By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

Residents in Ascension Civil Parish have praised Holy Rosary Church’s ability not only to overcome adversity, but to extend its arms and welcome, serve and evangelize by voting the St. Amant church Best Place to Worship of 2018. Pastor Father Josh Johnson was voted Person of the Year.  

Holy Rosary and Father Johnson were nominated in individual categories by citizens. The top five contenders in their category for the contest, sponsored by the Gonzales Weekly Citizen and the Donaldsonville Chief, made it to the final vote by the people.  

“It made me feel so good to see what the Lord has done in the life of our parish since the flood (of 2016),” Father Johnson said of the parish’s award. “When the flood hit, it hurt the parish, but they have really come out of it.”  

Father Johnson was the second clergy member to be recognized by the secular media. In November, Father Michael Alello, pastor at St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge,  was selected as a member of the 40 Under 40 by a Baton Rouge business publication.  

“I am truly humbled to be recognized by the Baton Rouge Business Report as a young leader in our community,” Father Alello said. “It was an honor to stand among this year’s class of 40 under 40, representing St. Thomas More and our Catholic Church.     

“Our Baton Rouge community is filled with many amazing leaders, doing great things to move our city forward.”  

 

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Father Josh Johnson

 

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Father Michael Alello

 

 

Holy Rosary parishioner Justin Morgan, who is a eucharistic minister and involved in the men’s retreat ministry at Holy Rosary, agreed with Father Johnson regarding the parish’s recovery.  

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs – damage to the church and rectory. Seeing us come back for our first Mass in the church (after its repairs and renovations) was awesome,” he said. “It’s a movement of the Holy Spirit – our struggles and watching us come out stronger than before.”  

Parishioner Iva Tullier, 68, who has received all of her sacraments at Holy Rosary and whose family worships at the church, said, “Things are on fire here right now. We are here to serve others, because that is what Jesus would want us to do.”  

Tullier’s grandfather helped build the church.  

People can have fun while encountering Holy Rosary through such things as movie nights, coffee and donuts and “The Fifth Quarter” during high school football season, which includes a DJ and food for people to celebrate a victory or lift their spirits after a loss of their team. There are also Bible studies and the sacraments.  

Holy Rosary recently expanded its ability to minister to those in need with the dedication of its Full of Grace Café. Bishop Michael G. Duca blessed the former rectory turned social justice and evangelical facility on Dec. 1.  

People have been evangelized through these efforts and some who have left the church have come back, according to Father Johnson.  

“They’ve taken a lot of risks, and out of those risks came a lot of fruit,” said Father Johnson, who credits the gifted staff, volunteers and parishioners for making Holy Rosary a people’s favorite.  

“It’s also a responsibility because so many people are coming to the church, and they are certainly welcome,” Father Johnson said.  

He said he was taken by surprise and honored for winning Person of the Year.  

But his award was not surprising to others.   

“Father Josh has challenged us to reach out and be the people God called us to be,” said Morgan. “If we’re treating people the way they are supposed to be and be kind, it opens up conversations.”  

He said these path-crossings prompts people to ask, “How can we get involved and get plugged in?”  

“(Father Johnson) has a caring and reverence for the Catholic faith,” said Lucy Cason, director of the RCIA program. “Also, he’s forward looking and has the ability to speak to the younger generations. He resonates with everyone no matter where you are in your faith journey.” 

She noted that Father Johnson is ecumenical, respected by the pastors of other church denominations and addresses the needs of the person without asking whether they are Catholic. Cason said she knows a person who has been through great loss and he has been helping her through her trials.  

Through his ministry she said people have learned more about the Catholic faith “in just five minutes talking with
Father Josh” and many “Sunday Catholics” have become more involved in the church’s ministries. 

Tullier credits Father Johnson for lighting the fire that is in the church’s heart right now. She said he does so by reminding them “we are here to be saints and as saints we will receive an eternal reward.”  

“He believes we can do it,” said Tullier.  

Bishop Michael G. Duca said of Holy Rosary and Father Johnson’s recognition, “Although we don’t look for accolades for what we do, I’m deeply proud that Father Josh’s work in the community has been recognized and that Holy Rosary has been a source of unity and a witness of Christ in the local community and (Ascension) parish.”  

Of Father Alello, he said, “I’m proud of the witness that Father Alello gives of Christ in the work place and the community beyond the boundaries of the parish.”  

Next: Holy Rosary’s mission in the community through “Full of Grace Café.”