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Diocese of Lake Charles

LAKE CHARLES — The highly anticipated ordinations of four men to the priesthood for the Diocese of Lake Charles will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 27, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop, will be the ordaining prelate with the Very Reverend Ruben J. Buller, Vicar General, serving as Master of Ceremonies.

During this 40th anniversary year of the Diocese of Lake Charles, the Sacrament of Holy Orders for Deacons Samuel Bond, Joseph Caraway, Andrew DeRouen and Levi Thompson will mark the largest group of men in the history of the Diocese to be ordained to the priesthood at one time. Michael Beverung will join the deacons in a step closer to the priesthood as he is ordained a transitional deacon.

Deacon Samuel Bond

Due to the historic number of ordinands and limited capacity, attendance will be by invitation only. The Mass will be streamed live for viewing on www.youtube.com/lcdiocese and www.facebook.com/lcdiocese.

The past several months have been anything but ordinary for these men as their time in the seminary was cut short in early March while the entire nation began necessary precautions amid the global pandemic. Extra time back in their home diocese afforded opportunities not usually experienced in a seminary setting.

“I think, in God’s providence, there’s something valuable about that anomaly which we shouldn’t overlook, namely the formative capacity of parish life,” said Deacon DeRouen, the 27-year-old son of Marty and Julie (Cocchiara) DeRouen and parishioner of the Cathedral. “It’s not that we don’t understand this in a seminary setting, but we typically don’t get to experience it so personally and tangibly until after ordination.”

Deacon Joseph Caraway

Deacon DeRouen has been assisting in the parish of St. Pius X in Ragley under the guidance of Father Jeffrey Starkovich, Director of Vocations.

Setting the record straight for anyone who thinks that seminary life is boring or uneventful, Deacon Thompson said it has been a complete adventure requiring radical trust and openness to God.

“Now in the COVID situation, I’ve seen how sad it can be when people are deprived of the Sacraments, the power of prayer for each other amid this time, and the treasure and gift of the Eucharist,” said the 28-year-old son of Frank and Eva (Pettefer) Thompson and parishioner of St. Theodore Catholic Church in Moss Bluff. “God has enabled the Church to grow through persecutions and plagues throughout the centuries. I hope that he will also enable the Church to grow today amid the pandemic through my future priesthood.”

Deacon Andrew
DeRouen

Deacon Thompson has been assisting in the parish of Our Lady Queen of Heaven under the guidance of Monsignor Daniel A. Torres, Vicar General.

Seeing the pandemic as an opportunity to help people focus on what is truly important in their lives, Deacon Bond finds meaning for his future priesthood.

“When things are out of our control, it is the time to not be afraid but to put our trust in God and His providence for us,” said the 30-year-old son of Joseph and Mitzi (Trahan) Bond and parishioner of Our Lady of LaSalette Catholic Church in DeQuincy. “The priest preaches Christ who both entered into our human sufferings and was victorious over human death by rising from the dead. I look forward to offering this message of hope as a future priest.”

Deacon Levi Thompson

Deacon Bond has been assisting Bishop Provost with the Office of Worship under the guidance of Father Buller.

Fully aware of unexpected and difficult situations on his priestly journey, Deacon Caraway is sure of one thing. “Through challenges, God brings about great fruit. I hope to be a frequently used instrument of God to bring about that fruit,” he said.

Caraway is the 29-year-old son of Julius III and Ladonna (Ange) Caraway and parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Lacassine, a mission  of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Fenton. He has been assisting at St. Henry Catholic Church under the guidance of the Very Reverend Matthew Cormier, Vicar Forane of the Central Deanery.

Becoming a priest was never about Caraway knowing he wanted to be one, but more about realizing that Christ wanted him to be a priest.

The youngest of four, Caraway said, “When I finally made an act of faith and said, ‘yes’ and moved out of the stage of saying ‘maybe’ and being uncommitted, I felt a great freedom and joy.”

For DeRouen, a calling to the priesthood was quite simple. He said he knew more or less that God called him in high school, but he wanted something else for himself — a career in architecture.

