Société des Missions Africaines –Province de Strasbourg

LAUGEL Georges né le 29 juin 1887 à Gunstett
dans le diocèse de Strasbourg, France
membre de la SMA le 17 octobre 1909
prêtre le 9 juillet 1911
décédé le 12 août 1970

1911-1932 missionnaire à la Côte du Bénin
1943-1947 missionnaire en Géorgie, USA
1947-1958 Rome, conseiller général
1958-1970 Etats-Unis

décédé à Tenafly, USA, le 12 août 1970,
à l'âge de 83 ans

Father Georges LAUGEL (1887 - 1970)

George Laugel was born in Gunstett, Weissenburg, Alsace, in the diocese of Strasbourg, on June 29, 1887.
He died in Holy Name Hospital, Teaneck, NJ, USA, on August 12, 1970.

Born to Mathias and Juliana (nee Ott) Laugel, George received his primary schooling at the Catholic Elementary school, Gunstett, Alsace (1893-1901). He pursued his classical studies with the SMA in the apostolic school at Keer, near Maastrict, Holland (1901-1906). George was then promoted to the Society’s major seminary, at Cours Gambetta, Lyon, making his novitiate and studying philosophy there (1906-1908) and also receiving his theological formation (1908-1912). George was received as a member of the Society in perpetuity on October 17, 1909. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Pellet, the SMA Superior General, in the seminary chapel at Lyon, on July 9, 1911.

After ordination George was sent to the Vicariate of the Bight of Benin which covered most of south-western Nigeria. He was to minister in this vast mission field for the next 22 years. His first posting was to the town of Oyo. After two years he was transferred to St. Michael’s mission, Lafiaji, Lagos. Three years later he was posted to Ado-Ekiti where he was to serve for the next decade. George, with his companion, Matthew Wouters, pioneered the Ado-Ekiti mission. In the first year, living in Ushi-Ekiti where there was a small mission residence, he traveled the long journey to Ado day after day, laying the cornerstone for a mission church in late 1915, the first church in what is now the headquarters of a thriving diocese (Ondo). The church, designed by Michael Abe of Ushi with adobe-style walls, was completed by summer 1917. Within the space of three years, George and Matthew Wouters had established some 85 out-stations from the single station of Ado. In any village which had at least 10 houses they build a little chapel, nothing imposing - a series of poles with a grass roof – but important nonetheless for the future. By 1921 the community in Ondo had grown to such an extent that a new church had to be built. But, as George was later to record, the ‘1917 chapel’ continued to be used for many years in preparing for baptism the adults from the outstations. It also was used for the teachers and catechists monthly meetings which lasted four days. The diocese of Ondo was established by the Holy See in 1946 taking its territory from the archdiocese of Lagos. Between 1914-1917 George was Procurator for the Vicariate, a particularly difficult assignment in wartime.

In 1933 George fell ill and was sent to the United States to recuperate. He remained 18 months at St. Anthony’s Mission House, Tenafly until finally, his health restored, he declared himself ready to return to Africa. However his Superiors had other ideas. Since the first decade of the century members of the Alsace Province had worked among African-Americans in the Southern States. Staffing these parishes was always difficult and it was agreed between Fr. Ignace Lissner, Superior of the American Works and George Brédiger, Provincial of the Alsace Province to which George belonged that he should be assigned to this work. For the next thirteen years he was pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, an SMA parish in Augusta, GA. During his tenure as Pastor Immaculate Conception High School received full accreditation from the Georgia Department of Education.

George was a founding member of the American Province of the Society, erected in March 1941. At the Society’s General Assembly of 1947 he represented his Province and at that Assembly was elected a member of the General Council. He served two terms in Rome in this capacity until 1958. When he returned to America he assisted his cousin, Msgr. Nelson W. Logel, pastor of the Church of the Annunciation, at Elma, NY, near Buffalo (1958-1961). On June 4, of that year, having celebrated his Golden Jubilee of priesthood (50 years) with the parishioners in Elma, he sailed for Strasbourg where another anniversary celebration was given. On this return to America he came to Tenafly where he lived in active retirement until the last year of his life when he contracted serious illness. During his years of retirement he spent long hours translating books and manuscripts from the French for the Archives.

George lived a long life, dying aged 83, within a year of his Diamond Jubilee (60 years of priesthood).

On March 4, 1913, George stood as God-Father for the first child of a Mr and Mrs Peter and Mary Afolabi. This child was to be the mother of Fr. Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, now Archbishop of Lagos, and of Sister Mary Peter (Margaret Abimbola Okogie) of the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Ibonwon. He was also the teacher and life-long friend of Mgr. Anthony Oguntuyi. It was no surprise that on George’s death in 1970 a Solemn Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul was celebrated at Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos. His work in Nigeria was widely remembered and appreciated. On the occasion of the Independence celebrations in that country in 1960, he was one of three early missionaries invited back to participate as a guest of the Government. During that trip he took the opportunity to visit the missions where he and Fr. Wouters had worked. There he was warmly greeted by some of the older members whom he had baptized nearly half a century earlier.

There is in the archives of the American Province, at Tenafly, a voluminous collection of letters, especially from the 1930’s and 1940’s, written by George, which gives a good idea of the work of the branch at the time. He also left a fascinating series of notes on his family history and genealogy.

He is buried in the SMA Community plot, at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Tenafly, NJ, USA.