November  a month of remembrance 

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

November is a time for Catholics to remember their loved ones, tending to their graves, looking into flickering candle flames at vigil memorial services and writing their names in books of remembrances at their church parishes. Memories of the deceased flow out in the forms of love stories, victories over challenges, bravery in serving their country and sadness over ones gone too soon.  

page 1 All Saints 8.tif

Families and loved ones gathered at Resthaven Gardens of Memory in Baton Rouge for Mass and a blessing of the graves on Friday, Nov. 1. About 250 people gathered for the annual outdoor Mass, which was celebrated by Father Michael Miceli, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Baton Rouge; concelebrant was Father Paul Yi, pastor of St. George Church in Baton Rouge; Deacon Don Musso, of Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Baton Rouge; and, Deacon Brent Duplessis, of St. Jean Vianney Church in Baton Rouge.  Photo by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator 

 

And many will express excitement, and even hope, about the time they will meet their loved ones again in heaven.  

Parents who lose a child can be swallowed up with grief and the question ‘Why?’ But Mary Acosta, whose son, William Matthew Acosta died in 2015, and is buried at St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Brusly, holds on to the good memories of him and gives thanks for the time she had with him.  

William was a gentle soul who loved animals, especially his beagle “Charger,” according to his mother. He graduated from Redemptorist in 2012. He loved music, snowboarding and international travel. William was a third-year student at LSU, studying history and education when he died in 2015.  

Acosta is confident William is at peace in the loving arms of Jesus.  

“Matthew means ‘gift of God,’ and we gave him that middle name because that is truly what he was,” said Acosta.  

While she had a short time on earth with her son, she is also grateful for the many years and loving presence of her parents, Milton and Mary Broussard, who are buried next to each other in St. Gabriel Cemetery in St. Gabriel.  

Acosta grew up with 11 siblings in a home that she said was filled with love. She remembers her father, who died in 2006, working the farm he grew up on in Sunshine, running cattle, growing a garden and picking pecans. 

Athletics was also a big part of Acosta’s family life. Milton Broussard, an alumnus of Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, coached at several Catholic and public schools, including Catholic High, St. John High School in Plaquemine and Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge.  

While coaching at Redemptorist during the 1960s and 1990s, the Wolves football team won two state championships. He was voted into Redemptorist’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002. 

The couple settled in North Baton Rouge. Mary Broussard, a Redemptorist graduate, was raised in North Baton Rouge and learned to play the organ from the School Sisters of Notre Dame while a young student at St. Gerard Elementary School and played mostly for St. Gerard Majella Church and St. Agnes Church, both in Baton Rouge. She died in 2018.  

The Broussards had friendly competitions, including a “daddy’s rice dressing vs. mother’s cornbread dressing” during the holidays.  

Acosta finds peace as she makes graveside visits to her son and parents. 

At her father’s grave some people will leave pecans and footballs, and she finds memorabilia left on her mother and son’s graves as well. On children’s graves, also, there may be toys.  

“It’s comforting to see other people remembering them too,” said Acosta.  

There’s also a lot of history lessons and glimpse of the deceased’s personality when looking at the headstones. 

“You learn a lot about life through a cemetery,” said Acosta. 

When Jean Rodriguez visits the gravesite of her husband, Danny, who died in a hunting accident in December 1993 in West Feliciana Parish and is buried in Mt. Carmel Cemetery in St. Francisville, she is flooded with memories of a war hero and loving husband and father.  

Danny Rodriguez, an Army Veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and other awards, proposed to Jean in April of 1968. He was drafted for the Vietnam War in June of that year and the couple married in November at St. Joseph Church in Marksville, where Jean had been baptized and received her first Communion and confirmation.  

Preparing for the wedding was a whirlwind affair, said Rodriguez.  

“My mother made the wedding dress, the bridesmaids dresses and flower girl dress,” said Rodriguez.  

The couple’s beautiful wedding belied the dangers Danny faced only a few days laterwhen he left for Vietnam.  

Danny’s platoon was involved in numerous intense battles in which some of his comrades died. Danny was injured by shrapnel three different times, with the last incident blinding him in his left eye. He was discharged in 1970 and went through rehabilitation in San Antonio Texas.  

Once he returned home, the Rodriguez’ had three children and he devoted himself to his family. 

Danny deeply respected military veterans and their families because he knew from experience the deep sacrifices they made, according to Jean.  

“He gave himself wholeheartedly to whatever he was called to do,” said Jean.