St. Joseph’s Academy celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Liturgy of the Word on December 8 with a virtual prayer service originating from the Chapel at SJA. Father Joshua Johnson, pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in St. Amant and director of vocations for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, was the presider.
Sophomore Avery Bruce welcomed those watching on SJA’s Facebook page, saying, “As Mary was conceived without sin to bear God’s son, so we are reborn sinless in baptism. In faith and wonder, we gather as dear neighbors in praise of God.”
Avery lit a candle in the Chapel as students in classrooms and watching from home, as well as parents and friends joining the service online, lit candles as symbols of unity.
Joining Avery as readers were senior Emma Vu, junior Daniela Latil and freshman Lauren Quebedeaux.
In his homily, Father Joshua reflected on the varying titles Mary gave herself in several apparitions over the centuries. He said that regardless of how she referred to herself, the message of the Blessed Mother was the same: Come back to my son Jesus Christ by praying the rosary and by fasting.
In this season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Jesus, Father Joshua proposed that rather than fasting from food, television or other activities that bring us pleasure, we should fast from speaking. “God made us with two ears and one mouth,” he said, “but how many speak more than we listen?”
He said that 2020 has been filled with drama, disunity, disagreement and division. “We come from different backgrounds and beliefs, and we like to stand our ground,” he said. “But this is what I believe: This is a season when God is inviting us to fast, to have custody over our tongues and, in social media, over our thumbs. He is inviting us to listen to each other and hear each other’s stories.”
In conversation with others, Father Joshua asked that we employ meditation, prayer and contemplation rather than quick responses or corrections. “Fast from speaking and actually listen to what the other person has to say,” he said. “Contemplate what they said, what it said to me and what stirred in my heart and mind while I listened. Then bring it to Jesus.”
After listening to Jesus, Father Joshua said to sit with God in silence and come up with a concrete resolution, then go back to the conversation, ask questions and keep dialogue going. “If we can persevere in loving our neighbor on earth, we will remain in relationship with every member of the Body of Jesus, not only on earth but forever in the kingdom of heaven,” Father Joshua said.
Following the liturgy, Principal Stacia Andricain thanked those who planned the service and the parents and friends who joined online. “What a beautiful day for us to celebrate Mary, our Mother, as we prepare for the coming of Christ during this Advent season,” she said. “We can ask Mary, who was born without sin, to guide us and help us to keep our focus during this busy season.”
She reminded students of the opportunities to help them stay grounded in their faith as they approach midterm exams, including Adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Lending their musical talents to the service were sophomore Isabelle Gruner, keyboard and vocals; senior Annabelle Chenevert, cello; senior Madison Rowan, soloist; and seniors Avery Boudreaux, Caroline Causey, Peyton Cerise and Sarah Weinstein, vocalists. Senior Celia Dolley closed the service with the singing of the alma mater.
Theology faculty member and Liturgy Coordinator Hugo Andricain wrote the service. The livestream was presented on SJA’s Facebook page and was produced by faculty members Meghan McGinty and Sara Rounds. Production assistants were members of the SJABR TV student organization: senior Caroline Davis and juniors Abigail Martin and Carly McConnell.
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos by Erin Albarado