Lafayette Region: Living and Serving in Community

It is often said that the Order of Malta remains in service long after the media and first responders have moved on from a natural disaster. This certainly is the case in South Louisiana where the Lafayette Region and its many volunteers gathered in the week of February 20-24 to continue the repair of homes of the forgotten poor that were damaged by historic flooding in 2016 and by the numerous hurricanes that have made landfall since.


Rebuilding homes in South Louisiana has become a continuous work within the Federal Association. It began after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and continued in the New Orleans area for 11 years. Just as that project came to its conclusion, record flooding in August of 2016 brought devastation to an even larger area of Louisiana. The Lafayette Region has headed up rebuilding ever since. As in New Orleans, we partner with Catholic Charities and Rebuilding Together. Our focus is on homeowners in remote small towns and rural locations who believe they have been forgotten. Although we work at individual residences, in some respects we serve entire communities. Almost always, our worksites are visited by local mayors, council members, merchants, and residents who thank us for not forgetting their town.


For this February rebuilding week, knights, dames and candidates from six other Federal Association regions joined with our Lafayette members to work on a home in New Iberia, Louisiana. Friends of the Order from as far away as California, Minnesota and Delaware also joined with us. As always, we began the week by processing into Mass in a church close to the worksite, this time St. Peter’s Catholic Church in New Iberia. Mass was celebrated by our chaplain, the Rev. Brian Harrington, and concelebrated by Atlanta’s chaplain, Msgr. Edward Dillon.


Hidden beneath our church robes were our work clothes. Barely 15 minutes after the final blessing, we were at the worksite beginning demolition of the damaged home. By the next day, our focus changed to rebuilding, which continued for the remainder of the week. The result was newly installed and painted siding and new doors, windows and flooring. At some point each day, we were joined by the homeowner, who was quick to praise both God’s glory and our modest but enthusiastic efforts.


In the end, as my wife Marla says, “We have more fun than we are supposed to.” Much as we experience in Lourdes, the rebuilding week brings the peace and joy of living, serving, and praying together in community once more. Of course, a week of service in Lafayette also brings with it the risk of adding a few pounds and the unmistakable call to return for another week of Cajun food, great fun at Rock’n’Bowl and the joie de vivre that is the culture of South Louisiana.

All said, we are blessed to have the opportunity to live out the intent of our Order’s founder through these charitable works:


Our Fraternity will last forever, because the soil in which it is rooted is the misery of this world, and – if it should please God, there will always be men who will labour to diminish the suffering and to make the misery more endurable.


- Blessed Gerard, founder of the Order 1099 AD