Welcome to the Diocese of Lake Charles

By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles

Jesus Christ did not come to be served but to serve. This act of humility was on full display as members of the Hispanic Community at St. Henry Catholic Church washed the feet of Perpetual Pilgrims on the St. Juan Diego Route of the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage passing through the Diocese of Lake Charles on June 4.

At Camp Karol in Moss Bluff: Youth Adoration Night with National
Eucharistic Pilgrimage traveling across the country with Jesus.

The seven young pilgrims, along with four Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, arrived on June 3 at Camp Karol in Moss Bluff after beginning their historic cross-country journey with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament from Brownsville, Texas, on May 19. They are making their way by foot and a 12-passenger van to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the 10th National Eucharistic Congress — the first gathering of its kind in nearly a century — to join 60,000 Catholics from across the nation July 17-21.

More than 100 youth and young adults, along with diocesan seminarians, gathered at Camp Karol for an evening of fellowship and Eucharistic Adoration. Perpetual Pilgrim, Shayla Elm, from the Archdiocese of Denver, said Jesus was inviting her to experience “childlike joy” on her journey.

“This means having a posture of the heart that is totally receptive to God,” said Shayla, encouraging the youth to share their heart with Christ truly present in the Eucharist. “The Lord delights in each of us and wants to answer our prayers of childlike faith.”

Mass at St. Theodore Catholic Church

The pilgrims kicked off a full day of activities on June 4 with 8:30 a.m. Mass at St. Theodore Catholic Church in Moss Bluff. Father Aubrey Guilbeau, pastor, was joined by Father Stephen Dufrene, CFR, one of the Franciscan Friars on the pilgrimage.

At St. Theodore Catholic Church: Perpetual Pilgrims traveling
on the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage to Indianapolis began their
journey through the Diocese of Lake Charles with morning Mass.

The nearly full church on a Tuesday morning was not lost on Dylan Young, a pilgrim with the Archdiocese of Washington, who said he was touched by the strong faith of the people.

“The damage from the hurricanes (of 2020) was still present, yet there were so many people coming out for daily Mass. Seeing everyone remaining faithful despite the storms and hardships was really encouraging for me to witness,” said Dylan, who just finished his first year of seminary studies.

Janie Marin, Nancy Simmons, and Lisa Thompson traveled from St. Joseph Catholic Church in DeRidder to be a part of the historic journey with Jesus.

“It is a blessing seeing the youth on fire bringing Our Lord throughout the southern part of the United States,” said Nancy.

“When I first heard about the national pilgrimage, I was inspired that the youth would do this, so I wanted to make an effort to be a part of it and earn a Plenary Indulgence,” Lisa commented.

Procession from Cathedral to Catholic Charities

Following Mid-Morning Prayer in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Lake Charles, local pilgrims joined in the Eucharistic Procession by walking to Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana where they helped bag groceries for those in need.

At Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: The National
Eucharistic Pilgrimage exits the Cathedral with Jesus as it continues
its journey in the Diocese of Lake Charles.

Sister Marie Josepha Kluczny, Director, shared the mission of Catholic Charities, which is service of others.

“The work that Catholic Charities does is not just a nice thing that we do as Catholics. It is not an optional extra to serve our neighbors,” she said. “It is a Divine Commandment. Each of the faithful should hear in the words of Our Lord a call to service which flows from the Eucharist.”

Walking on holy ground at Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Procession with the Blessed Sacrament continued to Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church (Lake Charles) where the pilgrims found themselves walking on the same holy ground where the founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Saint Katharine Drexel, once walked. Deacon Harold Nixon, Deacon Erroll Deville, and Sacred Heart parishioner Charles Honore shared some history of the church and former school.

At Sacred Heart of Jesus (Lake Charles): Pilgrims participating
in the historic journey with Jesus walked on the same holy ground
as Saint Katharine Drexel.

