By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator 

As St. Agnes Church in Baton Rouge celebrates its Year of the Eucharist, long-time facility manager Eric LeDuff offers the work of hands, especially the beautifully remodeled adoration chapel, as prayer in unison with those who will come to pray. 

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Eric LeDuff, facility manager of St. Agnes Church in Baton Rouge, looks over plans for a walkway and handicap-accessible ramps for the newly renovated chapel at St. Agnes. Photos by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator

 

There are touches of his creative work throughout the St. Agnes campus. 

LeDuff comes from a legacy of contractors and woodworking craftsmen that built and maintained many churches in the Diocese of Baton Rouge. His grandfather, Joseph Leak Patin, served as general contractor for the expansion of St. Francis Xavier Church in Baton Rouge and other major projects on its grounds, including building the former St. Francis Xavier High School.  

LeDuff, 71, who has been involved in construction work since he was in his teens, started working at St. Agnes in the early 1980s when his uncle, Leo Patin, asked for help remodeling work the two-story rectory. Father Jerry Spriggs CSSP, a Holy Ghost priest from Ireland, was pastor at the time. 

Later on, LeDuff’s uncle became ill and St. Agnes called LeDuff to work on projects.  

“I began doing repairs for Father Spriggs – painting, door repairs, locks, opening walls, building cabinets. Whatever he needed me to do, I did it,” LeDuff said.  

When Father Spriggs became ill and returned to Ireland, he told LeDuff, “A new man is coming to take my place (Msgr. Robert Berggreen), and I will ask him to let you stay and take care of St. Agnes.”  

“When Msgr. Berggreen came he talked with me and said ‘I want you to stay and take care of St. Agnes and all of the buildings so I can do my priest work,’ ” said LeDuff.  

It wasn’t long before Msgr. Berggreen hired LeDuff full time. He works out of the former St. Agnes school gym, crafting items of practical and spiritual nature.  

“There’s no job too big or too small for me, I’ve done them all,” said LeDuff, who has built concrete walkways, wheelchair ramps to the church, changed the priest’s parking garage from a two to three-door garage, several projects in the rectory, which among other things included the remaking of a stairway and installing a wall. He’s also worked on projects for the Missionaries of Charity in their convent.  

When Hurricanes Katrina and Rita severely damaged the St. Agnes Church roof in 2005, LeDuff took care of everything, from securing the grounds, choosing the contractor, to selecting the type and color of the new roof.  

When St. Agnes installed a new HVAC unit in 2008, LeDuff worked with the engineers and “made sure it fit in with the designs and specifications needed for the church.”  

Additionally, LeDuff created a safety and emergency disaster plan for the campus.  

Parking at the church is improved with a new parking lot, which LeDuff played a big role in building.  

Walking to and entering the church is also much easier with walkways and handicap ramps.  

But the work LeDuff revels in most is spiritual. 

Take a walk on the memorial garden deck built by LeDuff, which is in the form of a rosary, and one is able to meditate on the mysteries surrounding the life, passion and resurrection of Jesus. 

A St. Charbel statue that is used during the St. Charbel healing Mass is easily moved from a chapel next to the altar to the sanctuary because LeDuff made a platform with wheels where it stands. 

He’s made holy water fonts, crowns for the Blessed Mother and baby Jesus statues. No more “squeaks” interrupt the quiet atmosphere of the church as people rotate racks of church announcements and faith literature because LeDuff created shelves along the church walls.

Many kneelers around St. Agnes have also been made by LeDuff.

When St. Agnes needed more room for its special education, LeDuff transformed a kitchen into a PSR room. 

And when Sister Mary Prema Pierick MC, superior of the Missionaries of Charity in India, visited St. Agnes in July, a statue was unveiled of the order’s founder, St. Teresa of Calcutta. The statue now stands outside the convent on a concrete platform and is enclosed in a protective glass casing designed by LeDuff as a reminder of the order’s mission to serve the poor.  

The project that LeDuff is most proud of is the restoration of the church’s adoration </span id=”23″>chapel. He repainted the walls, put in new carpeting, lighting, ceiling crown molding and trim.  

The altar and the tabernacle containing the monstrance were also built by McDuff. The top of the tabernacle contains a glass pane so the light can shine through onto the Blessed Sacrament.  

LeDuff also took two pieces of wood that came from Thailand and created a semi-circular wood backdrop for a statue of Mary that stands near the tabernacle.  

“When I stood back and looked at it (the chapel) I felt good at what my hands had done,” LeDuff said.  

Related to the chapel, LeDuff’s ever-growing “to do” list is build a sidewalk path and wheelchair ramps to make the chapel handicapped accessible.  

LeDuff considers his “behind the scenes” work his way to enhance people’s experiences at St. Agnes.  

“I take pride in my work,” said LeDuff, “just like my grandfather and father did. I don’t consider myself a handyman. I consider myself a skilled craftsman.”  

The true work for LeDuff, who has a file full of commendations from engineering firms, insurance agencies, St. Agnes staff, the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the local Missionaries of Charity, begins with developing a plan.  

“I design it first in my head and then I build it with these two hands,” said LeDuff with his palms up.