Byzantine Catholic Church in America: News
Ancient Byzantine Liturgy: Incense, chant, mystery

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The Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy came to Holy Name of Jesus Roman Catholic Church in New Orleans on February 12th, and students got to participate fully. At left, Deacon Gregory Haddad holds up the consecrated bread while Jesuit Father Kirk Mansell prays: "We offer to You Yours of Your own, in behalf of all and for all."

Photos and text provided the Clarion Herald, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and are used with permission. Photos by Frank J. Methe, Text by Peter Finney, Jr. Original design by Florence Herman. Original publication date was February 26, 2003.

New Orleans, LA - A liturgical event rarely experienced in the West – the celebration of the Byzantine Catholic Liturgy – filled Holy Name of Jesus Church with exotic incense, ancient chant and excited students February 12.

The culmination of the Byzantine Liturgy came at Communion, when students approached Jesuit Father Kirk Mansell, one of four Latin rite priests in the state of Louisiana with faculties to perform the Byzantine Liturgy, and tilted back their heads instead of extending their hands.

Using a small golden spoon, Father Mansell scooped a piece of consecrated bread, soaked with consecrated wine, from his chalice and dropped the Eucharist into each student’s mouth.

Some of the younger children, who do not normally receive the Precious Blood at Mass, had never tasted anything like that before. But then again, the 90-minute Liturgy was unlike anything they had ever experienced before, complete with enough incense to trigger a few uncontrollable coughing episodes.

The idea to expose the students to the Byzantine Catholic Liturgy came from Buddy Noel, Holy Name parish’s director of religious education.

“This has been an interest personally,” Noel said. “I think there is a need for all of us to become more aware of the East. Pope John Paul II has written that the Church breathes with two lungs, and we should have a profound respect for the Eastern Church. That’s the only way we will get back with the Orthodox.”

The only Byzantine Catholic Church in Louisiana and Mississippi is the Byzantine Catholic Mission of St. Nicholas of Myra (located at 2437 South Carrollton Ave in New Orleans), established in 1987 by Ruthenian Archbishop Stephen Kocisco of Pittsburgh.

The chapel is staffed by Marist Father Ellis DePriest, Jesuit Father Jim Deshotels and Deacon Gregory Haddad, who was ordained for the diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. Deacon Haddad, who is of Middle Eastern descent, is a prison chaplain in Lafourche Parish and serves at the Byzantine Mission at the 10 a.m. Sunday divine Liturgy.

Other local Catholic clergy who have faculties in the Byzantine Liturgy are Father Stan Klores, pastor of St. Patrick Church, and Deacon Eric Gamble.

The Byzantine Church traces its roots to the apostles. The decision in 325 A.D. by Roman Emperor Constantine to move the imperial capital from Rome to Constantinople – presently Istanbul, Turkey – was a major event in church history.

Byzantine Catholics are Orthodox Christians who are in full communion with the Church of Rome and with the pope. About 50 families worship at the New Orleans mission.

Fourth grader Henry Pratt got to make his First Communion at the Byzantine Liturgy.

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