Allow me to send a personal congratulations today to my first pastor (at least the first one I remember), Msgr. Carson LaCaze, now the parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans.
Today, he celebrates the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. It's hard for many of us to imagine doing anything for 50 years, much less enjoying your job so much that you continue after your eligible for retirement. I talked to him a little bit about his career and what this anniversary means to him.
"I'm still pleased with the choice," LaCaze said. "I'd do it over again. I enjoy the work, working with the people of God."
Monsignor was born in 1930 in Natchitoches Parish. He started thinking about the priesthood in sixth grade, and by his junior year of high school he decided that was how he was to spend his life. So at 16 years old he enrolled in seminary at St. Joseph's in Covington. Yes, you read that right, 16.
It took him another 10 years to finish high school, college level philosophy and theology before ordination at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. His ordination class had 22 men, which he said was big even then, and by today's standards is huge. With the priest shortage continuing to worsen he encouraged young men to consider the vocation.
"It's a rewarding life," he said, and ever the pragmatist: "Like most professions, you get what you put into it."
He immediately began ministry in Cottonport. Since then he has served as pastor of Holy Rosary, Christ the King and St. Mary of the Pines. He helped found Mary, Queen of Peace, when it was a mission church.
Administering the sacraments -- baptism, Eucharist, marriage -- have always been the high points of his ministry, he said. His biggest surprise was when he received a letter in 1979 naming him a monsignor, which is a special given by the pope on the recommendation of the local bishop.
"I wasn't working for it and didn't expect it," he said.
I'm quite sure he earned it. I remember Monsignor from his days at St. Mary's when I would get dragged up to church to "help" with whatever my mom was doing. He kind of scared us as kids - he was a little gruff and had very high expectations of his parish. He was also the first priest I ever heard swear (although it was something very minor). As an adult, he always makes me laugh, and I can see why he is my dad's favorite priest, with his practical approach to faith. It's been a joy to be reacquainted with him.
In celebration of his jubilee, Monsignor will celebrate all of the Masses at the Cathedral this weekend, with a covered dish lunch following the 11 a.m. Mass. Then at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday he along with Msgr. Franz Graef and other priests ordained for the Diocese of Alexandria the same year will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Cathedral, 939 Jordan St.
May God continue to bless his ministry to the people of Shreveport-Bossier City.