Faith in the heart of Louisiana
Legatus’ largest chapter in Baton Rouge marks 10 years since its chartering . . .
When several members of Legatus’ New Orleans Chapter living in Baton Rouge met to form a new chapter in Louisiana’s capital city a decade ago, few thought it would blossom into the organization’s largest chapter.
But 10 years after chartering, the Baton Rouge Chapter continues to grow at a record pace. Five years ago, the chapter had 53 member couples. Today, it boasts 88.
Charter member Ronnie LaBorde, who had been a member of the New Orleans Chapter prior to Baton Rouge’s formation, says the city was prime for a new chapter in 2004.
“There is such a Catholic culture in Baton Rouge that it just made sense to start one here,” he said. “A number of us were driving to New Orleans for chapter meetings for a few years before getting going here.”
Legatus’ largest chapter pulled out all the stops to mark its 10th anniversary in style on Aug. 21. More than 170 members, guests and clergy gathered for the occasion, beginning with Mass at Sacred Heart Church. Baton Rouge Bishop Robert Muench was the main celebrant and homilist.
The gala which followed at White Oak Plantation brought together 134 Legatus members, plus two archbishops, two bishops, 17 priests, four deacons and one seminarian, according to the chapter’s membership chair Joe Melançon.
Keynote speaker Archbishop Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis lauded Legatus’ efforts to be ambassadors for Christ in the marketplace.
“Business persons and professionals wield an important influence in the social order,” he said.
“How could Legatus contribute to the mission of the Church, particularly its efforts in the New Evangelization?” he asked. “Let me give you one very simple suggestion: I think that men and women who can operate in the rarified atmosphere of business, who like Pope Francis can speak a language that people can understand, will be a priceless instrument in the re-evangelization of this country.”
Chapter president Kenny Hodges says members are doing all they can to live out that call to bring Christ to a culture that’s forgotten him. He said the keys to the chapter’s growth and success have a lot to do with its spiritual leader, chaplain Fr. Miles Walsh.
“Another key factor is that Baton Rouge is a strong Catholic community,” he explained. “That’s first and foremost, but to have a strong chapter you need a strong membership chair. We have the strongest: Joe Melançon has made it a personal goal to build this chapter.
“I got an application to join Legatus several years ago. I told Joe I was interested in meeting at some point. He said, ‘Listen, how about I show up in 10 minutes?’ He was literally in my office 10 minutes after we got off the phone. It takes that kind of drive and leadership to grow a chapter.”
Archbishop Tobin urged Legates to continue growing the organization for the good of the Church.
“I thank God for the 27 years of Legatus nationwide and for the 10 years of this chapter, because the life of your chapter and the life of Legatus is an effective means of bridging what Gaudium et Spes says is the most serious error of our time — the split between the faith we profess and daily life. My prayer is that you’ll be able to witness to that faith in a language that people understand.”
PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.