On this Ascension Sunday 2010, I have just completed my first cycle of parish visitations.  Every bishop has the opportunity in his own diocese to visit each of his parishes over an unspecified period of time.  This official visitation gives the bishop the real opportunity of meeting not only the parishioners but also the parish leadership, as well as those who make possible the various ministries that serve the People of God. 
I began my visitations in the autumn of 2009.   Of the five parishes randomly selected, the first was Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Arthur.  This was followed over a period of months by St. Philip Neri in Kinder, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Lake Charles, St. Joseph in Vinton, and finally, the weekend of May 15 and 16, St. Joan of Arc in Oberlin.   
The itinerary for the parish visitation began with meeting the pastor and being introduced to the parish.  I then celebrated all of the Masses and delivered the homily on Saturday and Sunday.  After each Mass with the pastor concelebrating, we greeted the parishioners, and on Saturday evening a dinner followed which variously included as guests, the pastoral council, finance council, trustees, religious education leadership, youth and charitable service directors.  On Sunday morning there were either parish breakfasts, brunches, or covered dish lunches.  Each and every occasion offered us an opportunity to get acquainted and for me to learn more about the parish.
A very valuable tool for this visit was the parish visitation report.  The pastor and his staff would present me prior to my arrival with a report, detailing the vital areas of parish ministry and statistics of interest.  This parish visitation report gave me some introductory information that I could study in order to ask questions  and make observations.  At the meeting with parish leadership on Saturday evening, the report offered all of us with topics for sharing and discussion.  I found this most constructive.
One of our major areas of emphasis is priestly vocations.  At each and every parish—and this is true as well in the parishes for confirmation—at least one or more approached me with interest in becoming priests.  God is answering our prayers, the prayers that we have been offering in our Forty Hour Devotions and in countless other spiritual exercises in our diocese.  Thanks be to God and the intercession of our Blessed Mother and St. John Vianney! 
I will begin my second cycle of parish visitations in October of 2010.  Over the summer months, we will be looking at calendars and consulting with pastors.  We will choose four or five parishes for the coming fall and spring, and I am looking forward to our visits and to being with our people.  For me personally, it is a true joy and abundant grace. 
+Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles