Korey LaVergne is one of 50 seminarians — an all-time high — in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, whose formation Catholic Extension supports.
He attends Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
Tell us about growing up in southwestern Louisiana.
My hometown is DeQuincy, Louisiana, 45 miles from the Texas border. My parents have Cajun roots, with a strong Catholic culture. I’m the middle child between two sisters who were pageant queens — so I learned patience at an early age.
Our parish priest, Father John Blumm, a La Salette Missionary, was a great inspiration. After high school I wanted to attend seminary, but my parents asked me to first go to college and interact with everyday people. I studied vocal music for two years in college and worked several jobs.
But you still felt the tug toward priesthood?
Yes. I went to St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana, which follows the Benedictine tradition of developing the whole person. I would recommend to anyone considering the priesthood to go to seminary. It gives you tools to become a better person and to learn interpersonal skills, whether you eventually become a priest or not. In fact, when I graduated in 2011, I opted to discern out of the priesthood for three years.
What did you do?
I became assistant branch manager of a community bank. I took my seminarian values and training into the secular world.
One day a woman at the bank said, “You’d be a good youth minister. My parish needs one.” I wasn’t interested. But when she found out I had been in the seminary, she made an appointment for me to meet her pastor to discuss youth ministry.
The truth is, no matter how far you think you can run from a vocation, God will find you.
So in August 2014 I started at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, pursuing a four-year master’s of divinity. Midway through, I am still assessing my gifts and shortcomings and how can I form my priestly identity from them.
Are favorite ministries emerging?
I find great joy in pastoral ministry, particularly hospital ministry. It’s a chance to connect with people and embrace empathy. We do a clinical pastoral immersion program in hospitals and visit the sick.
Last week my cousin became a father to a baby girl born with a chromosomal deficiency incompatible with life. She was immediately baptized and lived for two weeks. When her parents had to make the gut-wrenching decisions about when to end life support, I was with them — as a cousin and chaplain-in-training — to help them through their grief with prayers and hope. It was a special moment that will shape my ministry for the rest of my life.
What concerns you most?
With the recent Baton Rouge shootings and all the other violence, we must ask: How do we bring God into these tragic, unbearable moments? We have faced hard times before — times of seeming hopelessness — but our Catholic faith has always been a pillar of stability. When the world is crazy and chaotic, the Church is strong.
Tell us about your musical talents.
I am a classically trained singer. Music is a powerful way that the Church inspires and enriches our culture. I belong to a group that sings sacred music: liturgical, hymns and chants. We sang recently at the funeral of Bishop Houck, the former president of Catholic Extension.
Why is Catholic Extension’s support of your diocese so important?
In mission dioceses we face many hurdles in training priests, getting parishes off the ground and keeping them running. Catholic Extension says, “Let’s do this together.” It gives us opportunities to build up the Church where it is needed most.