By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
LAFAYETTE, La.—Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel’s installation as the seventh Bishop of Lafayette on April 15 marked a homecoming for the Louisiana native that buoyed and blessed the hundreds of clergy members, family and friends present at his Celebration of the Eucharist and Rite of Installation.
Twenty-four archbishops, bishops and abbots; 108 priests from the Diocese of Lafayette and nine priests from the Diocese of Dallas joined Msgr. Walter Erbi, of the Apostolic Nunciature, among those who filled the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, which seats 566.
More of the faithful watched a livestream of the Rite of Installation in the gym of the nearby Cathedral-Carmel School.
Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell and Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly were among the concelebrants.
Bishop Deshotel, 64, was ordained to the priesthood on May 13, 1978, ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Dallas on April 27, 2010, and appointed the Bishop of Lafayette on Feb. 17.
Since he arrived at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving in 1972, Bishop Deshotel served entirely in the Diocese of Dallas, most recently as Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General.
Father Chester Arceneaux, pastor of the Cathedral of St. John, offered Bishop Deshotel a crucifix for the new bishop to kiss as he processed into the cathedral—a symbolic welcome that opened the installation rite.
Bishop Deshotel succeeds Bishop Emeritus of Lafayette Michael Jarrell, who welcomed the new bishop and those gathered for the Rite of Installation after Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans greeted Bishop Deshotel.
Msgr. Erbi read the Apostolic Letter that appointed Bishop Deshotel the Bishop of Lafayette as part of the rite.
Archbishop Aymond and Bishop Jarrell escorted Bishop Deshotel to take possession of the cathedra—the bishop’s chair that signifies the Episcopal ministry and the unity of the diocese with its bishop.
A round of spirited applause followed Bishop Deshotel’s installation.
The crosier that Bishop Deshotel received from Archbishop Aymond once belonged to Bishop Maurice Schexnayder, the second Bishop of Lafayette and the bishop who ordained Bishop Deshotel to the priesthood in his native Basile, Louisiana, in 1978.
Bishop Deshotel delivered a homily that reflected his humility, efficiency and sense of humor.
He thanked his family and members of the clergy before giving his new flock a taste of his wit and personality. He told the congregation that he had asked a priest friend for ideas about the first homily he would deliver as bishop in the cathedral.
“He said, ‘Well, don’t concentrate too much on how unworthy you are—Everyone will know it in two weeks’ time,’ ” Bishop Deshotel said.
After the laughter subsided in the cathedral, Bishop Deshotel went to the heart of John’s Gospel on the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
The people wanted to make Jesus their king after they saw him turn two fish and five loaves of bread into enough food for thousands, Bishop Deshotel said.
He said that the people began to figure that they could quit their jobs, forget about fishing or planting gardens if they had a king who could feed them. But Jesus tells the people not to seek ordinary bread, Bishop Deshotel said.
The true bread from heaven satisfies the human heart and leads to everlasting life, Bishop Deshotel said.
“We become the food that we eat in the Holy Eucharist,” he said.
Many members of Bishop Deshotel’s large extended family attended his installation.
A niece, a nephew, great-nieces and great-nephews of Bishop Deshotel participated in the Mass as readers and gift-bearers.
The multicultural nature of the diocese received a tribute as the intercessional prayers were offered in eight languages.
Well-wishers lingered outside the cathedral after the installation rite.
“It was wonderful to see such a beautiful liturgical celebration to install Bishop Deshotel as the ordinary of Lafayette,” Bishop Farrell said. “I knew him first as a pastor, and saw him expand his ministry as the auxiliary bishop of our diocese and grow in that capacity over the last six years, so it is truly a pleasure to see Bishop Deshotel now be installed to lead his home diocese.”
Bishop Farrell said that Bishop Deshotel provided the Diocese of Dallas with many blessings.
“Bishop Deshotel has been a tremendous representative in reaching out to other faith leaders in our ecumenical efforts.” Bishop Farrell said. “He always enjoyed meeting and talking with people throughout the diocese at confirmations and other events. He was always happy to listen to the concerns of our people and priests. He was a tremendous help to me and I consider him a good friend.”
Bishop Deshotel’s spiritual and personal characteristics will serve him well in his leadership of the Diocese of Lafayette, Bishop Farrell said.
“He will bring many wonderful pastoral qualities,” he said. “He is a humble, intelligent leader, who never forgets Jesus’ charge to serve rather than be served. He has good ideas but is also collaborative.”
The bishops who were in Lafayette for the installation included many of Bishop Deshotel’s longtime friends, who said they found great joy in his appointment.
“I couldn’t be happier for Doug,” said Bishop Michael Duca of Shreveport, who is from Dallas. “I know from my experience that it’s hard to leave Dallas and your friends. I welcome him to Louisiana.
“He’ll find a new depth to his ministry.”
Dallas Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly said that Bishop Deshotel will be a blessing in the diocese in which he grew up.
“It’s a perfect place for him,” Bishop Kelly said. “He knows the culture.”
Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, who served as an auxiliary bishop of Dallas with Bishop Deshotel and was ordained as a bishop on the same day in 2010, said that their paths had been similar.
“Our lives have paralleled in some ways,” Bishop Seitz said. “We both originally came from outside of Texas. We were named bishops on the same day. We were able to learn together.
“I felt it was by the grace of God that he was able to return to the place where he is from.”
Those in the Diocese of Lafayette who are getting to know more about Bishop Deshotel said that they are eager to work with him.
“He expressed to me his great love for Catholic education,” said Anna Larriviere, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Lafayette. “Catholic education is at his heart. That rings volumes to my ears. Catholic education is so vital.
“When I heard he was from Basile, I thought, ‘Oh—he understands the culture.’ ”
Dallas-area parishioners who attended Bishop Deshotel’s installation said that he had inspired them with his great faith and kindness.
“He’s very humble, intelligent and a sweet man,” said Joanne Dreyer, who served as the director of Religious Education at St. Luke Catholic Church and at St. Monica Catholic Church when Bishop Deshotel was the pastor at those parishes. “He was the greatest boss I’ve ever had.”
Felix Rotello, a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Richardson, said that he met Bishop Deshotel soon after his presbyteral ordination.
“This is a very deserving man,” Rotello said. “He’s so laid-back and such a great guy. He’ll be great for the people here and for the church here. It’s their gain and our loss.”
During the post-installation reception, Bishop Deshotel’s sister Zelda said that their family never would forget this day.
“It was just so exciting,” she said. “You could feel the spirit.”