By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — There is nothing more encouraging than a church filled with students celebrating the gift of their Catholic faith.
In celebration of National Catholic Schools Week — held Jan. 29-Feb. 4 — Bishop Glen John Provost officiated a special Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday, February 1, 2023.
Seniors from St. Louis Catholic High School and eighth-grade students from the other five Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lake Charles gathered to reflect on the importance of the gift of their faith-based education.
The sacred music, provided by the St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic School 3rd and 4th Grade Choir and Saint Louis Catholic High School Choir, added to the uplifting and prayerful occasion.
In his comments to the students, Bishop Provost said, “Catholic schools endure, they last, because the need is always there. The need is best expressed and found in the plan of God which he has for each one of us. We are all students.”
The bishop reflected on the importance of books while expressing his appreciation.
“I owe a great debt of gratitude to my mother, who taught me how to read; to my teachers, who nurtured my appreciation for books; and to the Church that had preserved many of these books at a time in the history of the world where they might have been lost,” the bishop remarked.
The books he was referring to are from a list he came across recently — “100 Books to Read.” The list was compiled by the late Brother Randall Riede, a distinguished religious Xaverian brother who served as librarian at the Pontifical North American College in Rome when Bishop Provost was a theology student in the early 1970s.
Some of the books Bishop Provost knew from childhood. Others he had read at various stages of his life, from childhood to only recently.
“These books helped me to think, to sort out ideas, craft my means of expression, examine my conscience, and make sense of life,” he said.
Bishop Provost noted that in every age, Catholic schools have made a unique contribution. Citing a few examples, he mentioned the Christianization of Europe, the task of creating libraries in the Middle Ages, the Gregorian calendar still in use today, and later in the 19th Century the fundamental and still-operative principles of genetics.
In surveying the history of Catholic education, Bishop Provost said he was struck by one chief characteristic: the basics.
“Learning began with faith. What we believe is important,” he said. “The Catholic school turns first to its faith in Christ to offer a measure with which to measure.”
Bishop Provost added, “Another basic of Catholic education … is the ability to read. This ability is fostered by a concentration on the importance of the word. One cannot read without understanding what a word is.”
“Perhaps this cherished esteem for basics,” continued the bishop, “is what motivated Brother Randall to compose his list. For that matter, it has stirred up in the heart and soul of every Catholic teacher a desire to preserve, inculcate, and impart to the student what will sustain and inspire him or her throughout her life.”
After Mass, Bishop Provost interacted with the students by inviting them to ask him anything they wanted to know, and he would do his best to answer their questions. They learned that in his free time he enjoys reading and playing the piano.
When asked what his advice to students would be, he responded — without hesitation, “Pray. Pray a lot.” And speaking of advice, one of his favorite books in the Bible is the Letter of Saint James, remarking that it is “extremely practical and filled with good advice on how to live a good life.”
If he is looking for guidance from the Saints, the bishop said he turns to Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, and Saint Teresa of Avila to name a few.
Concelebrants for the Mass were:
• Very Rev. Daniel Torres, V.G., Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church
• Very Rev. Ruben Buller, V.G., Rector of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
• Very Rev. Keith Pellerin, V.F., Pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church in Jennings
• Very Rev. Ruben Villarreal, Dean of Christian Academics for St. Louis Catholic High School
• Rev. Nathan Long, Pastor of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church and Rector of St. Louis Catholic High School
• Rev. Levi Thompson, Parochial Vicar of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church.
Deacon Anthony Pousson of St. Margaret of Scotland Parish assisted the bishop, and Rev. Samuel Bond served as master of ceremonies.
Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lake Charles are St. Louis Catholic High School, Immaculate Conception Cathedral School, St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic School, and Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic School, all in Lake Charles; Our Lady’s Catholic School in Sulphur; and Our Lady Immaculate Catholic School in Jennings.