Thursday Rundown Within A Thursday Rundown

All is right here in Myrtle Beach. After some chilly temperatures, even by my own standards, we are back to 70 degrees. We are also back to the Thursday Rundown! Let’s get started…

Convocation of Priests – On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to attend mass with a bunch of priests! The Diocese of Charleston held its 2018 Convocation of Priests retreat in Myrtle Beach. During the retreat, the group met for daily mass at St. Andrew. I attended the Tuesday service and had a nice time listening to Bishop Guglielmone and worshipping alongside every priest in the diocese. You will never attend a mass with more enthusiasm and crisp responses than one with 50 ordained disciples of God in the pews. Adding to a memorable night was reconnecting with Msgr. LeBlanc for the first time since he left St. Andrew about 10 months ago.

On Tuesday night, I attended mass at St. Andrew. It was in conjunction with the Convocation of Priests for the Diocese of Charleston. The priests sat up in the front section while parishioners sat in the middle and back sections.

The Lion King – Sidney and I spent our Saturday night watching “The Lion King.” It was a little ironic because we had talked about the movie just a couple days before. We had a nice time watching it for the first time in years. What stuck out to us was how old the animation looked but how beautiful and creative all the songs were. Did you know there is going to be a live action Lion King that comes out in 2019? Seth Rogen is going to play Pumbaa. Get ready!

A photo I took of my TV of one of the more well-known scenes of “The Lion King.”

A Thursday Rundown Within A Thursday Rundown – Five quick thoughts for you…(1) Congrats to Alabama on winning the national championship in thrilling overtime fashion, even if I didn’t make it to the fourth quarter. (2) We watched the 2018 premiere of “This Is Us” on Tuesday night – not the best episode and not the worst. That therapy scene though! (3) Sidney made her Cajun chicken pasta on Wednesday night, it is one of my favorite meals she makes. Trust me, look up the recipe! (4) One of Sidney’s New Year resolutions is to Tweet more. Make sure to follow her at @sidneyreser. (5) On Monday, students returned to Coastal Carolina for the spring semester and it has been great having them back on campus!

Sidney makes a Cajun chicken pasta that is to die for.

Sloan Update at 43 Weeks – Our daughter is doing just fine. She is reaching for us now and will cry if we walk away. It is imperative that we keep a close eye on her at all times because she can move from one end of the living room to the other in a flash. If Sloan knows that Sid is in the master bedroom, she will leave her spot in the living room and use her combination of regular crawling/army crawling to visit her mommy. Although she is not saying any words, she is very vocal! Her smile is as bright and frequent ever.

Here is Sloan’s photo collage at 43 weeks.

Throwback Thursday Baby Style – I snapped the photo on the left of Sloan and her cousin, Henry, at daycare this morning. Aren’t they cute?! Even though they are still babies, it made me think about when they were just newborns. Now they can sit up and eat ice cream! Time goes by so fast.

The photo on the left I took at daycare today. The photo on the right is from when they were newborns.

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Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. Happy 1st birthday to Stevie Blair, the daughter of our friends. We can’t wait to celebrate on Saturday. Don’t Blink.

A Man of Faith: Monsignor James LeBlanc

Last weekend, St. Andrew Catholic Church was packed. As is usual for the 4:30 p.m. Saturday vigil this time of year, a standing room only crowd had gathered. A few minutes before mass started, Monsignor James LeBlanc left his spot in the entrance procession. Walking away from the staging area near the vestibule, he started strolling past the rows. Giving the hardworking ushers a big hand, he used his lapel mic to point out to the folks standing against the walls of possible seats within the pews.

“We got some room here.”
“Looks like we got a spot right there.”
“Brothers and sisters, please make sure to move to the center of the pews so others can sit down.”

St. Andrew is not a small church. Msg. LeBlanc had probably went 20 rows deep, almost reaching the altar itself, before turning back around and meeting his altar servers and deacon back at the vestibule. You don’t usually see a pastor of a large parish take on the role of usher but then again you also usually don’t get the opportunity to be in the presence of a special priest like Msgr. LeBlanc.

Msgr. James LeBlanc strolled past several rows of pews inside St. Andrew Catholic Church to try and find seats for the people standing. Try to picture this photo with an overflowing crowd.

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A parish is not defined by its pastor. Rather, it thrives or declines based on the faith of its community. To make this point perfectly clear, the Catholic Church does not keep priests around at one church for too long. Dioceses hand out new assignments to priests on a regular basis, uprooting them from one parish home and transferring them to another.

It is by design that the names on a parish marquee won’t be there forever. However, it is still bittersweet when the priests move on.

Although I understand this thinking and although I have come to expect it after three decades of practicing the faith, it is still bittersweet to see a priest move on. However, when Msgr. LeBlanc announced he would be departing St. Andrew a few weeks ago, I felt more “bitter” than “sweet.”

