our little town of Arnaudville. Among many other things, St. John Francis
Regis had helped destitute women by having them make lace in order to support
themselves. I was being drawn into something magnificent! But, Jerry Richard went away. I did not hear again from him for two years.
One day, Jerry Richard reappeared. He wondered if I was ready to work on Nonco. Always quick tempered, I immediately (almost screamed!) responded: “Don’t ask me to do something if you are only wasting my time. Two years ago, I started this and you did not do what you said you would. Are you serious or not!” Thank God, Jerry has a calm spirit and we quickly came to an understanding. We set a plan of action and a time frame.
Daily, I express my gratitude
to God for the abilities He has given me.
I believe all of my work experiences have led me to this one great thing in my life--the canonization of Auguste "Nonco" Pelafigue.
Working for Attorney J. Minos Simon and then Oilman Baker Littlefield, helping
establish an artist presence in Arnaudville after Hurricane Katrina and helping
a dietitian work on a nonprofit corporation gave me what I needed to help set
up a 501 (c) (3) corporation and a website for the Auguste “Nonco” Pelafigue
On June 6, 2012, Jerry
Richard personally carried the documents to the Louisiana Secretary of
State Office. He even covered the charge for filing. We were official. We did not have any money with which to operate. But, it was the 35th Anniversary of Nonco death. He died on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
During the Christmas Season of 2013, Charles Hardy suggested that although we had limited funds, we should visit the nursing home in Arnaudville and make small donations to two of the residents. We selected two couples who had known Nonco. We enjoyed our visit there but something was happening to me. As I walked the halls and greeted the residents, I knew I wanted to do more at the nursing home. In January 2014, I asked the Nonco Foundation Board if I could start an Apostleship of Prayer League of the Sacred Heart Group at J. M. Morrow Nursing Home. They agreed. On February 6, 2014,at 9:30 a.m., we handed out leaflets to the
residents and had our first Apostleship of Prayer Nonco Group meeting. We asked the
residents to bring leaflets to their roommates who were not physically able to attend the meeting, and to family members who
visited.With the help of my husband, my sister Mavis Fruge, Jerry Richard's sister Lucy Romero and Henry Charles Taylor, we had made it happen! Nonco's work was continuing.
But, something else happened. I felt drawn to return to the nursing home. I wanted to talk to Mathilde Bourque about Nonco. When I did, I felt her love and her strength. It was so inspiring that I wrote about it and asked Harriet Lofton, the administrator, if I could post it on the nursing home website. My plan was approved and I have written almost one story a month since then.
On Thursday, my visit day at the nursing home, KATC TV 3's Mycah Hatfield interviewed some of the residents and me and the segment which broadcast told of how I was recording their stories. I told her it was because of Nonco. He visited many residents of Arnaudville in his lifetime. He planted the idea in my mind. His ministry is alive and well in Arnaudville.
We, the directors of the Nonco Foundation, face daily challenges. This is a full-time job for me. I complain sometimes that I do not have any free time -- and I don't. I give it all away. But, progress is being made. Jerry and I have been
joined by many people who are just as devoted to the cause as we are. But why?
My memories of Nonco began
before I started school. This funny
little man would come walking to our house which was probably four miles from where he
lived. He would not come in nor stay long and his
little dogs would be running around him.
He seemed so peaceful and he always had time to say a kind greeting to
us children. In my earliest memories of
the man, I knew he was holy. Before I attended school, he delivered Sacred
Heart leaflets and we learned our Morning Offering from our mother and those leaflets.
When I did go to Little Flower School, Nonco was my teacher. He was very strict just like my parents were. I am certain I tried his patience as much as I did Mom and Dad's. Once, he donated a rabbit to be raffled because the nuns needed some piece of equipment. I don't remember how I got a nickel to buy a chance but I did and I won the rabbit. I remember Nonco struggling to get the wooden crate on the bus and under a seat so that I could bring it home. Our bus driver, Mrs. Ruby Gil Broussard, was not at all happy. Nonco talked her into allowing the rabbit on her bus.
I was in one of Nonco's plays that I remember. My line was: "Comment je detest ce haricots vert." I don't know why my line was in French but I remember it was.
It has been over six years since I started working on Nonco's canonization. So many times things just seems to happen. For example, I was looking for a certain image of the Blessed Mother to add to the website. I looked online and in books and could not find what I wanted--my idea of the Blessed Mother. Finally, in desperation, I pulled out the prayer cards of the many funeral I have attended in my lifetime. At last, I found the perfect image. When I turned the card over, it was the prayer card of Cecile Pelafigue LeBlanc, Nonco's niece. I do feel Nonco's presence.
The people who had gotten involved in the work of the Foundation have become great friends. We seem bonded together on this great mission. It is not often that we are called to work on something so important. I had not visited the nursing home very much. Walking the halls and greeting the residents moves something in me. All of this has happened because of Nonco. I have a new ministry and a stronger faith than ever before.
Last month, I asked the board if I could start a group at St. Agnes Nursing Home in Breaux Bridge. To my surprise, the nursing home is owned by Paul Jude Hardy, a great nephew of Nonco. We will hold our first Apostleship of Prayer Nonco Group meeting there on June 15, 2016.
So, although Nonco died on June 6, 1977, his mission continues. The Apostleship of Prayer and League of the Sacred Heart continues. The oldest organization of St. John Francis Regis has survived all of these years because of Nonco's devotion. The priests from Arnaudville, Monsignor Robert "Bob" Angelle, Father Gary Schexnayder, Father Mike Arnaud, Father Brian Taylor, have pledged their support to help get Nonco canonized. They believe he had a great impact on our lives.
Life goes by so fast. Already, we have lost the help of Genevieve Hardy Angelle, Jean Taylor, Clarence C.J. Robin--all charter members of the Nonco Foundation. We ask you to stand with us. If you have any memories of Nonco, please share them with us. If you have any documents or pictures that pertain to Nonco, please at least let us make copies of them. If you have anything that Nonco used, please let us photograph it if you don't feel you can donate it to the Foundation's archives.
Remembered Nonco when I was seven and eight years old. We lived in Arnaudville and moved away when I was in the fourth grade. I still remember his looks. He was always walking. He had an off white suit he’d wear. He had a rosary, prayer cards, and a prayer book with him. I remember him looking at me, because I was staring at him.
I hope this little bit of information will contribute to his consideration for sainthood.