Tag Archives: Lafayette

Monsignor Richard Von Phul Mouton, Obituary Post

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette passed away Wednesday. He was 86 years old. The press has remembered him already and so have many of the institutions with which he was associated. His official obituary in the Daily Advertiser is here. More or less the same obituary appeared in other papers. I attended only the wake for complicated reasons but expect the funeral to be a grand and deserved tribute.

Mouton died at 2:21 p.m. Wednesday at Lafayette General Medical Center among those attending to his last illness was his brother, Frank Anthony Mouton. He is preceded in death by his father, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Sr., mother, Inez Genevieve von Phul Mouton, brother, Scranton Alfred Mouton, Jr., and sister-in-law, Margaret Apple Mouton. He is survived by his brothers, Frank Anthony Mouton and Marc Gilbert Mouton, Sr., sister-in-law Betty LaCour Mouton, and numerous nieces and nephews.  The Mouton family is a prominent family in the region and Alfred Mouton, at least for now, still occupies a central place on a statue in the center of Monsignor’s hometown. The Mouton House is a museum not far from the Cathedral  where Monsignor lived out much of his last phase of life since July 1, 2007, Monsignor took up residence as a Senior Priest at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. This nearby Mouton house seems small compared to other Plantation owners homes in the South but this  was the town house (not the larger country home) where  Governor and General Mouton — father and son– stayed over to attend mass at the nearby St. John’s  Church in Antebellum Lafayette.  The Mouton connections among Acadians (such as the governor and the General) and the non Acadian French are indeed extensive. Monsignor Mouton was very aware of his heritage though not one to harp on it with people who were not aware of it.

Richard Mouton was born on March 17, 1931 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was baptized on March 25 of the same year at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, where he would later attend  the Cathedral primary school and receive the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. He was ordained at this same Cathedral on June 4, 1955 and assigned as Associate Pastor of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville –which has always been my real home parish where I was baptized, made my first communion and was wed — but Monsignor did not officiate at any of those sacraments and was not pastor there in any of those years.  I did not know him as Associate pastor.

When I met him he was the intellectually mature Pastor of the Parish who had returned from completing his doctoral degree in Rome. His doctoral thesis was entitled “The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Mass,” Father Mouton returned to Louisiana and was assigned to Immaculate Conception Parish in Lake Charles, the current Bishop of Lake Charles Glen Provost was one of his Associate Pastors at St. Mary Magdalen in Abbeville and they distinguished themselves as a team with their deep love of the liturgy. Monsignor had also gotten an international status as a priest before he was pastor — this was because in 1962,  he attended the Second Vatican Council, in the company of Bishop Maurice Shexnayder, and was subsequently appointed Peritus Concilii Vaticani Secundi (Expert of the Second Vatican Council). Still before I met him and when I was in fact two years old, In June 1966, Father Mouton was elevated to Monsignor Mouton. Like Monsignor Ignatius A. Martin with whom I lived in Duson and who had a major role to play in my parents return to the faith of their youth when he was a  Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene — Monsignor Mouton would also serve as Superintendent of Catholic Schools from June 1967 to the time he received his first assignment as Pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Abbeville in 1973. It was during that period that I got to know him. Many people knew Msgr. Richard Van Phul Mouton better than I but nobody knew him exactly as I did. His official obituary did not mention founding the Christian Service Center in Abbeville, the work he did with liturgy in parish life, hosting the Lay Evangelist Training and Commissioning Program for the Diocese of Lafayette or his significant involvement with the Fr. Conley Bertrand’s Come Lord Jesus program, the ground work and development of the Catholic is the Name Weekends, fostering Perpetual Adoration, or any of the other ways in which our paths crossed most publicly. He also officiated at my great grandmother’s funeral where I read one of the readings and based on that encounter he asked me to serve as lector which I did most of the time when I was in country and he was pastor was it was my turn. Many of the friends of my youth had him as a teacher at VCHS, they told me. I never did. But despite eating hundreds of meals with priests, I was somehow closer to Monsignor than all but a tiny few. It is odd, I suppose. But my real connections were more personal and complicated, he twice asked me to enter the seminary and I twice regretfully declined — that was a long time ago, before I was married. I considered the priesthood at other times but really at those particular times I felt certain that I could not seriously pursue that option. Monsignor was also my confessor and spiritual director for some but not all of that time, I found him an insightful and serious man with whom anything could be discussed.