When Msgr. James LeBlanc announced he was leaving St. Andrew, both Sidney and I couldn’t help but feel sad.

If you know Msgr. LeBlanc, the story about him navigating a crowded church to find seating for those on their feet wouldn’t surprise you. You see, the man just doesn’t fit the mold that some people might concoct of a Catholic priest. Msgr. LeBlanc made no qualms about challenging the congregation to sing louder or say a prayer with more conviction. He liberally exclaimed “AMEN” with the expectation that the congregation would respond with the same (they did). He opened up his homilies for discussion. He wasn’t always 100% politically correct.

But even though he effectively smashed stereotypes that some people might have about how Catholic priests should serve and/or act, make no mistake about it, he was always Catholic to the core. He ran smooth services, gave beautiful homilies, displayed absolute reverence for the Holy Eucharist, and was very knowledgeable about any question you might have about Catholic doctrine. He made me proud about my faith; he made me confident to introduce Sidney to it.

Sidney and Msgr. LeBlanc made quick friends. He helped make me comfortable to introduce Sid to the faith.

St. Andrew is a tough assignment. Serving as an administrator for a large parish is one thing, it requires management and diplomacy skills. But St. Andrew is more than a big community. On any given Sunday, the crowd for that mass could be comprised of 75% vacationers and/or snowbirds. The constant revolving door of new worshippers can throw a wrench into a pastor’s plan for cohesion. Traditions that priests want to instill with their parishes become harder when the population changes drastically week to week. However, Msgr. LeBlanc successfully implemented the type of mass he wanted to run. More importantly, he served as a strong and holy man of faith for the thousands of people who travel to the Myrtle Beach area on a yearly basis. By giving a great impression to our visitors, he not only represented the parish well but the entire Diocese of Charleston.

Sidney and I with Msgr. LeBlanc at his farewell party.

As you can see, Msgr. LeBlanc was an incredible pastor when it came to Sundays. He mastered the responsibilities that many outsiders and even people of the faith think priests solely concentrate on. But Msgr. LeBlanc’s mass presentation, preaching style, and rapport with the audience weren’t the only things that endeared himself to so many during his time at St. Andrew. Rather, it was what he did on the days when the church wasn’t overflowing with people that made him stand out.

Sidney and I had the pleasure of getting married by Msgr. LeBlanc. In addition to listening to a workshop he gave on marriage in the Catholic Church that was open to the parish community, he also privately counseled us. About 10 days before our big day, we met with Msgr. LeBlanc in the parish offices. He blew us away. We chatted for almost two hours, a truly inspiring conversation that touched both Sidney and I. As Sid and I talked later that night, we both expressed how thankful we were for that special time.

About 10 days before our wedding, we sat down with Msgr. LeBlanc for a very spiritual and memorable conversation.

The day of our wedding was incredible. He squashed nerves, provided a sense of calm to the ceremony, and made it special from the entrance procession to the signing of the marriage certificate. He preached about how it wasn’t him that was administering the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony but rather Sidney and myself. We will never forget him coaching Sidney’s 3-year-old nephew to give us the rings right before we said our vows.

The moment where Msgr. LeBlanc coached our nephew, Harrison, to help with the ring delivery. Under LeBlanc’s guidance, Harrison held out the rings so they could be sprinkled with holy water and then he brought them to us.

Whether it was listening to confessions, attending church functions, or pouring his heart into starting the area’s first Catholic high school, Msgr. LeBlanc gave 100%. He didn’t do it for recognition or praise, he just did it for God and the people of the parish. You see, they don’t come more humble than Msgr. LeBlanc. During the summer, a nice reception was held to honor his 20th anniversary to the priesthood. But the truth is that if parish officials had not learned about that milestone themselves at the last minute, Msgr. LeBlanc would have let it pass by without saying a word. He also said next to nothing (at least when I was around)  about his elevation to the rank of Monsignor, a major and holy achievement in the career of any priest. And, as I have been told, any gratuity he received for performing special ceremonies such as weddings went promptly into the collection basket at the next mass.

Msgr. LeBlanc speaking at the reception marking his 20th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.

Msgr. LeBlanc is off to the Columbia area to become pastor of two parishes, Transfiguration Church and St. Theresa Church. Undoubtedly he will touch countless more people. Both parishes are very lucky.

It goes without saying that the community of St. Andrew is so appreciative toward Msgr. LeBlanc. We are sad to see him go. On a personal level, I will really miss listening to him preach. I will miss the way he impacted Sidney, an influence that has helped her express to me that one day she wants to become Catholic. We will both miss him when it comes time for the baptism of our daughter. But more than anything else, we are just thankful. Msgr. LeBlanc touched and enriched our lives and we can’t express our gratitude toward God enough. Don’t Blink.