By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

For the past 50 years, Come Lord Jesus! has walked through people in their personal lives with the Sunday Scriptures.  

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Members of Come Lord Jesus! gathered at St. Aloysius Church to celebrate the golden anniversary of the Come Lord Jesus! program.  Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator  

 

On Aug. 21, Come Lord Jesus! celebrated its golden anniversary as well as its 36-year history in Baton Rouge during a Mass at St. Aloysius Church in Baton Rouge.  

CLJ is rooted in prayer, Scripture, Eucharist and Christian community. CLJ members gather in small groups and read and reflect on the upcoming Sunday readings and talk about their faith journeys.  

In his homily, Father Conley Bertrand, who created the CLJ program in the Diocese of Lafayette 50 years ago, drew from St. Luke’s Gospel, stating Jesus taught on his way to Jerusalem, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13:24).  

“It’s like showing up for a football game and not having practiced and are not in shape because of insufficient exercise,” said Father Bertrand.  

He said Christians must exercise discipline and temperance and build their strength through the sacraments and prayer.  

Because the spirit and flesh are against each other, Catholics must allow the Holy Spirit to dominate their lives to see the things of heaven, he added. 

“It’s supernatural, it’s divine, everything is shared,” Father Bertrand said.  

CLJ, which has spread internationally, came to the Diocese of Baton Rouge after Lisette Borné’s sister, Sister Camille Anne, O’Carm, handed Borné a CLJ manual and said she should introduce the program at St. Aloysius School in Baton Rouge. It was an active program at Vermillion Catholic School in Abbeville where Sister Camille taught.  

Borné and others members of a moms’ prayer group agreed CLJ would be good for the upcoming eighth-grade class at St. Aloysius. Then-principal Alan Powers gave quick, enthusiastic approval because he was familiar with CLJ.  

Borné coordinated the school program and formation of adult groups for 20 years.  

Across the diocese, there are 100-120 active CLJ members in 10-12 adult groups. The program also supplements the eighth-grade religion curriculum in six diocesan schools, reaching almost 400 students annually.  

Borné said former eighth-grade participants lead their eighth grade children’s groups. Former eighth-graders are also in adult groups.  

Deacon David Dawson, now at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, had his first stirrings toward a priestly vocation in his eighth-grade CLJ group at St. Aloysius. At a CLJ session, students were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.  

“Priest” came to Deacon Dawson’s mind, but when the class clown joked he wanted to be a priest and the other children laughed, Deacon Dawson kept quiet about his desire so it would not be trampled upon.  

“That flower that was growing wanted to be cultivated,” explained Deacon Dawson, who is scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in 2021. “It took a long time for that seed to really grow.”  

He said his life has “turned 360 degrees” and he is excited to be preparing for priestly ministry.  

Cindy Ristroph, diocesan co-coordinator of CLJ, and Patience Moreno are among those who started with CLJ through their children. Ristroph was initially terrified when her daughter was in eighth grade at St. Aloysius and facilitated a group of eighth-graders in CLJ.  

“Of course, God came through, and by the end of the year when we leaders realized what an impact was made in these eighth-graders’ lives – we were simply in awe of what had happened with our ‘yes’ to God,” said Ristroph, who joined an adult CLJ group.  

“Without a doubt, Come, Lord Jesus! is a pivotal part of my faith journey. I discovered a hunger for God that I hadn’t even consciously known existed within me. Spending time with Scripture to prepare for each week’s meeting fostered a personal relationship with God that clearly my soul had longed for and was overjoyed at finally being filled,” Ristroph said.  

Moreno entered the program as an overwhelmed mother raising four young children.  

“I knew I was going to need a lot of help from God and other parents, especially mothers,” Moreno said.

She was in a woman’s Bible study group that transitioned into CLJ.  

“The CLJ process taught me how to pray aloud, openly. Over the years I have and continue to be blessed by the wisdom of others in our group. Today, I still look forward to my planned ‘quiet time’ and the grace-filled fellowship with others,” Moreno said.  

Mary Carlin, diocesan co-coordinator of CLJ, joined through a friend’s invitation after her mother passed away and she was retiring from her 36-year career with special needs children.  

“CLJ has transformed my spiritual life in so many awesome ways. My knowledge of Scripture, previously on a surface level, has changed into a deep experience of understanding the living word with constant application to daily life. In the Eucharist, I am so humbled and so grateful for the gift of the divine presence. In my group, I cherish our prayer time as we express our prayers of petition and gratitude for ourselves and our community.”