Monsignor Justin Maurice Louis Canon Massebiau, J.C.D.
started it all. PURPOSES OF THE HOLY NAME SOCIETY: The purposes of the society have always remained the same as Monsignor Massebiau had explained at the beginning. Beside the usual purposes, there was:
- To receive Holy Communion every three months
- To develop better fathers
- Hence, better families
Monsignor Massebiau was convinced that the parish would never have truly Catholic families unless there were truly Catholic fathers, who set the example of Faith, religious fidelity and piety. If the conversion of the parish was to be certain and deep and lasting, it must come within the family. Yet the men had been the great stumbling block, so it was they that he confided with special fervor to the Little Flower. His prayers were certainly not in vain.
In 1935, he mounted the pulpit for the Lenten sermons and used all of his oratorical ability with which God had gifted him to drive home the last ends of man, the duties and obligations of parents, the necessity of striving for salvation and leading godly lives. To the prayers of the Little Flower for the light of the Holy Spirit, he left the rest.
Then, the devoted pastor decided to make his great stake for the good of the parish, and this he particularly entrusted to the Little Flower of Jesus. Once more she rained down her roses on Saint Francis Regis Parish. For Holy Thursday night, he announced a special service for men only, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. When he walked into the sanctuary, he stood almost speechless--the church was filled to capacity with men only! And this in Saint Francis Regis Church where a few years before, a corporal's guard of men in attendance (as it was in 2015!!) was excellent!
With the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he proceeded to explain the Holy Name Society and its need for the men of the parish to keep them close to their God and the Church, and as worthy fathers of families or members of Catholic households. He spoke with greater unction and power than ever. At the close of his address, more than 200 men signed up as charter members of the Holy Name Society of Saint Francis Regis Parish
. It was decided then and there, to have the first corporate Communion of the Society that coming Sunday, Easter Sunday. With tears in his eyes and gratitude to God and the Little Flower of Jesus flowing from his heart, Monsignor Massebiau in the sacristy counted the names of 203 men.
Came that historic Easter Sunday, and the parish was electrified as well as edified at the sight of 380 men receiving Holy Communion! Truly, the thrilled pastor could sing in his heart: "This is the day which the Lord hath made, Alleluia!" Immediately after Mass, the whole gathering proceeded to the new parish hall, where formal organization of the society took place. Every man present was over 17 years of age. The pastor pointed out to the Bishop: "This is the first organization of men into a religious society since the formation of the parish 83 years ago." And, so it was, and through this in great measure, came the amazing conversion of an entire parish, and the development of a remarkable spirit of Catholic family life throughout the country-side.
The sterling example of the first members of the Holy Name Society quickly bore fruit, and membership grew steadily. By 1939, there were 375 members and by 1947, the roster showed 505 members of the Holy Name Society of Saint John Francis Regis Catholic Church! In 1953, the society had grown to 705, perhaps the largest in the state outside of any metropolitan center.
The example of the men of the parish had its effects on the rest of the parish in that year 1935. The Junior Holy Name
enrollment increased to 127 members, the Children of Mary more than doubled, having 156 members, the Altar Society 73, the League of the Sacred Heart 360, and the Purgatorial Society 154.
Despite his age, Monsignor Massebiau never stopped his plans and his efforts on behalf of his flock, nor his prayers to the Little Flower of Jesus. He instructed, preached, inculcated respect for God's commandments and those of His Church and pleaded for love of God. He counseled and admonished, and guided his flock with rare paternal solicitude.
The need of a parish hall he regarded as a prime necessity, to provide a place where his people could meet, where societies could hold their gatherings and where parochial activities could be conducted. in 1935, he began the demolition of the old convent, which was going to decay, and the lumber salvaged from it was used for the erection of a parish center. The structure cost the parish only $2,500. Together with his closely cooperating Holy Name Society, he purchased a stage curtain for the hall and crockery for the society's breakfasts and for other social gatherings, all of this at a cost of only $300. To pay off some of the debt on the church, he obtained the Bishop's permission for a parish festival, and the men's society worked energetically with him to make it one of the great successes of the time.
Upon completion of the hall, Monsignor Massebiau carried out a long-cherished plan. A great public demonstration of Faith was conducted for the formal dedication of the hall, which was placed under the protection of the Little Flower of Jesus. A huge candle-light procession wended its way through the streets of Arnaudville to the hall, and there the building was blessed, a statue of the Little Flower was also blessed and the parish was placed under her protection. On her part, Saint Theresa of Lisieux has certainly not failed to send down her promised shower of graces.
It is worthy of note that Monsignor Massebiau assumed the pastorate of Arnaudville at a time which was to all appearances most inauspicious for any program of progress and changes. The worst depression in history
was in full swing, and spirits as well as finances were at lowest ebb. But God's ways are not men's ways, and what seemed to be a pastorate cast in the same dismal circumstances of Father Maisonneuve's time (1909 - 1914) and the same tragic nullity, turned out to be the most fruitful spiritually and materially. With God's intervention and power nothing is impossible, no matter how impossible looking conditions may seem from the human standpoint. That is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this exceptional pastorate.
Nonco was 50 years old in 1938. He had heard the words of Monsignor Massebiau and Father Bernard
Excerpted from ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF THE UPPER TECHE, Arnaudville, Louisiana, pages 63 - 67.