Cajun Catholics will be braving the heat today as the Fête-Dieu du Teche makes its way across Bayou Teche.
The 38-mile trip is a Eucharistic Procession by boat that takes place on the Feast of the Assumption, and also happens to be the Feast Day of the Acadian people. The event begins at 8 a.m. sharp at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Leonville with a French Mass celebrated by Bishop Douglas Deshotel.
Participants will walk in procession after the Mass with the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Mary to a nearby boat landing, which will start the procession down Bayou Teche to St. Martinville.
It’s a unique Teche Area event that’s been covered by religious organizations all over the country, and one Cajun Catholics celebrate with pride.
Blue Rolfes, cirector of communications for the Diocese of Lafayette, said the event is always well attended by local Catholics even with the usual August heat.
Can you describe the event?
Catholics believe that when the host is consecrated during the Mass it actually becomes the body of Christ and becomes sacramental. Catholics believe that during the process it actually becomes the body and blood and is referred to as the transubstantiation. The event is a solemn eucharistic processions where the sacrament is put in what is called a monstrance and Father (Michael) Champagne will be the one carrying it through most of the procession. It’s considered sacred and treated as if Christ is there.
Why is Aug. 15 important?
It is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, where we believe Mary is brought to heaven. Besides Jesus, she is the only living being on earth that ever went directly to heaven, that’s why the feast day is celebrated. Aug. 15 is also the feast day of the Acadians and the procession is the route of the Acadians who were exiled from Nova Scotia.
What does the route look like?
It starts from Leonville and it’s kind of a combination of a liturgical, sacramental procession. We pick up people at each stop and there are people who get off the boats during the route. We walk from the boat landing to the churches and say the Rosary, then get on the boats. People come and go throughout the day. We have a lot of people that register. I think we have about 75 boats this year, and some ride all the way through the day, they’ll go from one stop to another with most of the route being on water.
How does the local Catholic community respond to the event?
It’s amazing. We have people who have done it every year, we have kids from Catholic schools who take part and a lot of parishioners from throughout the area. The first year I was really surprised at how many people participated, the people on the boats have ice chests but it’s so incredibly hot, it’s amazing how they stay with us. The longest processions is when we get to St. Martinville and walk to St. Martin de Tours, and then continue to the Community of Jesus Crucified, who are the main organizers of the event.