Now that carnival season has to come to an end, Fat Tuesday has passed and Ash Wednesday has ushered in the Lenten season, Lenten missions will be offered throughout the parish aimed at reinvigorating the faith of parishioners.
W. Gerard “Deacon G” Gautrau is an ordained deacon at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Norco. He said during Lent many Catholics take the time to go on a retreat to reconnect with their faith.
“Typically Catholics try to at least once a year go on a spiritual retreat. It may be a three or four-day retreat,” he said.
Gautrau said it is important to take time to focus on spirituality and reinvigorating your relationship with God.
“The idea of a retreat is to find time away from the everyday distractions of life and to spend time in reflection with God trying to pray and trying to hear God’s word,” he said.
For those who choose to go on retreats, there are many offered throughout the state and region that provide room and board for parishioners. However, for many the responsibilities of daily life make a long weekend away nearly impossible.
Because of that, several local churches offer Lenten missions that occur outside of work hours.
“I would say the Lenten mission is the retreat coming to the people rather than the people going to the retreat,” Gautrau said. “A lot of people can’t get away from work for three or four days to go to a retreat so during the Lent period most parishes will have a particular speaker come to the parish.”
The retreats generally begin on a Sunday and are lead by a mission master who provides a theme for parishioners to focus on, learn and develop over the course of a few days.
“It is a time during Lent where people are thinking of fasting and repentance and giving back to the basics of the religion. It allows them to use this as a time that is convenient for them after work,” Gautrau said. “That allows them to reflect on the word of God prior to Easter, which is the most sacred time besides the birth of Christ in the Catholic religion.”
The importance of maintaining religion through a Lenten mission in the Catholic faith is something Gautrau said parishioners should take seriously.
“That is the most important thing, repentance and fasting and reflecting on Christ,” he said.
Mike Patin, a professional Catholic speaker, will be giving a Lenten Mission at St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan.
“I tell people I am a faith horticulturist. I plant seeds, I lay manure and water it and hopefully it grows,” Patin said.
The mission will begin the evening of Sunday, March 9 and continue for two other sessions at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 10 and Tuesday, March 11.
Patin will focus on symbols within the Catholic Church and their meaning in practice.
“The first night we will focus on the burro, the donkey who has carried Jesus to us and ask who do we need to carry Jesus to? The second night it will be the water basin, the service washing of feet. Who has done that for us and who do we need to do that for? The third night is bricks and bouquets. The stones on the road to the cross and the bouquet Easter lilies and symbols of new life,” Patin said. By developing the use of Christian symbols as a set of topics in discussing faith, Patin said he hopes to make parishioners think twice about what those symbols actually mean.
“The biggest thing I’d like to get after is to make connections and see the symbols of our faith freshly. I think one of the biggest dangers is we see the symbols over and over again and it dulls us,” he said.
Patin said his ultimate goal is to reawaken the importance of Christ in the church in those who attend.
“I know the people love God, but sometimes you need to do a little extra. The season of Lent is to do something extra. It is not to give you faith, but to enliven the faith you already have,” he said.
At Holy Family Catholic Church in Luling, three Lenten missions will be offered.
David Faucheux, a parishioner who started the church’s Lenten mission program four years ago, said since its inception the missions have been growing in popularity.
“We get at least 100 people per night. We have people from neighboring parishes who come. It is not just for our parish, it is for anyone from the area or the diocese,” Faucheux said.
This year the church is providing three missions a 7 p.m. March 11, 12 and 13 with confession before the mass from 6:20 to 6:50 p.m. each night.
Most Reverend Sam G. Jacobs, bishop emeritus of Houma-Thibodaux, will lead a mission entitled “Learning how to listen to God in prayer.”
Faucheux said the mission aims to instruct parishioners on how to get more out of prayer.
“So many times when people pray they are not listening when the pray. For me the strongest type of prayer is contemplative prayer where God can reach your heart and you spend time with him,” he said. “It can change your life and your relationship with God.”
This year will also bring a return on an investment the Knights of Columbus of Holy Family #9933 chapter made a few years ago when they provided a $500 grant to then seminary student Father Kyle Sanders and also supported him through prayer.
Sanders’ mission is entitled “St. Fina and the value of suffering.” Faucheux said it is reassuring to see a priest who received help from the church as a student come back to help parishioners. In addition, the Knights of Columbus Chapter is providing monetary gifts to the speakers at the Lenten missions.
For those who are thinking about participating in a mission this year, Faucheux said they should attend.
“I encourage them to come because all three nights we have three gifted speakers and it will be worth your while if you come…they will hold your attention. It’s all topics we all need to hear and grow from to build our relationship with God,” he said.
List of local Lenten Missions
St. Charles Borromeo • March 9-11, 7 p.m. Mike Patin will speak at all Masses on the weekend of March 8 and 9, the first Sunday of Lent. The mission will begin on Sunday night, March 9 and continue on Monday and Tuesday nights, March 10 and 11 at 7 p.m. Confession will be heard each night after the mission. The church is located at 13396 River Road in Destrehan.St. Gertrude Catholic Church• March 4-6, 7 p.m. Deacon Dave Farinelli will lead a Lenten mission. The church is lcoated at 17292 La. 631 in Des Allemands. Holy Family Catholic Church• March 11-13, 7 p.m. March 11 – Most Reverend Sam G. Jacobs, bishop emeritus of Houma-Thibodaux, will present “Learning how to listen to God in prayer.” March 12 – Father Steven Bruno, vocations director of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, will present “Metanoia: Change of heart, change of mind.” March 13 – Father Kyle Sanders, parochial vicor of St. Rita Church in Harahan, will present “St. Fina and the value of suffering.”Confessions each night from 6:20 to 6:50 p.m.The church is located at 155 Holy Family Lane in Luling.St. Peter Catholic Community • March 10-12, 7 p.m. “The Temptation in the Desert: Who Are We? A Lenten Retreat.” Presented by Fr. R.B. Williams O.P. The church is located at 1550 Louisiana 44 in Reserve.St Joan of Arc Catholic Church • March 26-28, 7 p.m. “Surge of the heart.” A three evening Catholic mission you will never forget with Jon Leonetti. The church is located at 529 West 5th St. in LaPlace.