Mr. Honore reminded those on the national pilgrimage of comments once made by Bishop Glen John Provost: “Everything we have here at Sacred Heart and at other parishes in Lake Charles, including Immaculate Heart of Mary, began with two women. One was Mother Katharine Drexel who has been canonized as a saint. The other was Eleanor Figaro, who should be canonized as a saint.”

The Perpetual Pilgrims were given booklets on the history of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish as well as a copy of a deed signed by Katharine Drexel when she provided financial assistance for land to be purchased and a school built in 1910.

From Immaculate Heart of Mary
to St. Henry Catholic Church

The journey moved on to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church where the pilgrims prayed before walking with Jesus across an overpass and through neighborhoods until the Eucharistic Procession reached St. Henry Catholic Church with loud cheering and clapping by the crowd as Jesus arrived.

At Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church: Perpetual Pilgrims
pray before the Blessed Sacrament before heading to their
next destination in the Diocese of Lake Charles.

The pilgrims were greeted with hospitality fitting for those carrying Our Lord and Savior across the country. Members of the Hispanic Community washed the feet of the Perpetual Pilgrims after a long day’s journey in the summer heat and humidity. After praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, they were entertained with the festive Mexican dance, jarabe Tapatio.

Issy Martin-Dye, a Perpetual Pilgrim from the Diocese of Cleveland, said a highlight for her was being at St. Henry Parish.

At St. Henry Catholic Church: Washing of the Pilgrims' feet

“Seeing those ladies and children dance was my favorite part of the day. It was impressive to see,” said Issy. “Ricardo (Ruvalcaba) and his family seem like powerhouses yet are very humble.”

Issy said she will always remember the washing of their feet at St. Henry. “The people at that parish were very hospitable, even giving us gift bags of candy and snacks. It was very moving.”

Prayer and fellowship
at Our Lady Help of Christians

After eight hours of bringing Christ to others, the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage made its way east to Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church in Jennings for Vespers (Evening Prayer), followed by a delicious jambalaya dinner, compliments of the Knights of Columbus, before departing to its next destination in the Diocese of Lafayette.

At Our Lady Help of Christians in Jennings:
A Perpetual Pilgrim gives his testimony at the last stop
before the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage departs the
Diocese of Lake Charles.

People near and far were excited to be a part of the unprecedented outpouring of grace happening across our nation.

Armando and Maria Olguin with their son, Mathew, traveled from San Antonio, Texas, to the Diocese of Lake Charles to walk with the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage.

“We attend Adoration weekly in my home parish, so I see the importance of this mission we are on,” said Armando. “I will go to extremes to be with Our Lord.”

Praying with Ainsley on the journey

Just like she does for many diocesan events, Ainsley DeSonier participated in the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage as it passed through the Diocese of Lake Charles. She followed along the Juan Diego Route with her parents, Dr. Keith and Dale DeSonier of Lake Charles.

Praying with Ainsley: Father Stephen Dufrene, CFR, visits with
Ainsley DeSonier, who participated in the National Eucharistic
Pilgrimage as it passed through the Diocese of Lake Charles.

Ainsley, who is 45 years old, was born with cloverleaf syndrome, also referred to as Pfeiffer syndrome Type 2. She has battled more than 50 surgeries to be alive.

Upon seeing her at St. Henry Catholic Church — the final stop on Ainsley’s journey — Father Stephen Dufrene, CFR, bent down to her wheelchair and said, “I bet your prayers are very powerful.”

Ainsley’s mother replied, “Yes they really are.”

Then Father Stephen asked Ainsley, “Will you pray for my mother, Mary Margaret, who is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s? She wanted to have a very good confession.”

Ainsley was happy to honor Father’s request.

The St. Juan Diego Route will converge with the other three routes in Indianapolis for the five-day National Eucharistic Congress July 17-21. Ainsley will be there.

She is looking forward to seeing Dr. Tim Gray, president of the Augustine Institute and a well-known Catholic speaker and author. She watches him on FORMED.org.

“This is my first pilgrimage. I really liked the dancers at St. Henry,” Ainsley said as she clapped with “child-like” joy!

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