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This year, the fifth annual Eucharistic Procession known as the Fête-Dieu du Teche is set to take place on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Thursday, August 15. While the feast day is an important celebration for all Catholics, it is especially so for the faithful of Louisiana who revere the Blessed Mother as the patroness of the Acadian people and of Acadiana — those of the French Louisiana region and the culture known today as Cajun.
The day will also mark the 254th anniversary of the arrival of French-Canadian immigrants who brought the Catholic faith to Acadiana. In a press release, Fr. Michael Champagne, CJC, organizer of the event, spoke of the significance of an aquatic procession in relation to this history. He said:
“Having a Eucharistic Procession by boat on the waters of the Teche rather than by foot in the streets makes a lot of sense. Fête-Dieu du Teche on the Feast of the Assumption recalls our rich Acadian history and, in a way, re-enacts the journey made by the Acadians 250 years ago.”
In the mid-18th century, the Acadian people were settled in Nova Scotia, but they were persecuted for their faith and were eventually exiled. The Acadians left Canada by boat, and many of them wound up settling in Louisiana. The Acadian priest who was exiled with them eventually founded lÉglise St-Martin de Tours (St. Martin of Tours Church), which is believed to have given its name to the town of Martinville.
This year’s Eucharistic procession is expected to draw hundreds by boat and thousands by foot. Attendees who have boats are welcome to register them with the procession and sail down Bayou Teche as a Eucharistic escort, but those who travel by foot are equally as welcome at the many stops along the 38-mile stretch.
The day will begin with Mass celebrated in French with Bishop Douglas Deshotel at St. Leo the Great in Leonville. In a press release, Bishop Deshotel said of the event:
“I have been edified by the devotion and participation of so many priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful. I think such a public Eucharistic celebration is an excellent manifestation of the new evangelization that we so desperately need.”
The procession starts at the end of Mass, when the Eucharist will be taken to the lead boat. Father Champagne described the rig that will carry the Blessed Sacrament at the front of the procession:
“The Blessed Sacrament will be fixed on an altar on the lead boat under a canopy, with a pair of adorers in adoration between the towns visited. Another boat will carry the statue of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.”
At each stop the procession will disembark at altars set up along the Bayou Teche to pray the Rosary and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Attendees are welcome to visit one or all of these stops, where priests will be available to hear Confessions.
In 2017, Fr. Jeremy Zipple, SJ, traveled from New York to do a documentary about the Fête. Of the day-long ceremony, he said:
“I found the whole thing incredibly moving. It was beautiful to see an entire town coming together for prayer. It’s a sense of communal identity we just don’t see much anymore in the Western world.”
This year, Pope Francis has granted a plenary indulgence to participants of Fȇte-Dieu du Teche.
The indulgence is granted to the faithful who devoutly participate in the opening Mass at St. Leo the Great in Leonville, to those making the procession by boat down the Teche, and to those who participate at the various stations along the bayou in the recitation of the Marian Rosary and Benediction, with the usual conditions of confession, communion and prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions as close as possible in time to the Fȇte.
To register your boat for the procession, or to find the stop that works best for you, visit the Fȇte-Dieu du Teche’s website, here.