LAKE CHARLES – The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, was the celebrant of a Mass marking the 100 years of establishment of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Lake Charles. Reverend Robert Boxie III, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and a native of Lake Charles and Sacred Heart Church, was the homilist.
Father Boxie concelebrated the Mass along with Rev. Michael Grey, C.S.Sp.; Rev. Charles Okorougo; Rev. Msgr. Charles Dubois; and Rev. Richard Uche Adiukwu (Sacred Heart’s pastor). The Very Reverend Ruben Buller, V.G., was master of ceremonies to Bishop Provost. Deacons serving included Deacon Edward Lavine, who proclaimed the Gospel, along with Deacon Erroll DeVille and Deacon Harold Nixon.
Devoted Service Medals were presented by Bishop Provost to five long time members of Sacred Heart, all over the age of 90, for their generous service to the church over many years, including Eula Mae Carmon, Joseph Citizen, Joann Garland, James Hollier, and Orelia Renee.
In his homily, Father Boxie spoke of the list of those who were so dedicated in the church and school’s early years (in fact there was a Catholic school present before the parish was established in 1919).
“We are here to commemorate this incredible milestone of 100 years of this faith community at Sacred Heart of Jesus parish—a beacon of light and hope in southwest Louisiana through 100 years of service, education, commitment to the community, evangelization, caring for the poor, and ministering to thousands of people who have entered these sacred walls, Father Boxie said. “You and I are standing on hallowed ground, on sacred soil, made holy by the countless men and women, priests and religious sisters and brothers, lay faithful and volunteers, who had one single purpose and desire to bring Jesus Christ right here on this block.”
Father Boxie enumerated many of those who have come before, those who “showed up.”
“You and I are here this morning because we stand on the shoulders of trailblazers—Louis Adams/Gilbert Rochon, Paul Lewis/Felix Henry/others, Eleanor Figaro, Mary Ryan, Fr. Anthony Hackett, St. Katharine Drexel,” he said. “We must know that story.” He urged those who were not familiar with the history of the parish to enlighten themselves and to share the story.
But, he also offered a challenge.
“So, where do we go from here? 2nd Timothy says, ‘Do not be afraid of the testimony to our Lord, but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God; guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.’ We have been given a sacred trust in the legacy of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish, laid before us by those courageous men and women, those priests and religious sisters who worked tirelessly to build this community—men/women who “showed up” to do the work of God and put into practice what they preached.
Continuing, Father Boxie noted, “In order for this place to have a future, I ask a question for our community to seriously consider. Who will be the men and women, priests and religious who will show up today kin 2019 to continue this legacy? to make sure the sacraments are received, Gospel is preached, children are educated in the faith?? We may be tempted to think that after 100 years, we are doing pretty good—this celebration attests to that strength—but we can’t rest on our laurels.
“It might seem that with a church so full as it is today—thanks be to God—that all will be well, that we have another 100 years in our future, and I hope and pray that it is the case. When our celebrations have concluded, who will “show up” next weekend, or the weekend after next? The devil wants us to believe that our work is done, we made it to 100 years and return to business as usual. We had a beautiful gala last night, visiting/reminiscing/reconnecting with one another. He wants us to let our guard down. But, the reality is there is still much work yet to be done here, to stay vigilant.”
To further make his point, he noted the other institution in the parish, which was also 100 years old – Sacred Heart Catholic School – that closed its doors in 2012 – just four years after its own centennial celebration.
“I think this is a great time to reevaluate and take stock of the mission of this parish for the next 100 years,” he continued. “What is our mission as a people of faith, as black Catholics, as disciples of Christ, as those called to proclaim the Gospel, as men/women rooted in prayer and the Word of God, as those who go out, not even to the margins, but to those parishioners and families and members who belong here in this parish, grew up here, but no longer come to Sacred Heart. Where are they? We need to call these members back home. We need them. They are a part of this legacy, this story, this family, and we have to invite them to come back home to Sacred Heart.
“This will ensure that Sacred Heart has a future for another 100 years,” Father Boxie continued. “And when they do come back, we have to make sure that we are providing them with an authentic encounter with Christ. The mission of the Church is all about an encounter with a person—Jesus Christ. We have to make sure that our liturgies are celebrated in a way that anyone who enters will experience the mystery of God. We have to be rooted in the Word of God and communicate in a real way that God speaks to them today. We have to be a people who believe in the sacraments and who receive the sacraments because the mission that we are called to requires the grace that flows from the sacraments. We have to strengthen and grow our ministries such that they bring forth new life and activity. We have to be a praying community. We have to make sure we get our young people involved and excited about the faith. We have to be creative, resourceful, think outside the box, challenge ourselves as missionaries in 2019—different than in 1919. ‘For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.’ And it starts with all of us—pastor, deacons, lectors/extraordinary ministers, catechists, musicians, parish staff, parish council—Everyone has a role in the missionary activity of this church.
Father Boxie closed his homily saying, “Sacred Heart has given to all of us the greatest gift that we could have ever received—that is our FAITH, our ability to enter into a relationship with God. Those men and women who began Sacred Heart—all that they had was faith—faith that Jesus speaks about in the Gospel— the faith that moved mountains, the faith of a mustard seed, the faith that said to the mulberry tree, “be uprooted and planted in the sea” and it obeys. We see that because we are here 100 years later. Now, do WE have that same faith to go out on mission and to bring people back to Sacred Heart, to the sacraments, to the Eucharist. Who will be the men and women to “show up” as God’s instruments in 2019 to make this happen, so that we can ensure another 100 years of Jesus Christ being proclaimed right here on this corner of Mill St. and Louisiana Avenue.”