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Fr Victor Laroche, OP celebrates first Mass as new XULA chaplain

A Haitian-American Dominican priest is the new chaplain at the nation's Catholic HBCU, and celebrated his first Orientation Mass earlier this month.

Fr Victor Laroche, OP during Xavier University of Louisiana's 2022 Orientation Mass on August 14. (XULA/YouTube)

“Adjuvante deo non timendum.”

The Latin phrase rang out in Xavier University of Louisiana’s Convocation Center earlier this month in New Orleans, during the Orientation Mass for new students at the nation’s Catholic HBCU.

The speaker, celebrant Fr Victor Laroche, OP was reciting the school motto—in English, “With God, there is nothing to fear”—during his first official liturgy as XULA’s new chaplain. He is succeeding the Josephites’ Fr Etido Jerome, SSJ, who completed his tenure last spring.

“From what I’ve observed so far, we are already witnessing the faith in so many ways,” Laroche added.

The Mass, celebrated on Sunday, August 14th, featured an amalgamation of Xavier lore and tradition, including a video segment on founder St Katharine Drexel. Present at the liturgy was at least one current member of her order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

Gospel music was sung throughout by a student choir under the leadership of Dwight Fitch Sr., after “Baba” Luther Gray helped lead what was likely the only African drum-and-dance segment featured at a Catholic university so far this academic year.

(Xavier University of Louisiana/YouTube)

Laroche himself, a Haitian-born priest and administrator in the Dominicans’ Southern Province of St. Martin de Porres, also got in the action by beginning his homily with a rendition of “This Is the Day that the Lord Has Made”—perhaps an ode to the personal significance of the day.

“I am so blessed. Today is the 26th anniversary of my first vows,” he told the assembled crowd.

Ordained a priest 20 years ago after studies at the University of Fribourg and the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Laroche has since served around the country as a chaplain and itinerant preacher. Before joining the Dominicans, he also studied at Barry University in Miami—likely the second-Blackest Catholic university in the country after XULA.

His arrival at the hub of Black Catholic academia comes less than a decade after that of university president Dr. C. Reynold Verret, a fellow Haitian-American for whom Laroche will serve as a special advisor.

“I had the privilege to serve as university chaplain twice before, in Florida and in Texas many years ago,” he said.

“I enjoy ministering to students and I look forward to learning from you to talking to you to working with you in projects and service.”

Presentation of the gifts during Xavier University of Louisiana's 2022 Orientation Mass. (XULA)

Laroche’s new role will include working with campus ministry director Lisa McClain on the university’s various spiritual enrichment initiatives, including liturgies, retreats, partnerships with Catholic Relief Services and the Knights of Peter Claver, as well as ecumenical collaborations among the majority-Protestant student population.

“This is also the day, and not just the day—this is the week, this is a month, this is the year that the Lord has made for you, for all of us to discern among the many, many voices inviting us to go in so many different directions,” he told the incoming class of freshmen.

“Because we know whose we are and why we are here at Xavier, like St Paul we will persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the perfecter the leader of our faith. Let the church say ‘Amen.’”

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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