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Photograph: Praising the Lord (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Editor/Consulting Writer

Those who spoke of peace, love, religion and family at Holy Ghost Catholic Church Saturday morning emphasized that those core values are essential for conquering any of the social ailments which have recently affected the quality of life in Opelousas.

That message was first demonstrated as participants engaged in a silent march through part of the downtown area of the city and again later as speakers and powerful gospel choir members inside the church addressed problematic issues with their faith-based platforms and musical performances.

The march, which included a predominance of college-age men and women from Iowa and a sparsity of Opelousas residents, began at the corner of North Union and Bellevue Streets and dispersed at the steps of the church.

Peace March in Opelousas on Saturday. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Mistress of ceremonies Linda Bertrand told the listeners at the outset of the program that love and peace are the elements needed to “address what is going on in our community,“

“We need a change. Our town is broken. Our schools are broken,” added Bertrand.

Kyle Sylvester, pastor of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church, told those who assembled for nearly two hours of presentations that conflicts which occur among individuals might seem inevitable, but there are peaceful solutions available.

One of those mechanisms Sylvester added, is remembering to love one another.

“You might not agree on everything, but there is one thing that we can agree on: that is to respect one another,” said Sylvester.

Sylvester, who ended his presentation with the anthem that “hate cannot drive out hate,” was one of four keynote speakers that included Opelousas City Judge Shaunn Caillier Harden, Madeline Edwards- Rosette and Loren Carriere.

Opelousas City Judge Shaunn Caillier Harden (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Singers and musical performers from Mount Pleasant Baptist Church and Missionary Baptist Church in Port Barre, used uplifting spirituals that were woven among the oral presentations.

Carriere, the director of Hope for Opelousas, admitted that there is no immediate solution that will remedy the issues that consume the city.

“There is no quick fix, however we can pray. A community heals slowly, but this we know: God works on one solution at a time. In order for that to happen, we must find the church,” said Carriere.

Carriere alluded to his own previous problems of drug usage and distribution, intertwining with a deviant life that included incarceration.

Finding the church enabled him to conquer all the undesirable behaviors that had plagued him, said Carrierre.

Using the biblical reference of Genesis, Carriere pointed out that God created family for a purpose.

“We need that structure,” Carriere added.

Carriere also referenced that story of Cain and Abel that involved sibling discontent, jealously and the murder of a brother as the first family that was torn by violence.

Despite that episode, Carriere said that family and the church are the only ways that will enable Opelousas to “push through the darkness.”

Edwards-Rosette said that there are crime and violence solutions already available in the Opelousas area.

“What is there in our community that can help a child?” said Edwards-Rosette.

It’s also important said Edwards-Rosette, that individuals move outside their familiar circle of acquaintances and engage in volunteer activities in order to ascertain what is happening in Opelousas.

“We need to get to know all the people in our community. Some of them may be homeless or have lost their way, but we need to know them,” said Edwards-Rosette.

Edwards-Rosette also spoke about individual initiative.

“We also need to learn to live together. We have to want to do it. If we can do that, then together we can put on a unified front,” added Edwards-Rosette.

Caillier-Harden recalled that her courtroom involves handling juvenile issues which often involve the family.

Sometimes Caillier-Harden said, it becomes necessary for her to tell parents that they must become the adults in order to put the juvenile and the family on the right paths.

Caillier-Harden said it’s a natural instinct that young people are searching for ways to belong. That also involves community unity which is backed by family life and the church, she added.

“Don’t be afraid to attack life; don’t follow. Don’t forget that one person and one voice enables us to stand our ground and then push through,” said Caillier-Harden.

Sylvester said that everything that was presented on Saturday pointed to an attitude of love.

“Love is what moves us into action. Love has the power to save,” said Sylvester.