(Six new permanent deacons are scheduled to be ordained Aug. 8 at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge. This is the final of a series on each of the deacon candidates.)  

By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Deacon Mark Reynaud.tif

As Mark Reynaud prepares for his ordination as a permanent deacon, his mind goes back to his fourth-grade year as an altar server at St. Agnes Church in Jefferson.  

Mark Reynaud

 

“I remember always feeling at peace when I was up on the altar. I thought (in my young mind) ‘There must be something to this.’ ” said Reynaud, who is scheduled to be ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Michael G. Duca at St. Joseph Cathedral Church in Baton Rouge on Aug. 8. 

“Back then there were a number of priests who were active within the parish,” Reynaud said. “Although they were countercultural in giving up their ability to marry, they seemed to be fulfilled in what they were doing. That attracted me to the priesthood.”  

After Reynaud graduated from St. Agnes School and St. Jean Vianney Prep High School in New Orleans, which was a seminary preparation school, he attended St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict for three years. While there he discerned the call to the priesthood was not for him.  

“I will never regret the time at St. Ben’s. It’s still a big part of who I am,” said Reynaud.  

While attending St. Joseph, Reynaud met his wife, Sheila, at St. Christopher’s Church in Metairie through socials hosted by a youth choir he played bass guitar for and a RENEW small group of which she was a member.  

After leaving the seminary, Reynaud earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of New Orleans. He and his wife then moved to Monroe, where he received his Master of Arts degree in marriage and family therapy from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.  

The Reynauds intended to move back to New Orleans after he graduated but his first job opportunity came open in the Baton Rouge area.  

“At that time I was doing home-based family therapy with families where there was a danger of the child or adolescent being removed from the home,” said Reynaud. “I did this while I worked on a license as a professional counselor because there was not licensing available for marriage and family therapy at the time. Now I am licensed in both.”  

After receiving his counselor’s license he left the home-based setting and went into the clinical setting.  

Through it all, Reynaud remained active in church parish life, often by playing bass guitar at several parishes in the diocese.  

“I often joked that I worked to support my music habit,” mused Reynaud, who has an acoustic guitar in his office at St. Mark Church in Gonzales, where he serves as director of religious education, a position he started in May.  

Long before the birth of his daughter, Emily, 18, the youngest of three siblings, including Ryan, 29, and Matthew, 26, Reynaud began thinking about entering the diaconate formation program. He talked to a friend’s father who was a deacon in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  

“He encouraged me and discouraged me,” said Reynaud. “He said ‘It’s great that you are thinking about this, but now is not the best time, because your kids are still young and you need to think about that vocation (father).’ Knowing what I know now he was right.” 

So Reynaud put thoughts about the diaconate “on the back burner” until about the time Emily started high school at St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge.  

Reynaud began the application and discernment process when the diaconate formation program was part of the Religious Studies Institute. Two weeks before classes were to begin Reynaud received a letter stating the diaconate program was being revamped. It took a couple of years before the program was re-opened through the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, and he will be part of the first diaconate class to graduate from it.

“Once I was told they had the program in place, I asked, ‘Where do you want me to sign up?’ ” said Reynaud.  

He said the most formidable challenge was reacclimating to the college classroom setting and studying philosophy and theology.  

“Philosophers tend to write in run-on sentences. You had to get use to that,” smiled Reynaud. 

He also had to meet the needs of his family and private practice in Zachary. His Central home was flooded in 2016, but he was thankful that the damage was not as extensive as other homes.  

Reynaud is looking forward to serving as deacon at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Baton Rouge, a relationship that began years ago when he played bass guitar for the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass, and this past year through his diaconate internship. He also looks forward to serving St. Mark.  

Reynaud believes his skills as a counselor and marriage and family life therapist will be beneficial at MBS and St. Mark.  

But what he looks forward to most is coming full circle in his spiritual life.  

“(I’m) going back to the fourth-grade sense of peace ‑ assisting with the liturgy,” said Reynaud.