Fifty years of service in any role is something to be honored but the celebration of the 50th anniversary of ordination as a priest is a milestone that is difficult to surpass. The Rev. Roland Vaughn, a priest of the Diocese of Lake Charles, achieved that auspicious landmark on Tuesday, Dec. 21.
Ordained on that date in 1971 by the Most Reverend Maurice Schexnayder, then Bishop of Lafayette, in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, he began a journey of care for the faithful in Southwest Louisiana that is remembered fondly by those he served. The occasion was marked by the celebration of Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Lake Arthur by Father Vaughn. The Most Reverend Glen John Provost attended and was the homilist.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to celebrate with Father Vaughn on Tuesday, December 21, his fiftieth anniversary of ordination to the Holy Priesthood," Bishop Provost said. " He and I have known each other for over 50 years, having attended the same seminary, Immaculata, in Lafayette. He was a few years older but I recall his dedication to studies and prayer. Through the years, he has continued to serve the faithful of this Diocese in various assignments. He is a good and faithful priest who has persevered in his vocation and always placed the needs of God’s faithful above his own. He is an example to us all. God bless him for the years to come.”
Born in New Iberia on Oct. 25, 1944, Fr. Vaughn attended Kaplan Elementary and Kaplan High School, graduating in 1963. Accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Lafayette, he entered Immaculata Seminary in Lafayette in 1964, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1968, then attending Notre Dame Theological Seminary in New Orleans from 1968 to 1971, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree.
His first assignment following ordination was as Assistant Pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Ville Platte, serving there until 1975, being transferred to St. Anne Church in Mamou remaining there until 1977.
He received his first assignment as a pastor in 1977, when transferred to St. Eugene Church in Grand Chenier where he remained until 1984, through the establishment of the Diocese of Lake Charles in 1980.
Father Vaughn next served a pastor of St. John Vianney Church in Bell City until 1991 and was administrator at St. Philip Neri Church in Kinder for four months in 1991 before being named priest-in-charge at Assumption Mission in Johnson Bayou.
In 2001 Father Vaughn was appointed Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Church in Hackberry, which included the mission church in Johnson Bayou, serving there until 2008.
That year he was named Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Fenton and its mission of St. John the Evangelist in Lacassine, remaining at Fenton until his retirement in 2016. Father Vaughn also served the Diocese of Lake Charles as its first appointed penitentiary and its first appointed chaplain for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, giving up those duties upon his retirement from administrative duties.
In discussion about his vocation story Father Vaughn noted, “In high school the idea of becoming a priest crossed my mind in and out. When I became a senior, I became very determined to go to the seminary. A lot of it had to do with the priests in my parish.”
His father wanted him to take a year and go to USL (then the University of Southwestern Louisiana and now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette), which like a dutiful son he did.
“I followed his wishes and went to USL, staying for a year after high school graduation,” Father Vaughn said. “I was not interested in any of the courses except Latin, which was the only thing I learned there.”
He noted that his time in Johnson Bayou was the happiest time of his priesthood and that regarding his study and discernment, “If I had to I would do it all over again.”
“The thing I love about being retired is that I stay busy being a priest, doing what I was ordained to do and not having administrative responsibilities.” Father Vaughn said. “I love my brother priests and have seen many of them come and go over 50 years.”
Though they were not “classmates” due a five-year differential in their ages, Father Vaughn and Bishop Provost knew each other at Immaculata, which at that time was a high school and college seminary. “In my second year of college I was the head sacristan for the chapel and Bishop Provost was one of the organists. That’s how I got to meet him.”