In February 1987, Monsignor Mouton was assigned as Pastor of St. Pius X Church in Lafayette in a an unusual swap with Fr. Donald Theriot who was the celebrant at my wedding.  Theriot came to St. Mary Magdalene from Pius X. During his time as Pastor, Monsignor participated in the development of various pastoral ministries, most notably the development of St. Thomas More Catholic High School and the founding of St. Pius X Elementary School.  I would later teach at St. Thomas More High School of which St. Pius is a Corporate Parish and would move there during my year of teaching and then away to Baton Rouge to pursue my M.A. but my parents would move there with my younger siblings and  he would remain their pastor and he would be someone I had much occasion to see. When I was teaching at St. Thomas More High School we did have some interactions. Mostly those related to crises in the school administration at a school which is normally stable but was having an unstable year. STM was in the official obituary whereas virtually nothing from Abbeville  was in it except merely his pastorate. However, it is not a matter of question that St. Pius Elementary School there is one of his greatest achievements.  He saw Catholic education as a key part of preserving the Faith and the right kind of Christian intellectual development. But he was a Ragin’ Cajun as well and continued his studies at the local secular university and not only at St. Joseph’s Seminary and the Pontifical College. He saw the light of Divine Truth in all learning, although I don’t have the particular courses at hand I am pretty sure that I remember that. He lived a faith in his time.  To quote the official obituary:

If the loss of faith is a life’s greatest tragedy, then surely its preservation is a life’s greatest triumph; Monsignor Mouton was certainly a great guardian of the Church and preserved Her teachings through his ministry to the many who loved him. 

“I value the priesthood I have been graced to share in…I have happily done what I was asked to do by my Bishop, ministering to his flock, hopefully, with zeal and charity. God knows and I praise Him for the graces I believe He gave me in doing so. All the good I have done I have truly done by the grace of God.”

Monsignor Richard von Phul Mouton

By the Grace of God

Beyond those public ministries, going back to the family comments made at the start, Monsignor was a full and thorough example of commitment to the priesthood but he was also a man with all the connections of a man of a particular, place time and lineage.  Msgr. Mouton had a circle of not very close friends with some common regional interests and I helped people a few times with translations of Heraldic and ancestral documents because they met me when I was discussing such things with this son of Acadiana. He also had great capacity for saying a lot in a few words about places he’d been. I have probably traveled with a hundreds priests, some bishops and a few cardinals — I never remember being in the same vehicle with Monsignor. We were at many receptions together over my lifetime but only shared a meal at table perhaps four times.

Monsignor knew many challenges in life. One of them was a bit vicarious. One of his closest friends in life was also ordained Jun. 04, 1955   and Msgr. H.A. Larroque was the brilliant Canon Lawyer with whom he could discuss many ideas and concerns. Before the explosion of the child abuse crisis Monsignor had (hard as this will be for many to believe) discussed with me his concerns about safe environment issues and the need to do more in preventing problems related to sexual behavior through priestly formation. But the conversations were related to our discussions about my concerns with some seminary environments I had encountered in the world. I had no idea he was dealing with real problems among priests close at hand and not as effectively as he probably should have and felt he should have. His really good friend was caught up in dealing with religious and secular legal matters, world wide media scrutiny and countless other moral issues and it was an ordeal. With me Monsignor never pretended he or his very close friend had perfect answers to any of these crises. I was proud of the fact that the Church paid huge damage awards, sponsored programs, organized safe environment training, struggled to weather the storm and did lots of other things. I often said that while I excused nothing of the worst abuses the Church paid mostly the price of being a responsible and enduring institution in the society of shirking, dissolution and changing  names which characterizes the modern world.    But truthfully the child abuse  scandals did change something about our conversations.

