Obituary: Retired LaSalette Missionary bishop dies in auto accident

Bishop Joseph D. Pelletier, MS, died following injuries sustained in an automobile accident in the afternoon hours of June 4, 2022, in Enfield, New Hampshire. The bishop, who was retired from the Diocese of Morondava in Madagascar, was visiting the LaSalette Shrine in Enfield. He had been shopping with fellow LaSalette Father John P. Sullivan and was returning to their residence in Enfield. According to initial reports, the driver was observing all speed limits and traffic regulations but may have been blinded by the sun as she drove along the road.

Emergency personnel were on the scene in minutes, but the 90-year-old bishop was pronounced dead at the scene. He had been visiting the area to see doctors for his regular checkups.

The bishop was born on June 17, 1931, in Blackstone, a son of the late Donat and Alice (Aubin) Pelletier. He entered the formation program for the Missionaries of Our Lady of LaSalette, completing studies at Enfield, New Hampshire, and Brewster, Massachusetts, before being sent for theological studies to Rome.

He was ordained a priest on Oct. 28, 1956, and, in 1958, went to the LaSalette mission in Madagascar. As with many missionaries, he became one of the people he had been sent to serve, and he was greatly loved by them. So often, we hear how much American missionaries love their far-away posts and never want to leave them; or are anxious to return, if assigned elsewhere. Father Pelletier was one of those missionaries.

Pope St. John Paul II named him bishop of the Diocese of Morondava on Oct. 15, 1999, and he was ordained bishop on Feb. 13, 2000. His facility with local languages and understanding of local cultures and long presence in Madagascar made him as much beloved as a bishop as he was a priest.

For the next decade, he served the sprawling diocese -- about the same territory as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island combined. He resigned the pastoral governance of the diocese in 2010, a few days after the 10th anniversary of his episcopal ordination. He regularly visited the diocese for extended periods, as well as fellow LaSalette priests and brothers in France and here in the United States.

Expressions of sympathy poured into the LaSalette communities in Enfield, New Hampshire, and at the LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro, where the bishop's funeral Mass was to be celebrated on June 8, 2022. Following the Mass, as the bishop had requested -- "bury me wherever I am when the Lord calls me" -- he was buried at the LaSalette Cemetery, Enfield, New Hampshire.