Saint John Berchmans Cathedral Parish: Authentic Catholicism in the “heart” of the “Bible Belt”

CathedralSJB

by Doug Lawrence

We traveled to northwestern Louisiana this past weekend to attend a family reunion. On arrival, it became abundantly clear that the people living in and around the Shreveport area tend to be very religious – but mostly – NOT Catholic.

Out of the estimated eighty or ninety who attended the reunion, only six Catholics assembled early Sunday morning, in order to attend Mass at the Cathedral of Saint John Berchmans, originally constructed in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1902.  (Saint John Berchmans – pronounced “Berkmans” – is the patron saint of altar servers.)

A Cathedral is considered to be the principal church of a diocese and it is also typically, the “seat” (cathedra) of the local Bishop.

Near as I can tell, most everyone else at the family reunion was Baptist, but the thing that I noticed most was the sheer diversity of Christian denominations in the area, along with the fact that most of the AM radio band and more than half of the FM band seemed to be devoted solely to religious programming – and NOT just on Sundays! (Thank God for Sirius Satellite Radio!)

Non-Catholic Christian churches could be observed on almost every block, while Catholic churches were comparatively rare.

Here’s the mix:

Apostolic Churches (4)
Lutheran Churches (6)
Assembly of God (20)

Baptist Churches (333)

Bible Churches (6)
Methodist Churches (37)
Nazarene Churches (5)
Non-Denominational (15)

Catholic Churches (21)

Orthodox Churches (3)
Christian Churches (11)
Pentecostal (13)
Church of Christ (17)
Presbyterian (13)
Church of God (32)
Reformed Churches (1)
Seventh Day Adventist (2)
Episcopal Churches (5)
Vineyard Churches (1)
Evangelical (1)
Other Churches (23)

Source: USA Church

But while the Catholic “profile” in the area appeared to be definitively low, the quality of the Catholic faith experience there turned out be pleasantly high – at least, at Saint John Berchmans Cathedral Parish!

Here’s a little of what we experienced, this past Sunday:

The church was traditional and beautiful – as were most all cathedrals of similar – 1920’s “vintage”.

We were suitably impressed by the vaulted ceilings; the detailed wood and plaster work; the abundant and exquisite stained-glass windows; the deep-breathing, antique pipe organ;, the marble columns and the genuine stone (not wood) altar; along with the traditional statuary – which was both elegant and easily recognizable.

The tabernacle could be found in the very center of the sanctuary, directly behind the main altar. There was a raised pulpit/ambo for proclaiming the Word of God and the sanctuary was fully provisioned for a quick turn around and transformation, in the rare event of a TLM (Traditional Latin Mass.)

We observed altar boys/servers (not altar girls) – and the servers were NOT wearing the usual dreaded, gaudy, overly casual – popular but seriously out of place athletic shoes. Coincidentally, this parish also produces more than the average number of new, priestly vocations.

The congregation appeared to be well rounded and diverse, spanning the ages from eight months to around eighty years – with a number of young families in attendance.

The standard Novus Ordo liturgy was celebrated reverently and totally “by the book” – with no shenanigans.

A small group of RCIA catechumens occupied reserved seating. They seemed very happy and privileged to be there,  reverently filing out at the appropriate time.

A Deacon proclaimed the Gospel and delivered a homily that was both technically excellent and distinctly on-point.

tenlepers

Afterwards, I began to wonder if the nine of ten lepers
who never returned to thank Jesus for their healing
might have suffered a relapse at some point in the future! 

The Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel was led by the priest and deacon, immediately following the official end of the liturgy.

michael_fighting_devil_4x6

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Divine Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Compared to some very disappointing similar experiences in New York, Minnesota, California and Washington State, I would rate this as one of the best. A very pleasant surprise, in a part of the world where the Catholic Church remains seriously under-appreciated!

The parish website will tell you much more, as will this Wikipedia post.

I suggest you also take a few minutes to watch a very nice video presentation on the saint, the cathedral and the parish.

So much negative Catholic stuff comes across my desk every day.
It’s nice to be able to post something almost entirely positive,
for a change! 

T H A N K  Y O U,  J E S U S! 

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3 Comments

  1. If you ever visit Columbus, I hope that you are able to attend mass at St. Patrick parish (where I work and worship) downtown. You will find yourself every bit as appreciative and satisfied as in your experience reported here. Insofar as is possible at a Novus Ordo parish, that is.

  2. Doug;

    Great site. I just came upon it while looking at information on the book, “The Permenant Instruction of the Alta Vendita, Blueprint for the Destruction of the Church,” and through the search engine your site came up too.

    I am cradle Catholic, but like so many of this generation I left and lived a life that was not worthy. But thanks be to God I came home.

    As to this post, one of the hardest things I have found in evangelization is once you meet a person who may be moved to look into the Church further, the problem arises, where do you bring them, more precisely, which parish church will do the least harm because of the milk-toast manner in which the Mass is celebrated, which often lacks devotion and reverence. Statically most converts do not stay with the faith and leave, so could it be one of the contributing elements is the way our American priests celebrate Mass?

    Boy would I love to be part of parish like the one you posted, but thankfully I can watch EWTN to witness a good example.

    Keep up the fight, and thanks for all you do for the one true faith.

    • You make a number of very good points. Based on the numbers, it’s probably not easy to be Catholic in that part of the country – so contending for the faith on a daily basis is required. I’m betting it’s that – along with God’s grace, of course – which helps build the type of strong, spiritual muscles which serve to preserve the faith. And what rational person would suffer pain and loss for anything less than the whole truth? In this case – the complete, undiluted, authentic, Catholic faith? We actually do have a parish much like this one, in our local area. The church even has a number of similar design elements and the priest/pastor is an excellent spiritual leader, educator and administrator. It is a real “jewel” and I wish we had many more! Thank you for commenting and may God continue to richly bless you and yours.

      Doug


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