Pilot, traveler, husband... priest?
Father Ed Lauden came to the cloth late in life after wife’s death
Father Ed Lauden
"I can’t complain about where life has led me and the back, forth and all around. It’s a life I would not want to modify in any way," Lauden said.
Lauden, 70, is someone who embraces living and the different aspects in which one can be involved in it. He has explored many of those aspects, which has led him on a rather circuitous path to the priesthood.
Born in New Jersey in 1943, Lauden grew up in Florida before going off to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. It was in the last years of high school that Lauden decided to join the Jesuit order at Grand Coteau. He stayed with organization, and after graduating with a bachelor of arts in physics, went off to teach at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.
"I was in high school and becoming a priest entered my mind. I went back and forth about it" he said. "After college, I went into the Jesuits, but I wanted to go out. There was so much in the world that I wanted to see and it was not included in that."
After two years of teaching at Jesuit, he moved on and began embracing his hobby of traveling. For a number of years Lauden made trips not only the across country, but also internationally.
"Every time I go someplace I learn something magnificent," he said. "I’ve been to Italy and around the United States and the various national parks. Just to see the world and experience how other people live and they do things - the different scenery and the different geological formations - it is just an important thing to do and a great gift to be able to do that."
However, he continued to teach for the next 24 years at De La Salle High School where he taught mathematics, physics, geology and astronomy.
"Teaching was very important to me. I really enjoyed teaching and having the kids in front of me and seeing the potential that they had. The subject matter I taught was really interesting to me, so I transferred that to the kids," he said.
In addition to teaching and traveling, he also took up flying. His love of flying led him to pursue a private pilot’s license and a flight instructor’s rating in gliders.
"The world from the air is magnificent. I have been fascinated by that my whole life. I’ll never get that out of my system I don’t think," he said.
In fact, Lauden still occasionally goes on flights out of the Ama Airport.
It was not until later he found something else to put his energy towards, his marriage to wife Susan Miller Lauden.
"I found my true love and I got married late in life. I was 51 when I got married," he said.
Unfortunately, his married life would not last for long.
"We moved to Picayune and I was teaching at Pearl River High School for seven years and what happened was that she very unexpectedly died during that time that we were in Picayune. She just all of the sudden got sick and passed away," he said. "At that time I wanted to return to some form of religious expression with my life."
Following Susan’s death, Lauden entered Notre Dame Seminary at 61 years old and was subsequently awarded the Master of Divinity degree.
"When my wife passed away this whole thing kind of came back on me with a vengeance. It came upon me very strongly wanting to serve people in the parishes. To bring God’s word to the people and to be kind and generous and loving toward them and teaching them the things I knew about religion," he said.
Despite being the oldest student in the seminary, Lauden said he really did not feel a difference between himself and the others enrolled pursuing the priesthood.
In the eight years he has been a priest, six of those have been in St. Charles Parish.
"I love it very much. I enjoy the river, the levee and the people here, especially the people. I just enjoy it very much. It is a great place to live and a great place to be," he said.
In the end, he said the trip has been worth the destination.
"I think, even though this has been a long and winding road without a doubt, I think what I did and the way God has led me through that whole thing is what I needed to do," he said. "What I did is what I needed to do to experience the world and do some of the things that were really deep in my heart such as flying and traveling and a free sense to experience the world in that way.
Even though he has is only five years away from retirement age, Lauden said he does not plan on leaving the priesthood anytime soon.
"The retirement age is roughly around 75, but it depends on your health and how much energy you have left and so on," he said. "I’ve still got five years to go before I hit 75 so I don’t know what the situation is going to be health wise, but it would be nice to keep going."
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