Monsignor and I were both strong personalities, he was clearly the more successful of the two and much older but we held very little back in our really private conversation although they were ALWAYS  cordial they could be both heated and cordial intense and measured. During my later life we corresponded almost entirely about grave and confidential matters and enjoyed only a few brief friendly conversations. Virtually none were related to child abuse or other issues that make a lot of ink. But they were issues we both took seriously.

I considered him a great man and a good priest. Sometimes, I considered him a fairly close friend. That’s not something I find as easy to explain. I lived with Msgr. Ignatius Martin and was a close companion of a Jesuit Missionary priest named Joseph Stoffel in the Philippines. Both were friends and I knew them in more ordinary friendly ways. But Msgr. Mouton and I had some common concerns that I shared with few other people over my lifetime. We didn’t always agree. But the void he leaves cannot be filled by anyone else I know. Life has taken many turns since the days since Monsignor Mouton and I knew each other best.
I have usually posted a kind of obituary on my blog for prominent people who were also significant in my life and I am doing that again for Msgr. Mouton. For as long as the blog exists it helps me organize these memories. People have often revisited these blog entries over the years, so someone else gets something out of it as well. But Monsignor is not likely to slip my mind often for very long.

The Lafayette Louisiana Theater Shooting

In the hours after the theater shooting the whole city and region were trying to understand how to react and what exactly had happened at all kinds of different levels. One of the news organizations helping law enforcement to deal with the very central nature of the site is the story linked here.

Soon enough it became apparent for me and many others that as horrible as this was we had a lot to be thankful for in the midst of horror. I was soon stating that I was grateful for the excellence of the first responders, the courage of the teachers in the theater and the dignity of the bereaved. This, region I would say and realize  is still a special place.

But I was also deeply troubled by the event  — not only because it was in a place I have used countless times, frequented by many friends . Not only because of the horrible murders and acts of mayhem. The heinous act committed by John Russell Houser was loathed and must be condemned by me for other reasons as well. I do not see this act as random in every regard and I also condemn much of Houser’s life and political-philosophical career. He was an institution over time, in the shadows around the edges of right wing dissent to the American political consensus. I believe people should denounce the people who are in their part of the political spectrum who violate their principles and beliefs. Houser and I  both more or less have been on the far right of American politics. I do not want to burden this tragedy with politics but I believe that the political element is there.

Perhaps alone the fact that the shooter had been on numerous talk shows ( or a few show numerous times) is not an ideology of terror being manifest and does not make this political terrorism. The fact that he had run for office and been penalized for vandalism  does not make his act a cause for which he killed or an act of terrorism. The fact that he plotted against lawyers who defended pornographic theatres and disliked this kind of movie does not make it terrorism but it does show he had thought long and hard about the idea of theaters as his enemies in a sense of armed struggle.. The fact that he was a lawyer, had a long history of violence and was a planner does not make it terrorism. However, police investigation in this case show a planned event by a man who hoped to survive it. The fact that police were on premises is what prevented his escape. He had disguises and a car with switched plates.

So, in light of all of this I must disagree with several people who have cast this as an isolated act of psychotic rage. America has no real third-party systems. It is absurd to think that the two parties will represent everyone. I’m not in either party and am not all that happy. Some who say otherwise are old friends and some of the acquaintances who hold office. But I must take a different view.


Grand  Theater Shooting police presence  days later

Grand Theater Shooting police presence days later

The day this happened was the day that Seth Fontenot was to be sentenced again for killing my acquaintance Austin Rivault. The theater shooting pushed that off the news. It was the day among others when Aurora Colorado awaited the sentencing of James Holmes for that theater massacre. It was the day a power outage and fallen tree occurred where I live.

