Since 2012, hundreds of people have gathered on All Souls Day at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette, Louisiana to bury the remains of the poor, homeless, and forgotten who were unclaimed in the Lafayette Parish morgue. Five coffins holding the remains of 38 souls lined the aisle of the cathedral, each adorned with floral arrangements and prepared for their final resting place.
The knights, dames and candidates of the Lafayette Region once again joined with Catholic Services of Acadiana (CSA) and the Missionaries of Charity in this Corporal Work of Mercy Diocese of Lafayette Bishop Douglas Deshotel was the celebrant of this eighth annual Mass of Christian Burial of the Poor, Homeless and Forgotten. After the Mass, pallbearers guided the caskets into the cathedral’s cemetery while the students of St. Thomas More High School lined the path and sang “Amazing Grace.” Bishop Deshotel led the procession to a devoted portion of the cemetery where the remains were laid to rest alongside those of almost 500 others who have been interred in previous years. At the gravesite, Bishop Deshotel reminded us all that “though they are forgotten and unclaimed by the world, they are not forgotten and not unclaimed by God the Father.” Following the final blessing under the crisp fall sky, participants laid white carnations on the caskets.
This ministry was begun in 2012 by Catholic Charities of Acadiana as an expression of how we as Catholics hold every life, from conception to natural death, as a precious gift. Although we all are created in the divine image of God and are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is unfortunate that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ die homeless and poor or elderly in nursing facilities without the benefit of anyone to see to their proper and dignified burial. We, as the Body of Christ, are obligated by our baptismal commitment to respond to the needs of these least brothers and sisters. By burying the dead reverently, we witness to our faith in the resurrection of the dead when Christ will come in glory.
Catholic Services of Acadiana is one of the Federal Association’s partners in the ongoing Acadiana Flood Relief Program. The Lafayette Region has partnered with CSA in monthly service at the St. Joseph Diner and worked with CSA and the Diocese of Lafayette to open a new Catholic shelter for at-risk women and their children. The Federal Association previously awarded a grant of $25,000 to CSA to assist in the opening of the shelter and, more recently, awarded a grant of $15,000 for materials used in the rebuilding of homes of flood victims.