September seventeenth, we returned to Louisiana to visit with our only niece. But we were also eager to attend our first Mass in Covington the following day.
Steven had looked online before leaving Texas and had found the names of three churches for us to pick from.
Sunday morning, Steven shared his reason for choosing Most Holy Trinity: “It’s just up the road from here, so it’s easy enough to get to.”
We didn’t know what the church looked like, so we wondered if we had the wrong address when we saw a strip mall instead of a traditional building.
Looking around, we saw others parking their vehicles and walking to the door toward the end of the building. Then we noticed the rock garden with a big cross, a small white angel, and a banner; so we were at the right place.
We had no idea what we’d find once we entered the building, but we were definitely intrigued. Without reservation. Without preconceived notions.
On entering the foyer, the ol’ pea brain made mental notes of what I wanted to capture with my Coolpix after Mass; so we entered into the heart of the church and took our seats beside a lovely woman who’d sat down just moments before.
“Good morning!” I smiled.
“Good morning!” she smiled back.
We chattered softly as if we’d known each other a long time and quietly introduced ourselves even before Father instructed us to greet those around us.
I was amazed by the welcoming spirit within the church. I felt like a longtime parishioner, truly at ease among everyone. No different. Just the same.
The church was alive on Catechetical Sunday. The music was beautiful, everyone sang, and Father’s homily was inspirational.
Before leaving our pew after Mass, we spoke with Mitzi Cosse, who graciously agreed to have her picture taken. Then we bid each other farewell before I moved about the church with my Coolpix.
Having finished, I walked over to Steven who introduced me to Pat Jackson.
“So the Stations of the Cross are on loan?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you real quick if you have a minute. My husband knows I talk.”
We both chuckled as she flashed a look at the side door. Her husband was already waiting in the car.
“Yes, tell me again,” I said. “I want to record it, so I can include the information on my blog.”
“This church was formed after Katrina because there was such an influx of people over here that the churches couldn’t hold the population, that influx. So the archdiocese bought this building, which is a former aquarium store and spa place. It was called Mystic Fish. So, if you talk to anybody in Covington, they’ll say, ‘Oh, you go to the church of Mystic Fish.’ You know, in fact, our senior citizen group is called the Holy Mackerels.”
We both laughed.
“So there are a lot of people— a lot, a lot of people— from Shell Net, which was devastated, and a lot from Lake View. And we all moved over here. We started Mass at an assisted living center, Roquet Lodge, in about June of 2006. The first time I got involved, I went to Mass over there; and Father said, ‘We need somebody to go clean pews at St. Rose de Lima,’ which was a church in New Orleans that had been closed. Well over a hundred years old. And I figured the best way to meet people was blood, sweat, and tears.”
“Oh, yes.” I understood what Pat meant about traumatic experiences drawing folks closer.
“So the pews came from Rose de Lima. The altar, the ambo, and the tabernacle came from a church in St. Bernard. The statues are on loan from another church in
St. Bernard. And it’s like I said. These things are donated. I mean, loaned. The man changes them regularly. He’s got very extensive collections. The Stations are a permanent loan, but it’s just like the people here that came from every place to form the church. The furnishings did, too. And it’s such a neat thing. It’s a very welcoming parish.”
“We felt it. During Mass, we sat next to Mitzi. I told her, ‘Thank you so much for welcoming us here.’ When we travel, we attend Mass in different places; but not every place gives me the feeling of being embraced. This place has that feeling.”
“Well, that’s good. I’m glad that outsiders feel that way. We belonged to the same church in New Orleans for thirty-eight years, and we’d visit outside of church. I mean outside of the building just that day, but that was pretty much it. But this has just been a welcoming experience. I remember the first day I came to Communion after we cleaned pews. Father said, ‘Pat, the body of Christ.’ And I thought, Boy! I belong!”
I laughed because I could so relate.
“I had been going to another church for a year, and I’d tried ten months to be a lector ‘cause I’d been a lector before. I’d been notifying them, but nobody said a word. Nobody would look at you. It was sort of like, ‘Who are you, and what are you doing here?’ It was an old, established church; and it’s hard to move into a very established church.”
“But what you’ve said about the exclusivity? It definitely does exist. It was like that for me at the parish where we now are. That’s why I started the blogs. Many people visit our church from all over. Since we’re such a small parish on the island, I didn’t want others to experience what I’d gone through. By meeting and greeting visitors at our church, taking their photos, and posting them on our church blog, people feel included. So, really, it’s all about building community.”
“Absolutely, you know, because the church is the same in Texas as it is in New York.”
“As it is in Berlin and Budapest,” I chimed in.
“Absolutely,” Pat agreed. “Are y’all going be in town long?”
“No,” Steven replied. “We’re probably going back tomorrow. We’re here to visit family. I work at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. One of the interesting things is that, like all universities, we’ve got a board of advisors that helps guide us. One of the members of our board is part of the Geunther family. You may or may not know the Geunthers, but they’re the ones who bought the Roosevelt Hotel after Katrina and restored it.”
“So some of the drivers of our university operation are tied in to New Orleans and the post Katrina effort.”
“Oh, that’s great!”
Living one’s gifts
“Oh, thank you! This has just been a welcoming parish. It really, really has. And, well, I guess you could say that Father’s mantra is ‘you’ve got time, talent, and treasures.’ And that’s why we’re a stewardship parish. You give what you can.”
“What I especially loved about Father’s homily this morning was his focus on living one’s gifts,” I said. “His message was similar to today’s meditation in the Word among us.”
“Oh, that’s really great. We’re so glad to have y’all here.”
“I wish we could be here more often. Thank you for the gift of sharing!”
“Thank you so much! I love telling stories of how we all came to be here at this church.”
As we talked about our May visit to St. Anselm’s, Father Bourg approached.
“Father!” Pat enthused. “I want you to meet these people!”
“Oh, glad to meet both of you!”
Before Pat left to join her husband who’d waited patiently for some time, I expressed my heartfelt gratitude.
Pat’s gift of time, like Mitzi’s welcoming spirit, had made us feel very much a part of the parish community. Both helped us appreciate Most Holy Trinity for the beautiful church that it is.
Blessings and more
I turned to Steven and Father Bourg.
“Wonderful homily,” Steven noted. “I love the New Orleans message. I don’t get it enough.”
“Basically, it’s the Holy Spirit working in his own way.”
”Your after Katrina story really makes sense. You have a wonderful fellowship! The energy level is so wonderful.”
“Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We’re very gifted.”
“Certainly, it’s a blessing for any pastor,” Steven added.
“We’re getting ready to build a bigger facility ‘cause we need it. We’re just growing so much.”
One vision, one mission
“I loved your homily,” I said, echoing Steven’s sentiments from earlier.
“I was telling Pat that I usually listen for a key phrase, and I heard ‘living your gifts.’”
“We’re a stewardship parish.” Father explained. “That’s the essence of our church.”
“So y’all have it down pat. Everybody knows.”
“That’s right. And it doesn’t matter who got more or who got less. You’re responsible for what you got.”
“I loved the music.”
“That’s one of the gifts I tried to build from the very beginning ‘cause we’re only six years old. We have to be a welcoming community, and everybody knows each other. The biggest problem is those who want to pray versus those who want to welcome and visit people when they come in,” Father chuckled.
“But that’s the beauty of a real church,” I said. “God is listening regardless.”
Next, Father talked about the special contributions received from churches closed since Katrina.
“The Infant Jesus is from St. Maurice Parish, the statues are from St. Theresa, and the pews are from St. Rose of Lima. The altar is from St. Mark’s in Shell Net. That church was totally destroyed.”
“So God truly has brought everything together.”
“That’s right. Without trying, these were available; and the people recognize them. So they know they’re not going anywhere.”
“And they say, ‘I’m home ’cause here’s part of it.’”
Then Father asked Steven, “Any relation to Marcel?”
“Yes. He’s my cousin.”
“He just walked in. He’s sitting in the choir area.”
“Thank you! Thank you for that!” I exclaimed as Father chuckled at our amazement.
Steven hadn’t seen his cousin in decades, so we walked over to reacquaint ourselves.
We’d traveled to Covington to see about one family member and had received an unexpected bonus— an extraordinary gift made possible through Most Holy Trinity that morning.
Isaiah 45:3 immediately came to mind. “I leave you treasures in secret places that you may know that it is I who call your name.”
What an unforgettable experience!
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Spirit; my head, my body, my tongue, my senses, and all my sorrows to the sacred humanity of Jesus Christ who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the cross (St. Francis de Sales).
October 31, 2014
“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak”
(St. Anthony of Padua).
April 16, 2015
Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on (Pope Benedict XVI).
September 28, 2015
Today I invite you to take some time to reflect on this question: Do I practice what I preach? Do I know what I preach by my words and my actions? How can I live more authentically in my everyday living? This is all Benedict asks of us! It also is all that Jesus asks of us! (Sister Kristine Anne Harpenau, OSB; The Dome Blog).
Links of interest… Catholics come home… Feast of God’s love… Memories of Katrina: neighbors / work not yet finished… Most Holy Trinity: Catholic directory / facebook / new church site on horizon… Mother Henriette Delille: about / book review / controversy / exhibition / foundress / grave marker / misidentification / nun / venerable… Scripture speaks: Most Holy Trinity… Spirit of 79: The number of Americans proposed for sainthood… St. Anselm Church… University of Texas Marine Science Institute… Use your gifts… the Word among us…
Filed under: call of service, Child Jesus, homilies, prayer, spiritual gifts | Tagged: building community, God's master plan, Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church-Covington LA, overcoming adversity, St. Anselm Church-Madisonville LA | 2 Comments »