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Diocese of Lake Charles 

LAKE CHARLES — Deacon Andrew DeRouen has always had a love for architecture and graphic design for as long as he can remember. But it was never enough for him to just design. He wanted to know the history and theory of why people build what they build. That yearning for a deeper understanding is what led to his vocation.

“God was calling me to the priesthood through my natural desire for beauty and meaning in buildings,” said DeRouen, who is scheduled to be ordained later this year for the Diocese of Lake Charles. 

DeRouen taps into that part of his journey to the seminary and how the search for beauty changed the way he looks at architecture during Ave Explores: Art and Architecture — a free four-week online series that launched April 15 on avemariapress.com. 

Lake Charles native Katie Prejean McGrady, project manager and host for Ave Explores, invited DeRouen to participate in the series along with a team of experts in the fields of art, architecture and iconography. 

It was a perfect fit that DeRouen and McGrady would come together on this international project. 

“I met Katie when I was in the seventh grade and was instantly drawn by her passion for speaking the truth,” said DeRouen. “Eventually, I followed her as a disciple of youth ministry in the Diocese and attribute her friendship as a key factor in accepting my vocation to the priesthood.” 

Ave Maria Press chose to kick off the series on what marked the first anniversary of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire. On April 15, 2019, millions of people around the world watched in horror as the grand spire of the iconic Cathedral in Paris burned to the ground. The Gothic masterpiece, which dates to the twelfth century, became a rallying point for people of all faiths, according to a press release by AVP. 

“One year ago, the whole world just kind of stopped,” McGrady said, “so we coordinated the series with the anniversary of the Notre Dame fire. 

The series, reflecting on the importance of art and beauty to the Catholic faith, will also feature a segment by McGrady on the beauty of art in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. 

“The Cathedral is a beautiful place to worship, but whether it’s a cathedral or a small town chapel, every church has a story it is trying to tell us about Jesus,” said McGrady, who emphasized the role of any Ave Explores series is always about exploring faith for everyday Catholics 

"I love that Ave Maria Press began in 1865 as a ministry to help people explore and learn their faith, right from their homes, in an easy, digestible format — a magazine,” McGrady said. “And so in some way, I feel like the work of Ave Explores really taps into that history: creating good content, giving it to people for free in today’s “magazine” (the Internet), and helping them learn more about aspects of the faith.” 

Content includes podcastsvideos and articles. Here is some of what you can find during the art and architecture series: 

  • Week 1, April 15: considers the importance of beauty in Catholicism featuring: Katie Prejean McGrady; J.D. Childs, author and headmaster at Bishop O’Dowd High School in California; Father James Phalan, director of Holy Cross Family Ministries; and Mike Aquilina, church historian/author.
  • Week 2, April 22: looks at architecture and art featuring: Deacon Andrew DeRouen; Duncan Stroik, professor of architecture at Notre Dame in Fort Bend, Ind.; Elizabeth Lev, art historian in Rome; Christine Valters Paintner, author/artist in Ireland; and segment on Cathedral of Immaculate Conception.
  • Week 3, April 29: offers a diverse look at Catholic creativity featuring: Jen Norton and Daniel Mitsui, contemporary artists; filmmaker Rob Kaczmark of Spirit Juice Studios; Fabiolo Garza, a Disney animator and illustrator; and Anthony D’Ambrosio, founder of Catholic Creative.
  • Week 4, May 6: will wrap up the series with talks on why we should put Catholic art in our homes, featuring: Emily Jaminet, writer; Ali Hoffman, calligraphist; and Father Michael White, architect priest. This final week will go into detail about why Catholics should put a crucifix in the living room; why Catholics put icons of saints in their children’s bedrooms; and a talk about a letter from Saint John Paul II and what the letter means to all of us.

Deacon DeRouen said he is excited about the credibility to the witness he can now give for not only having seen architecture in Rome, but also having lived in the environment for four years while attending Pontifical North American College. 

“It was like the textbook just came to life for me. All these buildings you study about in books were now at my fingertips,” he said with enthusiasm. “I would walk into a church and I could not believe that the printed picture really existed in person. 

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Sign up to receive emails with this Ave Explores: Art and Architecture series at www.avemariapress.com/aveexplores-art. You can also find a variety of resources from virtual museum and cathedral tours, as well as virtual art exhibits on the Ave Maria Press website at avemariapress.com.