Famous people


Thérèse de Lisieux



Since the15th August 1835, two young girls Misses Gosselin and their counsellor, Father Sauvage, went from pilgrimage to pilgrimage praying to Our Lady to help their project of founding a Carmel in Lisieux. After 18 months none of the many steps taken succeeded. On January the 13th 1837, all three arrived in Honfleur to present their last begging letter to Our Lady of Grace. Straight away the Carmel of Poitiers gave his approval : in April the two young girls started their noviciate and on March the 15th 1838, Lisieux Monastery, dedicated to the Virgin Full of Grace (Immaculate Conception) opened its doors.


Fifty years later it was in this Carmel that Therese Martin made her vows, at the age of 14 Therese informed her father ( On Pentecost Day 1887 ) that she wished to become a nun by the age of 15 years and 3 months. But none of the authorities were willing to accept somebody so young. On July 1887 Therese with her Father and her two sisters, Leonie and Celine arrived to ask Our Lady of Grace if the Pope would agree to intercede with the authorities and allow her to become a nun. Her wishes were granted : She entered Lisieux's Carmel on the 9th April 1888 aged fifteen and three months.


Saint Louis Martin 


Saint Louis Martin made several stays in our City.

We particularly noted two :

  • Attracted by the International Maritime Exhibition in Le Havre, which took place from     May 7th to September 17th 1887, in June he took his three daughters. Before taking the ferry, he stopped at Our Lady of Grace Chapel.
  • October 31st 1888, Father Pichon, a family friend took a boat to Canada, Saint Louis Martin wished to see him before his departure from Le Havre. He went through Honfleur where he had a bad bout of his recurrent disease (cerebral arteriosclerosis).

Celine wrote the same day to her Carmelite Sisters : "Father very sick. No, no words, no expressions can describe our anxieties and our heartbreak (...). O father makes me feel so sad ! I think he suffers very much. His poor face is now deathly pale."

We don't have any clinical details of this crisis, but it is evident that Celine can't communicate with her father.

Anxiously, she still wrote to her sisters, "Dear sisters, my pain was so acute that as I was walking on the quayside (near Sainte Catherine's Church), I looked with envy at the depth of the water. Oh, if I did not have Faith, I would be capable of anything !"

Photo: Saint Louis Martin
Copyright: © Shrine of Lisieux


Saint-Jean-Paul II


© Cliché Jacqueline Colliex


Our parish has a special relationship with Saint John Paul II. Indeed on June 2rd 1980 at the end of his first visit to France and after a pilgrimage to Lisieux where crowds came to pray with him to the Little Therese, the Holy Pope flew from the airport of Saint Gatien des Bois to Rome.

On this occasion he delivered a goodbye speech to France known as a "Saint Gatien's address."

At Saint Gatien airport, Cardinals Etchegaray and Marty, Mgr Jean Badre, bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux, Mr Raymond Barre, Prime Minister, were present to say farewell on behalf of France and French Catholics.

Address by His Holiness John Paul II:

The gift of a stronger communion.

Dear Prime Minister,

It is time to leave France at the end of a visit that will remain unforgettable. I don't know what memories will be more striking. Every event, every meeting had its own character and was full of interest both in small groups as in the heat of crowds. Perhaps it is finally being able to reach the spirit of France and the French people that I will take away with me as a special gift.

It was an exceptional welcome, worthy of France hospitality. I want for the last time to express my gratitude to the men and women of this country: families, workers, young's, all without exception and I will do it from the bottom of my heart. I especially want to thank the civil authorities who worked endlessly for the success of this visit and foremost His Excellency The President of the Republic and the entire Government.

My brothers and sons of the Catholic Church, Bishops, Priests, Religious, Laity, I leave you the gift that made us a stronger communion, in the service of our mission to spread the Gospel. This mission, we will resume it with renewed vigour despite the magnitude of the task. Thank God to allow us to make such a testimony.

Farewell, dear people of France, or rather goodbye. I offer you my most fervent wishes and I bless you in the name of The Lord".

Jean-Paul II


On the occasion of this departure from Saint Gatien, the entire population of the village had been invited to the airport, among them Father Jean Hardy, the parish priest.

He asked the Pope to sign the Parish Register.


Pierre Berthelot - Blessed Dionysius of the Nativity



Pierre Berthelot, born 12th December 1600 in Honfleur, faubourg Saint Catherine, place Hamelin (formerly named place de la Fontaine Bouillante) was baptised in Saint Catherine's church.

Pierre sailed for the first time, at the age of twelve on his father's boat "The Eagle". She was fishing in the Newfoundland.

In 1619, he obtained his pilot's license.

That year as his father no longer sailed, he join "L'Esperance" one of a small fleet of 273 men bound for India (spice country).

On the 25th September 1619 for the last time he left Honfleur.

In Malacca, he was seconded to the Portuguese. He was asked to survey Sumatra and Java islands and to draw maps. He was very successful in so doing.

Knowing that the town of Malacca was besieged again by the King Achem, the commanding officer entrusted Peter with a fleet of 28 ships. The success of this brilliant campaign was due to Peter having a sound knowledge of marine charts. Comte de Linares, new governor general, conferred upon him the title of Major Pilot and royal cosmographer. Peter was in command for 6 years preparing and taking part in many expeditions.

While one might have thought he was absorbed by his work, he was inwardly moved by "the Grace" and so despite the displeasure of the Portuguese Viceroy, Pierre Berthelot entered the convent of "Carmes Deschausses" where he took the name "Brother Denys of Nativity". He was ordained priest on the 24th August 1638.

On the 29th November 1638 he was martyred with his companions by Achem. He was declared Blessed the 10th June 1900 by Pope Leon XIII.

