By Peter Finney Jr.
Jesus called his disciples – fishermen by trade – fishers of men.
On the banks of a City Park lagoon in March, several permanent deacons and deacon aspirants and candidates of the Archdiocese of New Orleans found out what it was like to be fishers of children.
Deacon Ray Duplechain, the executive director of the archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate and an avid saltwater fisherman, hooked up with several of his fellow permanent deacons to host a morning of fishing for 45 third-graders at Resurrection of Our Lord School.
The kids used bamboo poles that were strung Tom Sawyer-like with plastic fishing line. They rolled up white bread and stuck it on their hooks as bait.
And then they waited.
A good time was had by all – except the kid-sized perch. The rookie anglers caught two buckets worth, and even though most of the fish were given absolution and returned to the water, one child had a different idea.
“From what I gather, he brought his fish home in a plastic bag,” Deacon Duplechain said.
The morning’s emphasis was definitely on the “low” in low-tech. Deacon Duplechain has property in Mississippi, and he went out into the woods one day and cut down 45 bamboo poles.
“We strung them up and put corks on them and brought out a few loaves of bread,” he said.
Last year, the deacons hosted 15 kids at City Park. This year, Resurrection teacher Donna Bialas, whose husband James is a permanent deacon, was able to get 45 third-graders involved.
Each deacon, deacon aspirant or deacon candidate was responsible for three kids. They had a group prayer and delivered safety instructions. There was even a registered nurse on hand in case one of the children “got a leaf in his eye,” Deacon Duplechain said. They finished off with sandwiches, orange drink and cookies.
What could be better than that?
“Most of them had never been fishing,” Deacon Duplechain said. “Most of them have not even experienced the sense of where fish come from. They’re at a point in their lives where they’re so innocent and inquisitive. They want to learn and they want to talk about it.”
Deacon Duplechain said the neatest neat thing for the deacons was connecting their vocation with their avocation.
“We can take that day from our busy schedules and it really grounds us in what we’re called to do,” he said. “We have to be available to whomever God calls us to be available.”
Fishing can be a spiritual experience.
“There’s one thing about fishing that really draws you to the Gospel message,” Deacon Duplechain said. “You don’t really know that there’s a fish there. You have an idea, but you can’t really see them. It’s the same thing with faith. I think Jesus was on to something when he called his disciples fishers of men.”