By Debbie Shelley
The Catholic Commentator
The scent of heavenly roses seasoned with Louisiana’s emblematic dish, jambalaya, formed a banquet for spirit and body at “A Morning with the Blessed Mother” prayer meeting at the home of Betty Robert of Gonzales on May 1.
Pictured during the crowning of Mary during A Morning With the Blessed Mother at the Gonzales home of Betty Robert are, from left, vocalist Celeste Veillon, Ruth Hanson and Mary McGovern. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator
Steam billowed from Robert’s backyard as her son, Todd, stirred a cast iron pot filled with the Cajun cuisine that was started early in the morning to provide lunch for the large group of attending people, who brought side dishes. Todd said he began cooking jambalaya for groups and different events several years ago.
“I love cooking for mom,” said Todd, who was joined by his cousin Roy and family friend Anthony Bruno.
But for many, the savoriest “main course” took place inside during the prayer meeting. Betty Robert started the monthly meetings four years ago after receiving materials about Our Lady of Fatima prayer groups in the mail. The first group had 18 attendees and Father Matt Dupré was the speaker. Now the rosary group averages up to 100 people and a clergy member has always been present to speak.
The May meeting, which was the last one before a summer break, included praying the rosary, Marian hymns, crowning of the Blessed Mother and a talk by Father Donald Blanchard, who discussed how the Blessed Mother teaches people to say, “Let it be done to me as you say,” during those moments of “wrestling with the Spirit.” The meal followed.
“I’m excited to do this,” said Celeste Veillon, who sang Marian hymns for the event and was accompanied on the keyboard by her mother, Romona, whom Celeste has sang with “for as long as I can remember.”
“My joy is when I can touch the hearts of the people here,” said Celeste.
She said Robert “sets a beautiful example in her devotion to Mary.”
Ramona, who was choir director at St. Theresa of Avila Church in Gonzales for many years, said she strongly believes in Jesus’ saying, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
“I believe in a congregational rosary. I like the socialization and getting together with people I don’t see all the time,” said Ramona.
Anne Gregory, a member of St. John the Evangelist Church in Prairieville, said she enjoys the presence of the priests at the meetings, which she said grew through “word of mouth.”
Theresa Morales, also of Gonzales, who brings her granddaughter Amily, 3, to the meetings, said, “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’m thankful to be able to develop my prayer life with the help of the Blessed Mother.”
She said she believes Christ answers prayers in a gathering of people who are devoted to Mary.
Attending the Marian meeting is also a chance for long-time friends Rowena Marcel, Kathleen Durocher and Barbara Ficaro, all of Thibodaux, to begin a day together on a prayerful note.
Marcel said, “We all have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.
“We’ve been through painful times, challenges and sufferings together. They (Durocher and Ficaro) are prayer warriors.”
She said she comes to the meetings out of a “love of the Lord” that is evident there.
“You feel the spirit of the Lord,” said Marcel. “You don’t meet a stranger here.”
Durocher said she particularly enjoys the Marian hymns.
“I really believe that when two or more gather, God listens,” said Durocher. “He always hears us, but we don’t always know it.”
Ficaro described the meetings as a spiritual family gathering.
“I think it’s a church family environment here. A family celebrating around the church,” she said.
The RCIA coordinator for Christ the Redeemer Church in Thibodaux, Ficaro said the meetings have helped her in her own ministry.
“It’s good to know that there’s a time to be with other people for my spiritual growth. We all need a time to let God take care of us in his own way,” Ficaro said.
The prayer meetings are held at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of the month from September through May. For more information, call Robert at 225-933-9508 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.