Monday, June 20, 2011

The Ministry of Former LIEP Student Father Oswald Pierre-Jules

What a joy it has been to reconnect recently with former Loyola Intensive English Program (LIEP) student, Father Oswald Pierre-Jules, Jr., S.S.J. Father Oswald is now a Catholic priest of the Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, also called the Josephites. He is Pastor of Saint David Catholic Church on Saint Claude Avenue in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans.

LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone "rediscovered" Father Oswald this spring on Easter Sunday. It happened like this. Karen had planned to attend Mass at Saint Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, but when she arrived, she found that there was standing room only. Not wanting to stand throughout Mass, Karen decided to search for another church. Driving on Saint Claude Avenue, she spotted Saint David and noticed that she was just in time for Mass there. Karen entered the church -- and there was Father Oswald at the altar saying Mass! It was wonderful to see Father Oswald again!
Father Oswald Pierre-Jules in front of the rectory of St. David Catholic Church, where he is Pastor
Karen and LIEP Director Erika Heppner wanted to visit at greater length with Father Oswald, so we invited him out to lunch. Over lunch, Father Oswald told us about his further studies and ministry after completing his study at LIEP.

Father Oswald was born in Haiti and lived much of his life in France. He came to LIEP as a seminarian, or priest-in-training, for the academic year 1998-1999. To advance his English skills, he studied in LIEP's Pilot Program, which allowed him to take two intensive English courses and two academic courses at Loyola University New Orleans that related closely with his seminary studies.

After his year in the Pilot Program as well as theological studies in Washington, D.C. and training in the novitiate of the Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Father Oswald was ordained a Josephite priest in the Catholic Church. He served as Associate Pastor in Catholic parishes in Houston, Texas, and in Washington, D.C., before being assigned as Pastor of Saint David in New Orleans' lower ninth ward in October of 2010 -- where LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone found him on Easter Sunday of 2011.

Father Oswald has a heart for ministry to the people of the lower ninth ward. He impresses upon his congregation that pastors will come and go, but the parishioners themselves are the bedrock of the church. He has helped the parishioners organize activities that address the needs of the children, of the youth, of the young adults, and of the older adults in their congregation. He has also organized events that help interested parishioners discern whether or not they may have a calling to the vowed religious life, that is, to becoming a Catholic priest or nun.

Father Oswald believes that it is important for a Catholic congregation to embrace people of all backgrounds in love. Saint David is largely African-American, but Father Oswald is glad that the congregation includes about fifteen Caucasian and a few Hispanic members.

Father Oswald, though busy with his ministry at Saint David, continues to study and learn. He is currently engaged in a graduate program and is just beginning his thesis on the effects of Vatican Council II on liturgy in the Catholic Church.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Father Oswald Pierre-Jules and are delighted to see him flourishing in his ministry as Pastor of Saint David Catholic Church, where he is a blessing to the congregation and they to him. We plan to stay in touch with Father Oswald.

Thank you, Father Oswald, for sharing your story with us!