A fallen tree knocked out power at Big Woods

A fallen tree knocked out power at Big Woods

I do not have anything to complain about compared to the families of the bereaved. But the troubles  this added to are real enough. I could have easily been at the Grand at the time. My uncle Brian and his wife almost were but had to babysit grandchildren at the last minute. My niece and godchild had her boyfriend’s cousin among the 26 people actually in the theater where the shooting occurred. My niece was driving nearby at the time. An old friend had just left work there. But the deaths that occurred were no less tragic because they were not my close friends.

There has been coverage of the two murdered women. That includes international platforms such as the one linked here.  There are also more regional stories by the media based here and one of those can be see at this link.

There has also been a thoughtful response from the University of Louisiana. I print a letter from the President whom I know personally and whose open letter I believe to be in the public domain:

A message from the President:

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette community is deeply saddened by the loss of Jillian Johnson, 33, and Mayci Breaux, 21, who died in a tragic shooting at the Grand Theatre on Johnston Street last night. Jillian graduated from UL Lafayette in 2004. Nine others were injured, with one in critical condition.

The entire campus mourns the loss of lives in our Lafayette community. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.

Jillian Johnson was a much-loved creative talent known throughout the community. She founded apparel store Parish Ink in downtown Lafayette and River Ranch, as well as the boutique Red Arrow Workshop in Lafayette and New Orleans. She had been a producer at KRVS, a National Public Radio affiliate on the UL Lafayette campus. She was a musician and lead singer for The Figs. She leaves behind her husband, Jason Brown, a 2005 graduate of UL Lafayette.

Our hearts go out to all who are impacted by this tragedy. As we experience shock and sadness, it is important to know that resources are available to help us move through grief. Students, faculty, and staff members affected by this tragedy may contact our Counseling and Testing Center at 482-6480.

As integral members of the Lafayette community, we are here to support each other.


E. Joseph Savoie

Since it happened I have not blogged and  gotten the boost in view that might have brought this blog. I have been dealing with the shooting in terms of connecting people personally and feeling the pain myself  and am glad
that nobody I know seems to have been there on site at the time  so far. For two days after the shooting I squeezed in some yard work, meal preparation and family helping but several things need tending to and I am trying to get to everything.

The day after the shooting I was making lunch, doing minor chores, keeping a movie on in the background. I planned to see the work my mother has been doing to fix up Kissinoaks, one of my family’s sites. I brought her a stereo. She is based there while repairs go on and she tends to many family demands in Abbeville and Lafayette. Today I brought my brother Simon to see her there.


CNN was one of many news organizations around for the longer stretch

CNN was one of many news organizations around for the longer stretch

Mayci Breaux was close to a woman named Lacey who was my housemate with other people for a while and is a friend. She said, “I taught her religion for three years. She was one of my campus ministers. We also danced together for many years. Such a beautiful person.” What can I say to that except, “Really sorry Lacey….”


Shortly after the shooting I posted a notice from Peter who worked at the theater letting people know he was alright.  Later his mother posted on Facebook and I shared her post as well.  That appears just below this picture.

The sign that is a feature of the city announcing showtimes is dark

The sign that is a feature of the city announcing show-times is dark


I have known Peter’s mother Imelda for 30 years. I am leaving out their beautiful French last names like Lacey’s Acadian French last name for their privacy.  But it is an omission that makes things less clear. This whole thing is very much a near thing, a local thing and a regional thing… Imelda wrote

 Our hearts are heavy this morning as we all grieve for those woman and the gunman who died last night at the Grand. Lafayette has been known as the happiest town in in the US. Today it is the saddest. There is great faith in this community so we will rely on the grace of God to help us heal from this horrible tragedy. I give thanks to God that our son, Peter, who works at the Grand, had left just an hour prior to this event.


Local media has been all over this story.

Local media has been all over this story.

I am still working through this.

There is a woman I like and just recently told I like who has to go to a lot of public venues in the next few weeks and I worry about her. I worry about America, mourn with the mourners and do see some signs of hope.