By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator  

Deacon Danny Roussel settled into his new office at St. Jean Vianney Church in Baton Rouge barely able to contain his excitement.  

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Deacon Roussel embraces his mother Judith Bourgeois. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

For an hour, his smile lit up the room, his words gleefully anticipating his future, his effervescent personality shining through.  

Away from the drudgery of academia at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Deacon Roussel was in the first days of learning how he will spend the rest of his life as a priest. He, along with Deacon Mathew Dunn, were ordained transitional deacons June 8 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge, and both are serving five months internships.  

Deacon Roussel and Deacon Dunn are scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in May 2020. 

“I’m very excited,” said Deacon Roussel, who will be shadowing St. Jean Vianney pastor Father Tom Ranzino. “This is a long time coming; it’s what we go to seminary for,” he added. “Formation seems very long but at other times it feels like it flew by.”  

The final year of seminary life is split between spending time in a parish before returning to Notre Dame in October for what amounts to a compressed mini-semester. The spring semester is more traditional leading up to ordination.  

But Deacon Roussel, who will have spent all six years of seminary formation at Notre Dame, acknowledged the next few months are important in his own vocational development.  

“I hated school, and I still hate school,” he admitted with a sheepish grin. “That’s why I love being here and I’m looking so forward to being here because this is the ministry.  

“And (Father Ranzino) has been an amazing mentor already. I really, really desired and prayed to have an experience with a (wonderful) mentor, another prayer God totally answered.”  

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Deacon Danny Roussel makes a promise of respect and obedience to Bishop Duca. Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

Deacon Roussel, a native of Vacherie, began his internship sitting in on three days of planning meetings at St. Jean. He said those meetings, which set the calendars for the church and school from July 1 through June 30, 2020, offered a brief glimpse into what lies ahead.  

“I had no clue that a church parish with an elementary school and a pre-school like this has all of this action going on,” said Deacon Roussel, a Vacherie native who spent 17 years working for a major soft drink producer before entering the seminary. “It’s awesome.   

“When (Father Ranzino) invited me to these days I was like a little kid on the first day of school. I couldn’t wait to get here.”  

His responsibilities will include preaching at assigned daily and weekend Masses, assisting with duties at the school and church and attending meetings. He has already accompanied Father Ranzino, who is also vicar general for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, on a visit to a parishioner who is ill and a couple of diocesan board meetings.  

“But mostly I will be mirroring Father Ranzino in his role at St. Jean, in the church and school side and not so much the vicar general part,” he said.  

Deacon Roussel, who is staying with Father Ranzino in the rectory, said serving in the parish is what is giving him the courage and determination to complete his academics. For he knows, once he has written his last paper, taken his final exam and been ordained, the reward will be starting his life as a priest. And for that day, when his longtime dream becomes reality, his excitement is contagious.  

“You look at it and think this is going to be me one day,” he said of the next few months. “It’s that total excitement and joy that makes the drudgery of the classroom seem worth it.”  

Deacon Roussel admitted he wants to spend his transitional deacon year being open to what the fall brings and to follow through on the formation program. Perhaps most importantly he wants to be open and to trust in God.  

“This is real work, this is the good stuff,” Deacon Roussel said. “That’s what speaks to my heart.”