By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
LAKE CHARLES — There is something special about Room 27 at St. Louis Catholic High School that sets it apart from other high schools in Southwest Louisiana — the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
“It is a space unlike any other space on campus,” said Father Andy DeRouen, chaplain at the only Catholic high school in the Diocese of Lake Charles. “The students are grateful that the chapel is an environment where their outside world can just melt away for a little while.”
Since Hurricane Laura destroyed the main campus of St. Louis in August 2020, setting aside dedicated space for a day chapel on the temporary campus has united the school community.
“Whether it is morning Mass on Tuesdays, Eucharistic Adoration on Fridays, or a quick visit during lunch, the chapel serves as a physical reminder that peace, tranquility, and comfort are near,” said Principal Mia Touchet.
“Seeing students, teachers, clergy, and families utilize the chapel throughout the week affirms the beauty of how Catholic education approaches school differently,” Touchet noted.
A unique feature of the chapel is its focus on the discernment of vocations. In designing the space, Father DeRouen created a wall with photographs from the vocations that have come from St. Louis Catholic High School graduates over the years. In all, there are 15 students who have either entered priesthood, religious life, or they are currently in formation.
Another wall highlights the school’s small faith communities known as the House System made up of students from all grade levels. The “houses” represent Saints John Paul II, Joan of Arc, Elmo, Cecilia, Augustine, and Josephine Bahkita.
Father DeRouen has noticed an increase in participation at chapel Masses and adoration from faculty, which he said will lead to more student involvement.
“Teachers are the ones who distribute the graces that they ultimately receive here (chapel). This in turn helps with the goal of reaching students,” he noted.
One of those students is Morgan Churchman who said Eucharistic Adoration has become a more important part of her life by having access to a chapel on campus. She shared that it helps her feel more fulfilled and confident in who Christ is asking her to be.
“I notice a difference in overcoming peer pressure because I know that what others are asking of me is not as important as what God asks of me,” said Churchman, who sees adoration as talking to God as friend.
“I begin my time in adoration giving thanks for blessings I have been given, even if I don’t see it as a blessing at the time,” Churchman shared. “I like to spend my time sitting with God and telling Him about my day or sitting in silence with Him.”
Staff member Teresa Ernst said that nothing warms her heart more than seeing the students seek out the comfort of Jesus.
“When I turn the corner to head to the chapel and I see all those backpacks lined up outside the door, I smile,” said Ernst. “I hope when students see adults using the chapel, they realize that we all have things on our heart, and they are not alone.”
“Imagine being able to stop at any time during the day and spend time with the Real Presence! It is a blessing to have Christ available to us,” Ernst remarked.
Adoration is everything for teacher Hannah Guth.
“When I started going to Eucharistic Adoration, it brought me to another level of intimacy with God,” said Guth. “It is a privilege to look Him in the face and to have Him looking back at me.”
Guth does her best to nurture in her students a devotion for adoration.
“I love that Eucharistic Adoration adds to our Catholic identity. I love that I can promote and teach a practical way to live out the Faith. Instead of discussing a concept, I can say, ‘Go across the hall to Room 27, the chapel. He is there.’ This is mind-blowing,” said Guth.
Father DeRouen also sees the chapel as a catechetical moment with the introduction of a whiteboard.
“In an environment where there is a school, why not use this space for teaching the faith bit by bit, whether it is helping them prepare for Mass on Sunday or giving them quotes from the Catechism or from writings of the saints,” he noted.
The chapel is open to anyone who wants to come and pray — students, faculty, staff, parents, and grandparents.
“The more we avail ourselves to Jesus, there is grace at work,” said Father DeRouen. “The spiritual life is an investment. We are not here to immediately see the fruits of our prayers. We are here because it pleases the Lord.”
Father DeRouen said the end goal is to have students, faculty, and parents see the chapel as an opportunity to offer worship and praise to God.
“The Lord is not going to be outdone in generosity. The more generous we are with our time, He will be generous more abundantly with us in His time,” DeRouen said. “Jesus is here in the tabernacle, and He loves visitors.”
The St. Louis Catholic High School chapel is open for private prayer every day during school hours. Mass is celebrated at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesdays. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with Benediction is offered on Fridays between 8:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Call the school at 337-436-7275 for more information.
VOCATION WALL AT ST. LOUIS CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
• Father Robert Boxie III, Class of 1998 — Archdiocese of Washington
• Father Ruben J. Buller, Class of 2000 — Pastor of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
• Father Trey Ange, Class of 2002 — Pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Jennings
• Father Jeffrey Starkovich, Class of 2003 — Pastor of St. Pius X Catholic Church in Ragley
• Father Alan Piper, O.P., Class of 2004 — Dominican Province. of St. Joseph
• Father Bernard Baca, O.S.B., Class of 2009 — Benedictine Monks of Norcia
• Father Andy DeRouen, Class of 2011 — Parochial Vicar of St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church and Chaplain at St. Louis Catholic High School
• Laura Prejean, Class of 2011 — Postulant for Sisters of Life
• Father Michael Beverung, Class of 2013 — Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church
• Father Josh Page, Class of 2014 — Parochial Vicar of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church
• Sister Bethany Marie Burnham, F.S.G.M., Class of 2015 — Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyrs of St. George
• Cameron Fontenot, Class of 2017 — Seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary
• Michael DesOrmeaux, Class of 2021 — Seminarian at St. Joseph Seminary College
• Liam Leonard, Class of 2012 — Seminarian at St. Joseph Seminary College
• John Souder, Faculty 2021-2022 — Seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary