Thirty-seven coffins lined the aisle of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette, LA on All Souls Day evening, adorned with floral arrangements and prepared for their final resting place. The coffins held the bodies of the poor, the homeless and the forgotten, including two infants, who had gone unclaimed in the Lafayette Parish morgue throughout 2017.
The knights, dames and candidates of the Lafayette Region 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 sixth annual All Soul’s Day Mass of Christian Burial. Following the Mass, Bishop Deshotel led a candlelit procession into the cathedral’s cemetery, where the bodies were laid to rest alongside almost 500 others who have been similarly buried during the last five years. At the gravesite, he reminded us all that, “They are welcomed with open arms by God who created them out of love, who created them to share in his life forever.”
This annual ministry was begun in 2012 to claim the remains of the poor, homeless and forgotten in Lafayette and to see to their proper and respectful burial. 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 show witness to our faith in the resurrection of the dead when Christ will come in glory. For as Matthew reminded us in his Gospel on the Feast of Christ the King, as we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for Christ himself. (Matthew 25:36)
Catholic Services of Acadiana is one of the Federal Association’s partners in the ongoing Acadiana Flood Rebuilding Program, with the next work week to be scheduled in early 2018. The Lafayette Region also partners with CSA in monthly service at the St. Joseph Diner and is planning with CSA and the Diocese of Lafayette to establish a hospice program for the homeless. The Federal Association recently awarded CSA a matching grant of $25,000 to assist in opening a new women’s shelter in Lafayette.