Father François Laborde conferred "Officier de la Légion d’Honneur" [fr]
It is his life that inspired Dominique Lapierre while he was writing his 1985 book, City of Joy.
Howrah South Point (HSP), 6 February 2019
The Ambassador bestowed the insignia of Officier de la Légion d’Honneur on Father François Laborde, the man behind an inspiring social enterprise: a home with its own medical facility that he built for children with disabilities and the most underprivileged, at Howrah South Point (HSP). The ceremony organized at Howrah South Point was attended by several partners and associates of Father Laborde, who shared some delightful and heartwarming memories of the incredible work done by him in his lifetime. The Ambassador’s speech, paying tribute to a lifetime of dedication to the most disadvantaged, was very well received by the gathering and the media, which had assembled in hundreds to honour the Father. The event commenced with a cultural programme organized by the differently-abled students of the HSP Centre and was followed by high tea.
Fr. Laborde is already the recipient of this award, at the rank of Chevalier, which was conferred on him by the late French President, François Mitterand, in Calcutta, where this gentle giant of humanity stands tall, moulding and shaping less fortunate lives towards a better tomorrow. It is his life that inspired Dominique Lapierre while he was writing his 1985 book, City of Joy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
C’est une grande joie pour moi d’être de retour dans la belle ville de Calcutta pour remettre la plus prestigieuse des distinctions françaises au Père François Laborde.
Par égard pour vos amis nombreux aujourd’hui, qui ne parlent pas notre langue, je vais poursuivre en anglais.
We are gathered here today to honor a very special man who was born in France and dedicated his whole life to those in need, here in Calcutta. We are gathered to honor a man who was born in France, hold a “French” name but whose love and dedication to the people of India justified that he has been awarded the Indian citizenship.
For the past 50 years, Father Laborde has worked relentlessly to assist the underprivileged population of Howrah and other parts of West Bengal, by bringing medical facilities and education to physically, mentally and socially handicapped children.
His contribution towards society had already been acknowledged by the government of France, when, in 1988, President François Mitterand awarded him the distinction of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.
Today, we are gathered to celebrate an even higher recognition: the award of Officer in the Legion of Honor, in view of Father Laborde’s long standing achievements.
Before conferring this distinction, it is the tradition to recall some biographical elements of the recipient’s life, even though most of us, gathered here today, are very familiar with the work accomplished by Father Laborde.
Father François Laborde was born in Paris, on 28th February 1927, almost 92 years ago even if you hardly look 60.
He studied in a Jesuit college and after one year at Université de la Sorbonne, he joined the Prado Institute to pursue his clerical studies, up to the bachelor degree of theology and philosophy.
Father Laborde was ordained to priesthood in 1951.
He taught as professor of philosophy at the Prado institute for 8 years.
In 1965, Father Laborde came to India for a social and anthropological research on marginalized populations. Within a year, his work brought him to Calcutta and this encounter changed his life.
In 1973 with the support of Cardinal Picachy, Father Laborde opened the first home for handicapped children at the Nirmala Mata Maria Girish Parish in Howrah. Later on, he developed other centers in Howrah and in other parts of West Bengal.
Today, the association is known across India as “Howrah South Point” or HSP.
With the help of many dedicated men and women, doctors, volunteers, from India, France, Germany and Switzerland, thousands of children have gained access to health treatments and education through HSP.
Father Laborde likes to say that HSP is not his sole work but that the association has developed thanks to the involvement of its workers in all sectors. That’s why it was so important that workers and volunteers could be present tonight.
But even if this outstanding work is the result of the wonderful collective involvement of so many, one had to recognize Father Laborde’s vision, relentless effort and dedication in perpetuating what is also a core value of the “secular” French Republic: fraternity ; la fraternité !
Dear Father Laborde,
For your action in favor of the disadvantaged children, in the service of health and education, for more than 50 years, the President of the French Republic has appointed you Officier de la Légion d’Honneur.
C’est un honneur pour moi de vous remettre cette prestigieuse distinction :
Père François LABORDE,
Au nom du Président de la République et en vertu des pouvoirs qui nous sont conférés, nous vous faisons Officier de la Légion d’honneur.