In and around Honfleur many memories of Pierre Berthelot can be found including:

  • A stained glass window in Genneville's church : he is represented dress Carme.
  • In Saint Catherine's church a painting represents him and his companion's martyrdom at Achem.
  • In the chapel of Our Lady of Grace a painting, ex-voto of 1953, represents Father Denys of Nativity. A bell was dedicated to Him.


Bishop Pierre Fallaize


Copyright "Carmel of Lisieux Archive"


Pierre Fallaize, an orphan, was born on 25th of May 1887 in Gonneville-sur-Honfleur. At twelve he entered Lisieux junior seminary and finished his study at Sommervieu.

After National service he follows his compatriot, Bishop Arsene TURQUETIL, legendary missionary bishop of the Arctic. He applied for admission to "La congregation des Missionaires Oblates de Marie Immaculate" and without even waiting for an answer, he reported to Bestin (Belgium) to begin his noviciate on the 8th of December 1906.

He made his first "Oblation" the 25th December 1907 and was ordained priest in 1912 in Liege. After seven years of continuous studying, he was assigned to the Northern mission in 1913, and dedicated his work, among Inuits, to his compatriot, Sister Therese of The Child Jesus, and was rewarded.

On 13th September 1931 at 44 years old, he was appointed Apostolic Vicar of Mackenzie and founded a new mission on the Coppermine-River.

Eight years later, due to an almost total blindness, accepted with heroic patience, he was required to submit his resignation. Inuits or Eskimos called him "Inuit Ilaranaikor" ( the man who never gets angry) .

Forced to return to France because of his poor eyesight, he settled in Lisieux. He was for many years the confessor of the Carmelites and the many pilgrims who passed through Lisieux. The Carmel and the Basilica of Saint Therese of The Child Jesus, was to be his new mission.

In his old age he decided to go back to the North Pole where he died three years later in Fort Smith August 10th 1964

Pierre Fallaize est né le 25 mai 1887 à Gonneville-sur-Honfleur, orphelin de père et de mère. A douze ans, Il entre au petit séminaire de Lisieux et y fait ses études qu’il poursuit à Sommervieu.

Après son service militaire, il suit les pas de son compatriote, Mgr Arsène TURQUETIL, évêque missionnaire légendaire des glaces polaires. Il demande son admission dans la Congrégation des Missionnaires Oblats de Marie Immaculée et, sans même attendre la réponse, il se présente au Bestin (Belgique), pour commencer son noviciat, le 8 décembre 1906.

Il fait sa première oblation, le 25 décembre 1907 et est ordonné prêtre en 1912, à Liège. Après sept années de solides études, il est affecté aux missions du Grand Nord en 1913 et confie sa mission parmi les Inuits, à sa compatriote, Soeur Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus, dont il obtient des grâces signalées.

Le 13 septembre 1931, à 44 ans, il est nommé coadjuteur du Vicaire Apostolique du Mackenzie. Il fondra à l’embouchure de la Coppermine-River une nouvelle mission.

Huit ans plus tard, à cause d’une cécité quasi-totale acceptée avec une patience héroïque, il est amené à présenter sa démission. Les Inuits ou esquimaux l’ont appelé «Inúk Ilaranaikor" (l’homme qui ne se fâche jamais).

Contraint de revenir en France à cause de sa mauvaise vue, il se fixe à Lisieux. Il sera pendant de nombreuses années le confesseur assidu des Carmélites et des nombreux pèlerins qui passaient à Lisieux. Le Carmel et la basilique de sainte-Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus, sa compatriote, grande amie et patronne, seront ses nouveaux terrains de mission.

Dans sa vieillesse, il se laisse séduire par la nostalgie missionnaire et décide de repartir au Pôle Nord, où il rendra son âme à Dieu, trois ans plus tard, à Fort Smith, le 10 août 1964.


Bishop Désiré Michel Vesque

 Mgr Vesque

On the lower left-hand side of Saint Catherine’s church there is a humble engraving that represents the portrait of a bishop who grew up in Honfleur. Next to it is a marble plaque from 1917 that was placed in his memory explaining who he was.   Désiré Michel VESQUE was born on November 29th, 1817 at 27 rue du Puits in Honfleur.  He was baptized the same day in Saint Catherine’s church.  The eldest son of a large family, his parents agreed to let him enter a junior seminary in Lisieux as a young boy. He was successful in school and earned the respect of his classmates there. He then studied in the Bayeux seminary where his superiors had such confidence in him that he taught math class when the teacher was absent.

Ordained in 1840, he was named Saint Catherine's vicar and dedicated his zealous enthusiasm as a priest to his hometown.

However, he knew his vocation was somewhere else. For several years, he heard the Lord’s call to become a missionary. In 1848, after an initial attempt in the Foreign Missions of Paris, he joined the Délivrande Missionaries (situated in Douvres la Délivrande near Caen).

Fluent in English, he was named chaplain of the ‘Sisters of the Faithful Virgin’ managing  an orphanage in Norwood, England. Known there as the "Good Father" he devoted himself relentlessly to his task, teaching and celebrating religious holidays. He also did not hesitate to go house to house collecting money for the orphans.

In 1856, while still in England he was named bishop of Roseau, the capital of the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. Before his departure, he came back to Honfleur to say goodbye to his family knowing he would never return. On November 25th, he celebrated his last mass at Saint Catherine’s church surrounded by a crowd moved to see the young bishop completely devoted to his mission leave everything to go live on the other side of the world.

After a precarious voyage, he ended up in his new diocese where everything needed  to be built whether on a material or spiritual level. In spite of the unbearable heat for the Normand he was, in only a few weeks the new bishop won hearts by his humility and his dedication. He gave it his all, working constantly despite the toll on his health.

Exhausted, he died like a saint on July 10th, 1858  at 41 years of age,  a little over  a  year since his arrival.