Opelousas, LA- Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas and Fête-Dieu du Teche will host the annual Bible Marathon in front of Holy Ghost Catholic Church, 747 N. Union St. in Opelousas. The public Bible reading will begin on Ash Wednesday February 26at 12:30 pm and conclude on Sunday, March 1at 4:30 pm. The unique 5-day event is intended to celebrate the tricentennial of Opelousas and the centennial of Holy Ghost Church and the role faith has played in Acadian history and culture. Retired Bishop Michael Jarrell, a native of Opelousas, will kick-off the event during the noon hour on Wednesday. Bishop Jarrell has participated before in the Bible Marathon and stated, “I extend congratulations to all at Holy Ghost Catholic Church on the occasion of the centennial of the church and to everyone in Opelousas for 300 years of existence. May God continue His providential care for years to come.” Bishop Douglas Deshotel will join the Marathon at 4:30 PM followed by Opelousas Mayor Julius Alsandor and Zydeco musician Geno Delafose later Wednesday evening. State Attorney General Jeff Landry will read at 10:50 AM on Thursday. Of the celebration Jeff Landry states, “For over 300 years the Acadians and Creoles have forged a life here in Louisiana. The foundation of which is their faith in God, dedication to their family, and their love for the land. Happy Birthday!” Bill Stiles, the Chief Deputy Attorney General will also participate, “More than ever, we need to be reminded that we are God’s people. Throughout the Bible, story after story, chapter after chapter, we hear about God’s people falling and God lifting them back up. ” Bible Marathon participants will have the honor of welcoming Governor John Bel Edwards on Saturday when he reads from the Bible at 8:30 AM. “I’m truly honored to be included in this faith filled event celebrating the 300th anniversary of the beautiful city of Opelousas and the 100th birthday of the Holy Ghost Church that means so much to this community and has been at the center of the culture and history of Acadiana,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “I pray continued blessings for all and many more wonderful years to come. ” Many Opelousas natives will be participating during the 100-hour. Bible Marathon. All are invited to bring their Bible and join by gathering around the stage and listening to the Word of God. Keith Hebert, a resident of Opelousas, has participated in the Bible reading a number of times in St. Martinville. He was blessed by the experience and says, “I just know that anyone that participates in the Bible Jubilee in Opelousas will also be blessed and will enjoy the experience.” The event drew over 3000 people over the course of the five days last year in St. Martinville.
During the five days of continuous reading, 300 lectors from the various church parishes in the Diocese of Lafayette as well as faith leaders from other denominations from across Acadiana will be employed. The Bible Marathon will help to accentuate the rich cultural heritage of the region by including various nationalities and languages represented in the region. In addition to English, selections of the Bible will be read in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Vietnamese, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The special event is intended to help “prime the pump” and re-ignite a love for the Word of God and its practice in life. “People everywhere love to exercise. It’s important to stay in physical shape, which is why many participate in programs such as CrossFit and compete in Iron Man races, triathlons, and marathons. And we wanted to provide a way for people to spiritually exercise,” says Fr. Michael Champagne, of the Community of Jesus Crucified, one of the organizers of the event. “We, as Christians, and all men and women of good will, need to ‘shake the dust off’ our Bibles and begin to ponder God’s plan for our lives. In these chaotic times we often get confused about how we are to act in our personal lives, in our families, at work, and in our dealings with others. God’s pre-eminent way of speaking to us is through the Sacred Scriptures. Every page of the Bible recounts God’s burning and fatherly love for us, and the Bible Marathon is a reminder of that love.” Fr. Lambert Leinis pastor of Holy Ghost and co-sponsor of the event. He recounts, “ Conscious that 300 years of the city of Opelousas and 100 years of Holy Ghost Catholic Church is not merely our journey alone as people but our journey with God the Almighty, we wanted to magnify his name by reading his holy words written in the Bible. We choose to do so because his word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
”Vicki Richard read last year and sees it as “ an amazing experience to read God’s word and to see all the people coming out to hear and spread his message: true evangelization, which is what God has called us to do. ” Sr. Anne-Marie, a religious sister, attended as a volunteer. She recounts, “It was very peaceful just to sit and listen to the Word of God. It was wonderful to see all the different faith groups coming together to proclaim the love of God for His people.” “The love and reverence of those who attended the Bible Marathon inspired me to grow deeper in my faith,” reports Br. Damien Daigle. Lisa Schmidt, a resident of St. Landry, commented : ” Reading the Bible again just reminds you how important and rejuvenating it is to read always. Scripture is eternal like God because it is alive.” Miranda Kidder of Breaux Bridge was in attendance at the first Jubilee of the Word Marathon four years ago and has attended every year. She reflects, “The Bible Marathon brings together different denominations around the Holy Scriptures which unite us.” Many Bible studies were spawned as a result of the public Bible Reading in the square and the event has inspired other Bible Marathons such as annual readings at McNeese State University and in New Orleans on Carrollton Avenue.
During the Bible Marathon priests will be available for celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation by means of the Spiritual Care Unit (SCU –Mobile Confessional). Catholics who are properly disposed can obtain a plenary indulgence by reading or listening for 30 minutes from the Holy Bible in the Square during the event. Organizers are asking all lectors to invite at least 10 people to come along with them and listen to the Word while it is being proclaimed in the Square. “ We need proclaimers of the Word, but also hearers of the Word, and most importantly Doers of the Word” recounts Fr. Champagne. In a prepared statement, Bishop Deshotel writes, “On behalf of the entire Diocese of Lafayette, I am happy to wish the city of Opelousas a happy 300thanniversary and Holy Ghost Parish a happy 100thanniversary. Part of the anniversary observance will be a reading of the entire Bible, the word of God, beginning on Ash Wednesday. The Bible is a record of God intervening in our human history through the events, persons and literature found there. God’s intervention culminates in the person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ becoming man. ‘Philip, he who has seen me has seen the Father.’ May these observances deepen and enrich the faith of all believers. ” Lectors will be reading from a very special, handmade Bible during the Marathon. The Bible measures 12” x 18” in its closed position and weighs nearly 25 lbs. The Bible was blessed by Pope Francis for the first Bible Marathon held during the Year of Mercy in 2016 and has since been used in seven other Bible Marathons hosted across Louisiana.