Ministry along the mission trail
9th July 2012 · 0 Comments
By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
Mission one was to be in a Second Line parade against violence in New Orleans. However, that was set for 6-8 p.m., Thursday, June 21, and Wednesday evening was blocked out by the conferral of Confirmation at 7, courtesy of Bishop Kevin Vann. Many events along the mission trail dictated that I should make the drive to New Orleans.
Rolling out of Fort Worth at 10:20 p.m., I stopped in east Lake Charles well into the morning. My quest for a non-smoking room landed me laboriously on the second floor of a motel as usual. But, when I slid the card key into the door lock, I was shocked to open up to a TV in use, the lights on and a recently-used bed in full view.
Closing the door quickly, I hurried to the desk. “That room is occupied!” I told the clerk who was shocked when she checked her records. Puzzled, she gave me another room. Upon opening the door that time, two big dogs —leashed fortunately —growled and leaped toward me while a man and a woman looked on in the background.
Even more shocked to see me back, the clerk called the room. “Why are you still in that room?” she asked the party who answered. “You were supposed to have checked out two days ago! You have not paid for the last two days! You have to pay or leave!”
They were squatters! In all my days, I have not seen anything like that. Five hours of sleep enabled me to be in New Orleans in time for the Second Line parade against violence. Originating at the Sound Café at Port and Chartres Streets in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, the parade followed a circuitous, two-hour route.
Baty Landis, owner of the Sound Café and organizer of the parade, reserved a pedicab for me to be a grand marshal of sorts, albeit seated comfortably in a pedicab with personable Edoardo supplying the muscle. With us as the “first line,” the parade picked up enthusiastic second line participants all along the way.
About halfway through our route, a 6-year-old lad sat down next to me. By the parade’s end back at the Sound Café, almost 300 had joined us to receive a special blessing for themselves and the personalized banners of the sponsoring groups. I took the occasion to thank God for our blessings and to affirm our children and their families.
Mission two was the Mass of Resurrection for Mrs. Marian Robinson, the mother of Our Mother of Mercy Church member Virginia Darlewon. Natives of Moss Point, Mississippi, the family had the homegoing celebration at St. Peter The Apostle Church in Pascagoula at 11 o’clock Saturday morning. I was privileged to concelebrate.
It was a blessing for me to make Marian’s acquaintance just weeks before when Virginia asked me to give her mother the sacrament of the sick and Viaticum. She was indeed a classy lady, gracious in every way and strong through her faith in God.
At the funeral repast in Marian’s beautiful old home in Moss Point, Virginia pointed out that her mother was an avid gardener who delighted in acquiring, planting and meticulously caring for the numerous flowers and plants adorning her spacious yard. Dozens of relatives swarmed over the premises like concerned, affectionate bees.
Mission three was a New Orleans Biagas family reunion Mass in Drexel Hall of Xavier Prep at 9 o’clock Sunday morning. Jake Francis III, my musician from Dillard University chaplain days in the mid-1970s and later at St. Augustine Church, supplied the music for the festive Mass involving 150 or so members of the huge Biagas clan.
I reminisced that, at the age of 11 in 1941, I watched the vanguard of the Biagas family move from Opelousas into Lake Charles, Louisiana. All I could ask myself was, “Who on earth are all these people moving into the neighborhood?” I soon learned that the soon-to-be 12-child family were the best of neighbors and flat out good people.
Even with the bittersweet remembrances of dear ones who had gone on to God, the Mass was seasoned with uplifting music, heartfelt prayers, abundant smiles and a distinct feeling of the oneness, closeness, love and joy of family and extended family.
Mission four was my homecoming private retreat at the St. Augustine Residence in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi where the SVD brothers and priests are always welcoming and the beloved spirits of bygone members suffuse the serene ambience of the environs.
This article originally published in the July 9, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.