by Jessica Taylor
Faith plays an important role in the lives of people in South Louisiana. From Native-American religious ceremonies, to voodoo rituals and Christian masses, faith in the South has multiple faces.
Much more than a personal relationship between the faithful and their devotion, women in South Louisiana are proud to share their faith and to help others to find their faith as well.
One of the spiritual groups in South Louisiana is a small community of American Indians in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.
Native American cultures began to form rituals, which were practices formed around their methods of acquiring food, from hunting to agriculture. They also embrace ceremonies and rituals that provided power to conquer the difficulties of life, as well as events and milestones.
To Native Americans, religion does stem from the notions of God, but it is also formulated around their beliefs of powers. Therefore, their religious ceremonies focus on God and power.
Another common and interesting practice is Voodoo, something often associated with Louisiana.
Tina Granger, sociology professor at Nicholls State University, explains that Marie Laveau, known as the Voodoo Queen, changed how Voodoo is practiced today.
“Although Voodoo originated in Africa (Afro- Caribbean Vodou), Laveau’s religious rite on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain on St. John’s Eve in 1874 attracted 12,000 black and white New Orleanians, which brought the practice of Voodoo to South Louisiana,” Granger says.
Once news spread of her power, she began to dominate the other Voodoo leaders of New Orleans. Laveau, who was also a Catholic, incorporated some practices of Catholicism into the Voodoo belief system we know today.
“It’s not uncommon for those who practice voodoo to worship at the Catholic Church every Sunday and then worship voodoo that same evening,” Granger says
There are four phases of a voodoo ritual. They are all identifiable by the song being sung; preparation, invocation, possession and farewell. The songs are used to open the gate between the deities and the human world and invites the spirits to possess someone.
The core beliefs of Louisiana Voodoo include the recognition of one God who does not interfere in people’s daily lives and spirits that preside over daily life. Connections with these spirits can be achieved through dance, music, singing, and the use of snakes.
A strong sense of faith is one of the main shared characteristics of women down the bayou, regardless of religion.
Although the Nicholls Community is a diverse body of people with different sets of beliefs, Christianity is one of the most predominant religions on campus.
Maegan Martin, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), interacts with other women of faith in the area on a daily basis.
Originally from Cuero, Texas, Martin came to Nicholls State University to work with athletes and students to help guide them in their faith.
“As a former collegiate athlete, I lead FCA [Fellowship Christian Athletes] at Nicholls State and mentor athletes in their faith,” Martin says. “As an athlete, injuries can happen, school can become difficult, and many other things can come into play, making it difficult to have faith and believe in God’s plan.”
She helps student-athletes as well as other students to keep faithful and to try to understand that, despite all adversities, God has a bigger plan for everyone’s lives.
Although Martin hasn’t been a resident here long, she says that, unlike anywhere else, she has encountered a large percentage of women who are strong in their faith in South Louisiana.
Whether it’s related to athletics, family or school, faith is often needed to overcome many obstacles in life.
Annie Knight, a sophomore mass communications student at Nicholls State University, is a faith-filled, passionate young woman who attends mass weekly.
Like many students, Knight has a full-time class schedule filled with school work and extracurricular activities. Despite her busy life, her faith is a substantial part of her day.
“I pray throughout my day with scripture through psalms. Also, during rough times or whenever I need guidance, I seek counsel from religious leaders such as a priest or the available leaders on campus,” Knight says.
Knight explains her faith helps her be the best version of herself, which right now consists of her being the best student she can be.
Along with Martin, Jocelyn Gosman is also a missionary and is the team director of FOCUS at Nicholls State.
Gosman, who was raised by a family of faith, explains how she fell away from her faith when she started college and rekindled in her faith through a Bible study she joined on campus.
Now that she’s a team director and a leader for FOCUS, she has grown even deeper in her faith.
“As a team director and leader, I start my day with an hour of prayer and I also try to engage others in faith and allow them to see how much they are loved by the Father as I have been loved through my personal experiences,” Gosman says.
Martin, Knight and Gosman are the prime examples of South Louisiana women who, connected by their faith, create the hospitable, charitable, warm culture of South Louisiana.
So “Look at This” to learn more about other women of spirit from South Louisiana.