Welcome to the Diocese of Lake Charles

Awarded with Highest Diocesan Honor

By Pamela Seal 
Diocese of Lake Charles 

MOSS BLUFF — Just when Deacon George Stearns had his professional life all mapped out, a phone call in 1972 began a chain of events rerouting him from Lubbock, Texas, to Lafayette, and eventually as long-time chancellor for the Diocese of Lake Charles. 

“You never know how life is going to unfold,” Stearns told a room full of clergy and staff in The Lodge of Camp Karol for his farewell luncheon on Thursday, March 7, 2024. 

Bishop Glen John Provost, the third bishop
under whom Deacon George Stearns has worked
in his nearly 44 years serving the local church 
of the Diocese of Lake Charles, presents Stearns
with the Order of Saint Charles in the Companion
class at a retirement luncheon in The Lodge of
Camp Karol on March 7. Deacon Stearns retired
on March 1, 2024, having been the Chancellor
of the Diocese since August 1988.

After some 44 years of tireless dedication to the Diocese of Lake Charles — with close to 36 of those years as chancellor — Stearns retired on March 1. Before his work locally, he served the Diocese of Lafayette with various administrative assignments dating back to that phone call in 1972. 

Bishop Glen John Provost, the third bishop for whom Deacon Stearns served as chancellor, described him as sans pareil — French for “peerless” or “without equal.” 

“I would always call him the ‘memory of the Diocese’,” said Bishop Provost. “He had overseen the rebuilding of diocesan properties following storms, assisted three bishops with his expertise, functioned wearing innumerable ‘hats,’ including personnel director and insurance negotiator, and worked countless times over-and-above what was expected of him.” 

In a letter written to Deacon Stearns upon the news of his retirement, Bishop Provost referred to him as a true “churchman,” stating, “Only those of a certain age and experience can truly understand how much of a compliment that is!”  

He went on to say, “The Church is everything to a ‘churchman’ and guides his every thought and act of service. ... Anyone holding a canonical office in the Church must have the good of the Church first and foremost in his mind. He is ‘on call’ and available to be of service at any time, to answer questions, keeping the larger picture in mind, and loving the Lord above all.” 

Road to the Chancery 

After completing a master’s degree in history in 1970 from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now ULL), then being awarded a graduate teaching position at Texas Tech University in Lubbock to pursue a doctorate in U.S. diplomatic history, Stearns had his sights set on working for the State Department. 

“In 1972, my wife received a phone call from a priest who was influential in my life and hers,” remarked Stearns. “Monsignor Richard Mouton called Suzanne, not me, saying, ‘It is time for George to come home.’” 

At the time, Monsignor Mouton was the Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Lafayette. Two schools, each one going on 100 years old, were part of a desegregation court case. Neither school wanted to merge. 

“I was asked to administer two campuses, three nun principals, roughly 1,000 students, and 2,000 parents. Looking back on this, I was probably his last resort,” Stearns recalled with a chuckle. 

“Whatever the case, I accepted the offer, still needing to finish my doctoral work. However, in time, I took a left turn from my dissertation, and I never turned back because my priorities changed,” he said. 

It would take two years, but Stearns was successful in getting the schools to merge. 

“It wasn’t easy working this situation out, but there was enough leadership among the students, parents, teachers, principals and community to make it work,” he said. “Those two years between 1972-1974 were the hardest and one of the most satisfying times in my life when things came together.” 

Another phone call, this time from Father Charles LeBlanc, would redirect Stearns in 1974 to a teaching position at St. Louis Catholic High School while serving as Director of the Calcasieu Center for Catholic Studies, which was part of St. Louis at the time. 

Stearns would make yet another turn, but it was the right time, he said. He and Suzanne moved their family to Lake Charles. They were still part of the Diocese of Lafayette until the Diocese of Lake Charles was established in 1980. He was also ordained a deacon in 1980 by Bishop Jude Speyrer, founding Bishop for the Diocese of Lake Charles. 

Deacon Stearns remained at St. Louis and became Vicar for Christian Formation for the Diocese in 1983 until August 1988 when he was appointed chancellor, overseeing the diocese's daily operations and serving as archivist. 

At the time of his retirement, Stearns had also been serving as canonical Chief Finance Officer since January 2022 among countless other responsibilities over the years. 

“I am so glad for Monsignor Mouton’s phone call in 1972. I would have been bored to death working behind a desk,” he said to a room full of laughter.  

"My life has been very full and challenging with a whole lot of reward. Most importantly, without Suzanne’s support and sacrifice, none of this would have happened,” Stearns expressed. He and Suzanne have been married 56 years and have five daughters, 13 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. 

“I thank Monsignor Mouton, Bishop Speyrer, Bishop (Edward) Braxton, and Bishop Provost for their confidence in me, along with the clergy and hundreds of others who have added their friendship and support.” 

Expression of gratitude 

To show sincere gratitude on the part of the Diocese, His Excellency presented Deacon Stearns with the Order of St. Charles in the Companion class. Named for the patron saint of the City of Lake Charles, this is the highest diocesan honor one can receive. The Companion class is limited to 12 living recipients.  

In bestowing the honor, Bishop Provost said, “George, you must know of our love and admiration for you. I hope you realize the esteem with which this is given.” 

“You were a gift, and are, to the Diocese because you used the gifts that God gave you with integrity and wisdom,” Bishop Provost continued. “We all benefited from it, George, and you need to know that.” 

Bishop Speyrer created the award to afford the diocesan bishop an opportunity to express his personal thanks to those who contributed in a special way to the welfare and development of the Church and the Diocese of Lake Charles. The award may be presented to members of the clergy and laity. 

Bishop Provost extended his “abiding gratitude” and that of the entire diocese to Deacon Stearns.  

“Your work and ministry have exceeded the common definition of diaconia, and you have raised expectations to another level,” His Excellency remarked. “You, Suzanne, and your family remain in our thoughts and prayers.” 

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