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Meet Fr. David Ducote, new pastor for St. Joan of Arc: Farewell reception scheduled for Father Pat Collum

LAPLACE — St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church will host a farewell reception for Fr. Pat Collum on Sunday, July 19 after the 11:30 a.m. Mass.

It’s a time of transition and new beginnings. As Fr. Pat moves to Holy Spirit Parish in Algiers, Fr. David Ducote is assuming the role of pastor for St. Joan of Arc.

Today, July 1, is Ducote’s first day as pastor. While he will be officially installed on Sunday, July 12, Ducote is already a familiar face to most parishioners.

Ducote came to St. Joan of Arc last year as the Parochial Vicar. Any time the pastor was away or unable to fulfill his functions, Ducote would step in the same way a vice president would for a president.

This next step feels like a natural transition for Ducote. He enjoys serving the Parish, whether he is helping someone navigate a family crisis or celebrating a joyful moment, such as the recent St. Charles Catholic graduation.

“I consider myself naturally an introvert, but there is a big part of me that just wants to be around the people and help people navigate their family lives,” Ducote said. “The sacraments are very important and central to the Catholic faith, and it’s very important to me knowing it’s through those that God touches people.”

Ducote has seen the sacraments at work time and time again. During confession, he watches the weight lift off people’s shoulder as they let go of everything they have been holding onto. When someone is about to pass to the next world, anointing of the sick gives a person strength and bravery to face the transition.

With church beginning to reopen to the public post-COVID-19, Ducote has watched tears stream down parishioners’ faces as they accept Communion for the first time in months.

“It is a privilege, but it is also very humbling,” Ducote said. “Who am I to do this? This is something God has given me that I’m not worthy of, but it’s a great gift and a privilege to be able to bring those things to the people.”

Ducote is originally from St. Bernard Parish, born and raised in Chalmette. His thoughts first turned to priesthood when he was at high school at Brother Martin. He was 18 years old and trying to figure out his future. With his high school sweetheart of three years at his side, Ducote chose to attend the University of New Orleans and study mechanical engineering rather than pursue a calling to the church.

A couple of years down the line, Ducote was engaged, but he had a nagging feeling that he hadn’t given priesthood enough thought. Ducote gave an ultimatum to God to show him whether he was called to priesthood or called to marriage. Without an answer, he was going to get married and put all thoughts of becoming a priest behind him.

God answered loud and clear. Immediately after the prayer, two people approached Ducote and said he would make a very good priest.

The realization was frightening. Ducote worked up the courage to talk to his pastor, who in turn advised him to talk to his parents and fiancée. After a few months of discussion, they decided to call off the engagement.

Ducote earned his undergraduate degree in 2009 and continued his studies at the Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology. He was ordained in 2016.

“There are four aspects of formation to become a priest— academic, spiritual, pastoral and human,” Ducote said.

Ducote enrolled in two years of pre-requisite philosophy classes and four years of theology studies to complete his educational requirements. The path to priesthood included on-site training and pastoral assignments. His human formation helped him learn to live a virtuous life and taught him to be approachable to those in need.

COVID-19 has taught him that preaching to an empty church during a live stream is not the same as preaching to a crowd. At times, he felt like a shepherd without any sheep.

“Coronavirus has helped us realize the blessings that we take for granted so often,” Ducote said.

While 50 percent church capacity is permissible under Phase Two Re-opening guidelines, St. Joan of Arc is still rebuilding to 25 percent capacity and accounting for social distancing.

The St. Joan of Arc family is hopeful that July 19 will be a good day for parishioners to come out and bid farewell to Fr. Pat Collum.

In a Facebook post, church leaders said, “Please make plans to join us as we say thank you to Fr. Pat for his six years of service to St. Joan of Arc and wish him well as he heeds the Lord’s call to bring his talents to another parish in our Archdiocese.”

A small meet and greet will also be held on July 12 to welcome Ducote’s new position. For more information, call 985-652-9100.