By Debbie Shelley
The Catholic Commentator  

As the sun set over St. George Church in Baton Rouge on Aug. 23, the panels of the stained glass window above the altar glowed like smoldering embers holding the remnants of daylight, with the golden color ones tapering off, as people entered to the sounds of a musical prelude featuring flute, violin, piano and organ for an evening of prayer. The people gathered to welcome and pray for Bishop Michael G. Duca as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Baton Rouge on the eve of his installation.  

 

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Music was a moving part of the prayer service for Bishop Michael G. Duca on Aug. 23, the eve of his installation.  Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

As the sun continued to descend and the church’s lights were dimmed, the congregation softly sang the processional hymn “Veni Sancte Spiritus” (“Come Holy Spirit”). The church was then filled with the glow of candlelight as a paschal candle was lit and members of the congregation lit each others’ candles from that symbolic flame of faith. After a song of thanksgiving, the lights of the church were turned back on and the people extinguished their candles, with the warmth of the peaceful entrance lingering. 

The service, which was proceeded by Bishop Duca spending an hour meeting community and faith leaders from all backgrounds, flowed with a rhythm of psalmody followed by psalm prayer in different languages. The first Psalm “Let My Prayer Rise Up” (Suba Mi Oracion) was sung in Spanish; the second, “Leã Caùc Linh Hoàn” (Leã Nhaát), was sung in Vietnamese; and the third, “Laudate Dominum,” was sung in English, French and German.  

The evening word came from Col 1:21-23, in which St. Paul assured the people of faith, who were one alienated from God because of their hostile minds and evil deeds, were reconciled with God through Christ’s Jesus’ passion and resurrection and encouraged them to persevere in faith. The reading was followed by the responsory “Stay With Us.”  

Bishop Duca’s homily, which was peppered with humor and reflection, permeated with the message of hope. 

With the problem in today’s society and the church, including the clergy sex abuse scandal, people struggle with their faith. They may think hope is gone and ask, “Where is hope?” according to Bishop Duca. 

He urged people to believe and spread the belief that “With God all things are possible.”  

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A youth holds a candle after a paschal candle was lit and then members of the assembly were invited to light each others’ candles.  

 

Christians should remember “Our hope is not fleeing” and that they are invited to remember that God will transform them through hope, according to the bishop. He noted the Gospel is filled with Jesus’ teachings of hope. </span id=”8″>

“It is our hope,” said Bishop Duca. “Jesus Christ. And that hope is greater than any problem we will face. The problem is that oftentimes, our hope is too small. Our hope is not big enough to meet the demands of what is asked of us.” </span id=”9″>

He noted that hope comes with a cost because people have to let go of something. But by facing the challenges of life, people will be free to be bearers of life and hope. </span id=”10″>

The bishop said Catholics symbolize the life of resurrection in Christ. </span id=”11″>

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East Baton Rouge Civil Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux brought a St. Michael the Archangel medal for Bishop Duca to bless when civil and faith leaders met the bishop before the prayer service.  

 

“We live victoriously in Jesus Christ. We move from strength to strength,” said Bishop Duca.  

And followers of Christ’s words and actions should lead to hope in others, said the bishop, who challenged attendees to bring others to a life ultimately of freedom in God.  

“He (Jesus) freed us from death. That is why we have hope in the Lord,” said the bishop.  

The prayer service concluded with a powerful singing of “Mary’s Canticle” as the altar and assembly were incensed and Bishop Duca blessed the people. 

At the end of the service, lively music from a jazz ensemble filled the air as a processional was held to a reception at the St. George gymnasium. 

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An attendee of the prayer service kisses Bishop Duca’s episcopal ring.