Living one’s gifts

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.

Veritable rose

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.

Welcoming spirit

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.

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Fishy facts

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.

Coming together

“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.”

        

       

Building community

“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.

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“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.”

“Oh, yes.”

“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

“It’s really neat hearing the story about how this church came to be,” Steven continued.

“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.”

Grateful heart

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.”

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One vision, one mission

“I loved your homily,” I said, echoing Steven’s sentiments from earlier.

“Thank you.”

“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.”

“That’s right.”

Irreplaceable keepsakes

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.’”

“That’s it.”

Unexpected surprise

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.

        

Gifted treasures

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!

           

               

        

           

Prayer

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).

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Pdf files…  Father Bourg’s homily…  Stations of the Cross: 1-7 / 8-14…  families

Links of interest…  Catholics come home…  Do not be served, instead be at service…  Feast of God’s love…  Finding a true vocation: What I want to be when I grow up…  Lessons in living out God’s call for you…  Memories of Katrina: neighbors / work not yet finished…  Most Holy Trinity: bulletinCatholic directory / facebook / website…  Mother Henriette Delille: about / book review / controversy / exhibitionfoundress / grave marker / misidentification / nun / venerable…  Solemnity: Most Holy Trinity & missionary disciples…  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

WP post…  Call of service…  Celebrations…  Dear God…  Gifts…  God’s loving mercy…  Picturing God…  St. Anselm Church

St. Anselm Church

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This past weekend Steven, daughter Laura, and I attended eleven o’clock Mass at
St. Anselm Church in Madisonville, Louisiana.

Saint in red

StAC52211-16StAC52211-150On entering church, I noticed the statue in red on the left.

“Who’s that?”

“It must be St. Anthony.  He’s holding a loaf of bread,” Steven said.

“No.  St. Anthony’s over there,” I said, motioning to him across from where we stood.

The fish

As I took photos after Mass, a family waited in the back by the baptismal font as other parishioners visited out in the vestibule.

“Did you see the fish?” Steven called out to where I stood by the stations of the cross.

I looked all around.

“Look!” Steven pointed.

I still didn’t get it.

“At the ceiling,” Steven and Laura said in unison.

“Oh, wow!”  There it was, reminiscent of both Jonah and Geppetto.  The fish was so big that I had to get as far back as I could, really close to the wall, to take a diagonal shot of all but the fish’s tail.

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Stations of the cross

On the drive back home, I reviewed the photos in my Coolpix and reflected on the stations of the cross.

How unusual to see them all together on one wall!  Such bold colors.  Such distinct faces: dark with despair, pained, modern yet old world.  The stations have a strong French influence with a lingering mix of something else, too.

“New Orleans comes to mind,” I told Steven, who noted the Creole influence.

“They definitely have a Caribbean flavor.  They’re very different.”

Questions

I wish I’d spoken with someone at St. Anselm’s to learn more, but I’ll have to wait till we return for another visit with Steven’s older brother, Eddie, and his wife, Pat.

Yesterday I emailed one of the church secretaries about the nameless statue in red.  I didn’t recognize it as a depiction of St. Anselm, so I’ll be glad to find out who the saint is.

In the meantime, I’ll continue my online searches as I ponder all sorts of questions about St. Anselm Church.

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March 25, 2016

I never heard back from St. Anselm’s, so I never learned who the saint in red was supposed to be.  But, working with the photos I took at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church this past weekend, I had an epiphany: St. Francis is pictured holding a book!  With a red cover, no less! 

OLG31916-73aSo?  Red vestment, red book, both Franciscan.  Might the statue in red be St. Francis?

Makes sense to me, but the red-clad statue is holding a loaf of bread, which could only be a reference to St. Anthony’s bread.  But why would a parish have two very similar statues of St. Anthony within its church walls?

I know, I know.  I’m back to square one.  Still, I’d like to think that the statue in red could be St. Francis.

And maybe the sculptor got confused and added the bread loaf by mistake?  Certainly, a lot of implications come to mind.  I’m open to ideas.  Anyone?

St. Anselm’s prayer

O Lord, my God, teach my heart this day where and how to see you, where and how to find you.  You have made me and remade me; you have bestowed on me all the good things I possess and, still, I do not know you.  I have not yet done that for which I was made.  Teach me to seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me or find you unless you show yourself to me.  Let me seek you in my desire; let me desire you in my seeking.  Let me find you by loving you; let me love you when I find you.  Amen.

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Pdf file…  Stations of the cross: 1-7 / 8-14

Links of interest…  Mother Henriette Delille: about / book review / controversy / foundress / grave marker / misidentification / nun / venerable…  Our Lady…  St. Anselm: about / doctor / meditations (c. 1070-1080; free ebook) / prayer / spirituality / theologian…  St. Anselm Church: patron saint / website…  St. Anthony: about / bread…  St. Joseph…  St. Jude…  Stations of the cross: audio / for families / printables…  Symbols of the saints in art…  When it’s hard to pray

WP posts…  Living one’s gifts…  Mary’s miraculous medal…  Mary’s seven joys…  Picturing God…  Si quaeris miracula…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Joseph…  St. Jude novena