ST. MARTINVILLE — It was still in St. Martinville Thursday night.
Outside Mater Delorosa Chapel on the Community of Jesus Crucified campus, a light misting rain fell as two dozen of the faithful gathered for a night-long prayer vigil, the prayerful clustered in pairs and groups in pews, scattered throughout the church’s sanctuary.
The Rev. Michael Champagne welcomed the group, explaining the intention of the evening.
“We are here to repair the damage to the face of our church,” Champagne said.
The vigil, Champagne said, had a three-fold purpose: to ask for reparation for sins of the clergy, healing for victims and the sanctification of priests.
“We are praying that there can be healing,” said Debbie Gooch, who attended with her husband, Danny. “There is so much hurt that has been caused. We need to ask for the priests to find contrition, and to find healing and peace for the victims.”
She also said there has to be support for the priests who continue to minister and witness in the community.
“That is a burden, even for those who have done no wrong,” Debbie Gooch said. “Imagine how hard that must be.”
Inside the chapel, the silence enveloped the faithful. Some read from missals, others well-worn Bibles. Some cradled their heads, deep in thought and focus.
Andree LeBlanc said she was there because a friend asked her to attend.
“It is something that is important to them, so it is important to me,” LeBlanc said.
The Rev. Jerome Frey began the Community of Jesus Crucified in 1980, after a career as a missionary in the Pacific. The community has continued, with priests, brothers and sisters of the order, along with lay people, ministering to the needs of the community. Members have been involved in ministry with the sick and the dying, those in nursing homes , the mentally distressed, the poor and those marginalized and suffering in society.
Most recently, the order has purchased a building on Main Street in St. Martinville in order to create an after school tutoring resource for the community.
But Thursday night the focus of the order’s healing effort was the church itself, and those who had been harmed through the actions of clergy. Champagne, seated with the congregants, began a prayer, the congregants following. Brothers and sisters of the order read from scripture. A hymn was sung.
Then silence, and the peace of contemplation.