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In post-Ida south Louisiana, this boat blessing tradition is more important than ever

For Terrebonne and Lafourche Parish’s fishing communities, this year’s Blessing of the Boats ceremony was more important than ever before as Hurricane Ida damage continued to blight their neighborhoods and industry several months after the Category 4 storm hit Louisiana.

Chauvin, Golden Meadow, Pointe-aux-Chenes, Grand Caillou and Dulac all hold their own blessings through the month of April.  

The attendees of the boat blessing tradition, which for Pointe-aux-Chenes took place on Divine Mercy Sunday, prayed for a safe and prosperous shrimping season while passing by sunken boats, broken shrimp trawl nets and decimated homes.

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Kezia Setyawan
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WWNO
Decorated boats head down Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes for the annual boat blessing with family and friends.

In Pointe-aux-Chenes, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church Pastor Rajasekar Karumelnathan and seminarian Ian Verdin led the boats in prayer and threw holy water at the participating boats and residents who watched from the bayous.

The church itself is currently holding masses in a tent outside of the building as repairs continue to be made after Hurricane Ida, though Karumelnathan hopes that it will be complete before the year is over and people can attend church inside in time for Christmas.

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Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
Rev. Rajasekar Karumelnathan during the annual boat blessing.

For Karumelnathan, the boat blessing is important because it demonstrates that people in their community hold onto their rich traditions, no matter the amount of devastation they’ve faced in the last several months.

“People have been challenged after Hurricane Ida. However, people who live around this water are a fishing community,” Karumelnathan said. “They have not left their profession; rather, they continue to carry on. So it's also very important that they are not abandoned.”

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Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
Attendees smile and wave as decorated boats pass by.

Currently the state has reopened the shrimp season for offshore waters. The opening dates for the 2022 spring inshore season for waters within the Louisiana coastline has yet to be determined by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. However, the spring shrimp season generally runs May to July, and the fall shrimp season is generally open mid-August to mid-December, with some waters staying open into January.

On the water, residents celebrated by praying at the end of Lake Chien and with a crawfish boil.

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Kezia Setyawan
/
WWNO
Boats in Bayou Pointe-aux-Chenes ready to follow the priest on Divine Mercy Sunday.

One commercial fisherman, Tommy Dardar, said that it’s always great to be able to be with friends and family during the event and everyone looks forward to the day.

“I’m hoping for a quiet season, a season with no hurricanes,” Dardar said.

Kezia Setyawan is a coastal reporter for WWNO and WRKF and is based out of Houma.

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