I am so happy to finally sit down and write about the trip I had with my dad. We woke up early (6am) and hit the backroad to a place called Grand Coteau, Louisiana. Grand Coteau is a very special place that is home to a Catholic retreat center. My family has been attending this retreat for years.
My grandmother, who is going to be a nun at a convent, has been coming every year since she was in her teens. She is now 74 years old. They host a slew of different retreats. Most common retreats are the silent weekends to rejuvenate your Faith. However, on the weekend my dad and I went, it was a couples retreat. It was the funniest thing. A priest literary thought my dad and I was a couple attending the retreat. We had to giggle it off and tell him, “no this is my dad, no this is my daughter”.
My dad attending this retreat in the 80’s with his grandfather and uncles, and began to show me all the back routes through various dorms that he could remember. He showed me dorm he was in and began to start laughing at a fond memory of him and his uncle waking up in the middle of the night, eating all the ice cream out of the kitchen. It’s was a delightful memory hearing him retell the story of a mischievous night at his “silent” retreat.
Flash forward to this day, and I could barely contain my joy and excitement hearing the church bells ring as the couples was walking into their next activity. I don’t know if it was because we were on Holy Grounds or what but the couples seemed extra in love with one another. Each couple was holding hands as if they were dating for the first time. If I were to guess, I would bet these couples have made it an annual retreat to renew their love and faith throughout the years. What a great feeling this must be to share this love for so many years and to know you are walking in Faith together.
My dad and I found ourselves fading away from the group and sneaking into the library. This library had impeccable southern charm. You could buy anything you wanted from the library on a trust base box set outside of the doors. My dad found a section of old photo albums from every retreat in the past he pulled his town and started searching for his grandfather. It didn’t take long to find. My dad was in pure happiness and that meant the world to me.
None of us are perfect, but there is something about my dad’s beautiful soul that just deserves the most beautiful story, and I feel like this adventure to Grand Coteau was the beginning of the most magnificent story of all. You see, my dad remembered a shrine he saw in 8o’s when he was attending this retreat. The shrine is of St. John Berchman. He said he had to find this shrine before we left. He told me to drive down the road and there should be an old white chapel. He said, “Kacie we have to find this shrine. I remember the Stations of the Cross and the pictures of Jesus were so detailed.” We kept driving. No church. Nothing.
We came across this old academy. It was the most beautiful old school I ever did see. We drove around and before I knew it, a police car was flagging me down in my review mirror. I pulled over and he said, “We wasn’t spos to be driving back here”. I said, “Well maybe you can help us”. “You see, we are trying to find the shrine of John Berchman”. He said, “Yes its around the academy and it’s only open from 8-5 Monday thru Friday. He said, “If you want to drive around you can view it from a road that wrapped around the academy.
So that is just what we did. We drove around and he saw the old building. Sure enough, it was locked.
Until we saw this little old lady walking to her car. I ran over to her and said, “Hi I’m on a mission to help my dad find this Shrine of John Berchman. She said, “yes but you have to call and make an appointment with the lady that gives guided tours”. She said, “I have the KEY if you would like to go up and pray”.
SHE UNLOCKED IT FOR US! My dad and I were the only ones in the entire academy. We walked up the spiral stairs and went into the room of the shrine. I was the most amazing feeling being alone with my dad in a place he didn’t think we would have access to. We sat there and prayed and sat there some more. He was able to view all the old pictures of Jesus and we were able to write our intentions.
I can’t help but feel that this was God’s doing. Every detail was carefully chosen to be a part of our trip together. The day was truly filled with the Holy Spirit, beautiful views, and gorgeous memories. I cannot fathom a more beautiful day for the two of us.
Part Two of this trip will continue … have you ever been around someone that you know is going to Heaven and that you hope and pray you will have a little piece of what they feel inside of you one day? This is my dad. I can’t wait to share the conversation we had … his words will always stick with me. In the meantime, here is the Saint John Berchman prayer and links to Grand Coteau. I highly suggest that you read the Miracle of Saint John Berchman and the history of the Academy Of The Sacred Heart. Im also including Our Lady of The Oaks, Jesuit Retreat House information.