By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
MOSS BLUFF — His Excellency, the Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, was the celebrant and homilist for the 17th annual Clergy and Religious Recognition Celebration on Tuesday, September 12, at Camp Karol. The Mass took place on the Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Mary, Mother of God, followed by a luncheon for the honorees.
For a combined 410 years of service to the Catholic Church, this year’s honorees included a total of 9 priests, 2 deacons, and 2 religious sisters. The following were recognized for significant anniversaries:
- 60 years — Sister Catherine Leroux, S.E. (Sisters of Emmanuel)
- 50 years — Rev. Michael Barras and Sister Mary Josephine Okafor, D.M.M.M. (Daughters Mary Mother of Mercy)
- 40 years — Deacon Norris Chapman and Deacon Ed McNally
- 30 years — Rev. John Welch, M.S., and Rev. Timothy Goodly
- 25 years — Very Rev. Keith Pellerin, V.F., and Rev. Felix Okey Alaribe
- 15 years — Very Rev. Ruben J. Buller, V.G.; Very Rev. Rojo Koonathan, V.F.; Rev. Nathan Long, and Rev. Jerish George, MOC
“By a happy coincidence, today we are celebrating the Holy Name of Mary, Mother of God as we congratulate and extend our gratitude to these holy men and women for their many years of service to the Church,” said Bishop Provost during his homily.
“We recognize in a special way Father Michael Barras who is celebrating his golden jubilee, 50 years as a priest,” the bishop remarked, noting that he and Father Barras were in seminary together.
Recalling the Commissioning of the Apostles — the initial selection of the Twelve Apostles among the disciples of Jesus — Bishop Provost emphasized the importance of priests doing God’s work.
“The Apostles were a mixed group, kind of like diocesan priests, but no doubt, our Lord sees something in them that is of some merit in the Kingdom of God,” His Excellency remarked. “God’s plan is all embracing.”
Making the point that the Lord sent the Apostles out to do his work, Bishop Provost said this is what happens through the administration of the sacraments.
“In the priesthood, the sacraments are the particular way in which priests serve the faithful,” he explained. “The Anointing of the Sick, for example, is an anointing of those who need healing. The forgiveness of sin in the Sacrament of Penance is also a healing which takes place.”
Bishop Provost remarked that our Lord did not ask his Apostles to go out and write a book, but instead to live out what he instructed them to do.
“Today we celebrate those who have spoken with God, and we pray that they continue to do so in a more fervent way so that they can serve the Church and those committed to their care,” he said.
Reflecting on her 60th anniversary, Sister Catherine Leroux, S.E., said she was amazed at her boldness.
“I entered the novitiate straight out of high school at the age of 17. The novitiate was in Framingham, Mass., 500 miles from my home in Ogdensburg, N.Y.,” she recalled. “It was purely the Holy Spirit. I never wanted to leave.”
Sister Catherine said she loved the structure, the training, the time for prayer, and the others who entered with her. She has served in many places, but here in the South she taught in Vermilion Catholic in Abbeville, adult education in St. Peter Parish in Gueydan, weekly bible studies in Morse and Rayne, campus ministry in Eunice, pastoral work in St. Theodore Parish in Moss Bluff, and 23 years of mental health counseling before retiring in June of 2023.
“To pinpoint my greatest joy is difficult. These past 60 years of vowed life have been unbelievable,” said Sister Catherine. “I am so grateful. I continue to say that religious life is the best kept secret of the Catholic Church.”
Following the Mass, Rev. Michael Caraway, Serra Club chaplain, gave the invocation and blessing of the meal at the luncheon. The welcome and acknowledgments were given by Col. John Halloran, Serra Club past president, and closing remarks and benediction were given by Bishop Provost.
Music during the Liturgy of the Mass was provided by the St. Louis High School Concert Choir under the direction of Colette Tanner.
The annual recognition celebration is coordinated by the Serra Club of Lake Charles and supported by the Knights of Columbus Assemblies and Councils; Knights of Peter Claver Assemblies, Chapters, and Courts; Catholic Daughters of the Americas Courts, Christian Mothers, Parish Altar Societies, and East Deanery Serra Club. Other benefactors of time, talent, and/or treasures were Judy Boudreaux, Craig and Jackie Guillory, and Frank and Linda Zamora.
All honorees for 2023 received a check in $10 increments for their years of service. Col. Halloran said to date, a total of 334 priests, deacons, and religious brothers and sisters have been honored over the past 17 years with contributing organizations donating a total of $85,550 to the honorees.
View more photos on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles Facebook page.