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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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Columnist celebrating 50 years of service as a Catholic priest

Columnist celebrating 50 years of service as a Catholic priest

Archbishop John P. Cody ordained me a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans on December 21, 1963. Because of the Christmas Holidays and the football playoff picture, I decided to postpone my 50-year celebration until now.

When I reflect on my 50 years of service as a priest, which has been spend entirely within the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, I realize that many things have changed from that first day of winter in 1963. Even things basic to the priesthood like the Eucharist has undergone significant changes. Fifty years ago “I said Mass.” Or as they used to say here in the Bayou country, “I made Mass.”

Well, I don't “say Mass” anymore. I don't even “make Mass.” Rather, the entire community celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist at which I preside.

In his “Joy of the Gospel” exhortation, Pope Francis said that the preacher “needs to be able to link the message of a biblical text to a human situation, to an experience that cries out for the light of God’s word. What we are looking for is what the Lord has to say in this or that particular circumstance.” I have tried to do this in my preaching and writing.

Fr. Peter Sammon, a pastor from San Francisco, talked about the changes he experienced as a priest. “Priesthood is far more demanding today. Past roles of an administrator, a principal decision maker, a person of special status in the community have changed. The priest is more often called to be an enabler, a facilitator, an inspirator of the people. The priest’s challenge is to call forth the gifts of the lay community and train them in leadership. The priest today, to be effective, must work in a truly collegial fashion. His ability to relate to others – laity, women, religious sisters, and so on – is key.”

Amid all the changes, I am sure of this: many people have enriched my life. I have been blessed to have many friends who love me and call me to be all that I can be. I wonder whether the laity realize the effect they have on priests. We all need encouragement. I thank all who have encouraged me.

I received an e-mail from a person who wrote, “I am not a very religious person, but I have found myself reading your column more often. I like your evenhanded, calm approach to rather difficult questions. I particularly enjoyed your recent column about the writing of the Bible and the possibility of life elsewhere – an intelligent consideration, in my opinion. I also have found your gentle humor and compassion encouraging. Sometimes your words have been comforting to me. I will continue to enjoy your column. Thank you.”

Thanks for your encouraging words.

The main 50th Anniversary Celebration will take place on Sunday, February 16 at 2:00 p.m. with a Mass at St. Bernadette Church in Houma on 409 Funderburk Avenue. A reception will follow in the parish hall. If you plan to attend, please call 985-594-3171 by February 6.

I will also be visiting the other five parishes that I have served during my 50 years. This is the schedule:

- Holy Cross Church in Morgan City on Sunday, February 9 at the 11:00 a.m. Mass.

- St. Thomas Aquinas Church on the Nicholls State University Campus in Thibodaux on Saturday, February 22 at the 5:00 p.m. Mass.

- St. Joseph Church in Chauvin on Sunday, February 23 at the 10:00 a.m. Mass.

- St. Genevieve Church in Thibodaux on Saturday, March 1 at the 4:00 p.m. Mass.

- St. Luke Church in Thibodaux on Sunday, March 2 at the 10:45 a.m. Mass.

RSVPS are not necessary for these five churches. Hope to see you at these celebrations.