“It (architecture) was ultimately not enough to satisfy my thirst for fulfillment,” said DeRouen, the oldest of two. “God worked through my stubbornness and used the desire for beauty and meaning to call me to Himself as a priest. I exhausted every excuse before I finally admitted that God’s call wasn’t against these good desires, but rather an invitation to their attainment. And then I wanted to be a priest.”

Ever since Thompson was a young child, he said there was always a certain “nudge” on his heart to love God with his whole being.

“This invitation grew to a desire to give my life to God, which required prayer and docility,” said Thompson who is the third of four siblings. “Just like a tree that slowly grows from a small seed, my initial desires grew into my desire for priesthood, to give myself to Christ and His Church.”

The youngest of three boys, Bond recognized early on that priests believe that what they are doing is helping people understand that their ultimate purpose in life is to grow in relationship with God.

“From an early age I can remember hearing about the stories from missionary priests and some of the amazing things that they endured, and I can remember thinking, that’s what I want to do,” said Bond. His advice to someone discerning priesthood is listening to the advice of wise people you look up to, pray daily and not be afraid to reach out if you have a “persistent tug at the heart.”

Caraway agrees that prayer is important during the discernment process, but he cautions one to not pray in a selfish way.

“Prayer about the priesthood should not be, ‘Lord, do I want to be a priest?’ Instead, the prayer should be, ‘Lord do you want me to be a priest?’ In today’s world, it is tempting to seek our own interest,” said Caraway, “and this can influence our prayer, but the priesthood is about Jesus’ interest.”

Thompson echoes the importance of prayer along with other suggestions.

“Pray. We cannot hear the call if we do not stop and listen,” said Thompson. “God may be calling you now, but it may be lost if you do not listen. Talk to a vocation director. Get to know other young men who may be discerning.” He also recommends daily Mass and frequent confession to prepare one’s self to receive the call.

For anyone who is just not sure about the priesthood as a vocation, DeRouen encourages them to just give the seminary a try.

“Do it because you love Jesus, and even if you don’t stay, you will not regret being formed into the man you were called to be,” DeRouen said.

Several books that proved helpful during the discernment process for these seminarians include the Bible, A Priest is Not His Own by Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, To Save a Thousand Souls by Father Brett Brannan, Priests for the Third Millennium by Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Dark Night of the Soul, Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales, Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre De Caussade; and Man, The Saint by Jesus Urteaga.

While each journey has been filled with joys and sorrows for these four men, when asked what has been the best part of their seminary experience, they summed it up with the same sentiment: the friendships made with like-minded men, while being challenged as they learn how to be servants of Christ.

What do they all look forward to most about being a priest?

Deacon Bond: Celebrating the Mass and hearing confessions. I owe everything I am and have because of the grace of God poured out in the sacrifice of the Mass and the forgiveness in reconciliation.

Deacon Thompson: Celebrating the Sacraments, especially the most Holy Eucharist, consecrating God within my own hands, and hearing confessions, as an instrument of God’s mercy.

Deacon DeRouen: I look forward to being surprised by God, and little by little, discovering His will in all things.

Deacon Caraway: Celebrating the Sacraments for the people of God, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Masses of Thanksgiving — the first ones to be celebrated by the newly ordained priests in their home parishes — will take place in the following churches: Caraway, St. John the Evangelist Mission in Lacassine; DeRouen, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception; and Thompson, St. Theodore Catholic Church in Moss Bluff — all on Sunday, June 28; and Bond, Our Lady of LaSalette Catholic Church in DeQuincy, on the evening of Saturday, June 27.

Deacons Caraway, DeRouen and Thompson are each working towards their diplomas from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Caraway’s degree is in Thomistic Studies; DeRouen’s degree is in Moral Theology; and Thompson’s degree is in Dogmatic Theology.

Deacon Bond is continuing his studies toward a Licentiate in Sacramental Theology (S.T.L.) from the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill. He graduated from Notre Dame Seminary in May with a Master of Divinity degree.

At the conclusion of the Liturgy of Holy Orders, assignments for the newly ordained will be announced.