By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator  

Father Vincent Dufresne admitted to some trepidation when he was serving as pastor at St. Philomena church in Labadieville a decision was made to open a perpetuation adoration chapel. 

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The adoration chapel at St. Philomena Church in Labadieville was perpetual for 17 years. The chapel is now open from 4 a.m.–11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 4 a.m.–noon on Saturday. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator

 

Such an ambitious undertaking would require at least the commitment of 400 volunteers and being a small parish his concerns were genuine. 

The first few weeks attracted only about half of the needed volunteers but within a month 400 adorers were committed.  

Twenty-five years later, what Father Dufresne called a “groundswell” of support remains alive in this small community perched on the banks of Bayou Lafourche on the southeastern fringe of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  

“The faith here is contagious,” Father Dufresne said, as he greeted former parishioners during a meal following a Mass celebrating the 25th anniversary of the chapel. “When one or a few (parishioners) started to talk about it, others realized that they were also interested and that is what started happening. 

“A few people were unsure about it but the more individuals said, “If so and so is going to be doing it, then I can do it too.’ And that is what led to a groundswell.”  

The chapel opened at a time when Father Jeff Bayhi and Father Cleo Milano began asking parishes around the diocese to consider establishing adoration chapels, with the goal if not every church, at least in every region of the diocese. Father Dufresne said one of the reasons he was asked is because he and Father Milano had served together as parochial vicars at St. Philomena early in their ministries, and the church was located on the edge of the diocese.   

“I started thinking about it and realized because of the solid Catholic roots in this community, if there is any chance of an adoration chapel, it had to be here,” he said.  

For Labadieville native Gail Ledet, a seed planted in Slidell has continued to nurture a quarter of a century later. She remembers visiting the church her son attended in Slidell and being awestruck by the commitment of adorers.  

“I could not fathom how they did that, to have somebody around the clock,” Ledet said. “And then I came home and I heard on the grapevine Father Vincent (Dufresne) was having a priest come to talk about eucharistic adoration. I automatically volunteered.  

“God had planted the seed about adoration; I had to go find out what it was.”  

And she and Ronnie, her husband of 55 years, have never left, initially each committing to two hours a week but now each is down to one. Gail is also in charge of coordinating the schedules, making sure each hour is covered, a task she imagined impossible years ago. 

“It’s awesome, and we are so blessed,” she said. “God is talking to you every time you go, even if you actually fall asleep or just meditate. It just enriches you, and it has influenced my children.  

“Only if you could get everybody to try it. It is so rewarding.”  

“My husband and I are so close; God has blessed our marriage,” she added. “God gives you what you need, and I feel that is what God has done for us.” 

Connie Naquin, another charter member, said she always experiences a sense of peace during her hour of adoration. For years her hour was on Thursday but switched to Sunday at the request of a fellow adorer. 

During the past 25 years, she has only missed three of her scheduled hours, testimony to her dedication, a commitment shared by her fellow adorers. 

“When I was in the chapel at least I knew I had the Lord’s full attention,” said Naquin. “But then I said maybe he has my full attention.”  

Charter member Alice Blanchard finds solace in the silence and praying to God. She said she thanks the Lord for the day and for his presence. 

“It gives you peace of mind,” she said “I have seen many blessings to come out of it.”

For 17 years, the chapel was perpetual, but a decline in parishioners has resulted in a reduction of hours. Currently, the chapel, which is located in the former sisters’ chapel when women religious were located in the parish, is open from 4 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 4 a.m.-noon on Saturday. It is closed Sundays. 

However, even with the reduced number of hours, more than 200 volunteers remain committed, an impressive number for such a small parish. Pastor Father Joseph Vu, who was installed a year ago, said the commitment to keep the chapel viable is a demonstration of the faith among parishioners. 

“I think it’s also a collaborative effort, primarily the people of Labadieville but now the parish has clustered and has brought in people from our other two parishes (St. Elizabeth Church in Paincourtville and St. Anne Church in Napoleonville) and from (the nearby Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux),” Father Vu said. “I think they are dedicated to keeping up with something that is so important to them.” 

“I would be incredibly lost,” he said of his commitment to adoration. 

Naquin, who with many others believed the chapel has saved Labadieville from catastrophic events, especially hurricanes, offered words of encouragement to those who may be considering committing to an hour but are unsure. 

“People are missing an excellent opportunity for peace and solitude and I think everybody needs that in the busy lives we lead today,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t have to pray. The Lord understands. You can just be there and he will talk to you.”