On the weekend of March 3 and 4, I visited Our Lady of LaSalette Parish in Sulphur and thus completed my third cycle of parish visitations for 2011-2012.  Beginning in August of 2011, I visited as well St. Joseph Parish in DeRidder, St. Charles Borromeo in Fenton with the Mission of St. John the Evangelist in Lacassine, and St. John Bosco in Westlake.  

As always, I find these parish visitations most rewarding for a number of reasons.  It is most encouraging to see and experience the vibrancy of our parishes.  In a way they all share much in common, and in other ways they have particular strengths based on special emphases.  Also, in light of our discussions with the Council of Priests and the Diocesan Pastoral Council on the topic of the New Evangelization, a few of our parishes have already implemented initiatives to reach out to Catholics who no longer practice their faith or do so inconsistently.  They reach-out and welcome back.  I would mention one of these efforts.

In Our Lady of LaSalette Parish there is a very active Legion of Mary.  The Legion spearheaded a house to house visitation earlier this year.  Over 800 contacts were attempted, with almost 500 successful visits.  The Legion invited me to meet with them for the summary and report session.  I was so pleased to hear of the success stories, of invitations to return to religious practice, how some had accepted this call to conversion, and in what ways renewed membership was making a difference in the life of the parish. 

I mention this example but all parishes demonstrate in various pastoral areas real signs of life and zeal for the Gospel.  We see this in the growth of the RCIA programs, the positive strides made at improving religious education, the active bereavement ministries, and improvements to youth groups.  With our high school Catholics, much has been accomplished but more needs to be done.  Especially in smaller parishes in rural communities, it is good to recall that the church parish is really the center of activity for the faithful.  The Church can really make a difference there and enjoys numerous advantages in reaching out to the youth and their families.

I also took the opportunity to speak about vocations to the priesthood.  We have four men entering the seminary in the fall, bringing the number of those studying for the priesthood in the Diocese of Lake Charles to ten.  Two of these were residents of Vianney House, our diocesan house of discernment on Bank Street in Lake Charles.  I thank the priests who encourage vocations, foster Forty Hours Devotion for this intention, and promote this important call to service in their parishes and schools.

Our sincere appreciation goes to Father Jude Brunnert, Father Roland Vaughn, Father Albert Borel, and Father James Winiarski, as well as their staffs, for a warm reception and gracious hospitality.