Boat blessings take on extra meaning in storm-battered Louisiana

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After Dulac was devastated by Hurricane Ida, this year’s shrimper’s blessing holds a special place for Reverend Antonio Speedy of Holy Family Catholic Church.

“Hurricane Ida has upended our community,” he said. “It’s not the first time people here have been through a hurricane, but this one was different from the others. Many people were left homeless and the fishing season started slowly. There was debris all over the water.

After months of recovery, Speedy said blessing the shrimp boats was the last thing on his mind. But as April approached, he began receiving requests for the annual tradition.

A priest blesses shrimpers during last year's fleet blessing along Bayou Grand Caillou in Dulac.

“It became clear that people wanted the boat’s blessing,” he said. “After all the destruction, debris and rebuilding efforts, people wanted to feel a sense of blessing in their lives, especially with the fishing season resuming. We started to receive requests for this blessing.

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The state reopened shrimp season Monday in a part of the state outside the waters. Opening dates for the 2022 spring inshore shrimp season will be reviewed by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission at a later date.

The event in Dulac is one of many boat blessings taking place over the next few weeks in the Terrebonne and Lafourche waterways. The first will take place on Sunday noon in Chauvin.

A shrimp boat sails down Bayou Little Caillou in Chauvin for last year's Blessing of the Fleet.

In a tradition that began decades ago, Catholic churches in southern Louisiana fishing communities are leading the blessings in hopes of a safe and prosperous shrimp season.

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The tradition began in 1916 after the Reverend Yves Grall of Brittany, France introduced the ceremony to Golden Meadow.

“Boat blessings have a long history here in South Louisiana, and even today, as the fishing industry continues to be important to so many people, at these events we ask God to keep people safe and provide them with everything they need while they work,” said Reverend Patrick Rivière, director of the Diocese’s Priesthood Office. “This is a great opportunity to pray for one another others and to renew our trust in God’s ability to meet all of our needs.

“It also brings people and communities together in a beautiful way and unites them in their common faith in God. They remind us that our relationship with God is not limited to a church on Sunday. He cares about us and is with us in all areas of our lives, including our work and occupations.

After:Back on the Bayou: Blessings from local shrimpers return after a year lost to COVID

Speedy said boat blessings are closely tied to Louisiana’s cultural identity.

“It’s more than tradition,” he said. “It is an underlying spiritual foundation of our people that they recognize the importance of being blessed by God, especially with their work on the water. It also commemorates and recognizes the lives of those who died there on the waters. It’s an annual event that our people take very seriously.

Here are the planned boat blessings in Terrebonne and Lafourche:

  • Saint-Joseph, Chauvin: Sunday, noon.
  • Our Lady of Prompt Secours, Golden Meadow: April 23 after the 5 p.m. mass.
  • Saint-Charles Borromée, Pointe-aux-Chênes: April 24, 1:30 p.m.
  • Sainte Famille, Grand Caillou and Dulac: April 25, noon.

– Editor Dan Copp can be reached at 448-7639 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.


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