The Lenten season offers Christians an opportunity to grow closer to God through prayer, fasting and other means.

To help in that effort, some churches offer Lenten missions, programs to inspire parishioners during the solemn time of year.

One such church that has enjoyed successful missions in the past with distinguished speakers is St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Baton Rouge.

This year should be no different as St. Thomas More welcomes the Rev. Cedric Pisegna, of Houston, a well-known author and television personality.

“He does a powerful mission, helping people to a closer relationship with God,” said Dina Martinez, director of pastoral services at St. Thomas More. “He’s very real and down to earth. And what I love about him is he’s universal. … He speaks to everyone. So it’s not exclusive for Catholics. It’s for everyone.”

The Passionist Lenten Mission is set for Monday through Wednesday with sessions at 8:45 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day at the church, 11441 Goodwood Blvd.

Pisegna, a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, was ordained as a priest in 1991. Since 2006, he has hosted the “Live With Passion!” television program on TBN and the Church Channel and also the “Live With Passion!” radio program.

Pisegna has authored 19 books, including “Live Passionately!,” “Glorious Holy Spirit” and “Come Encounter Jesus, Golf and God.” His latest book, “Challenges Make Champions,” is due out in June.

Pisegna’s speaking gift and passion make him a highly sought speaker, Martinez said. She booked Pisegna in 2011 for this year’s event.

“He’s worth the wait. He’s really, really good,” Martinez said.

Mass is set for 8:45 a.m. each morning followed a brief homily by Pisegna. Martinez said sessions will cover challenges people struggle with in life and how to overcome them; God’s mercy and love for us; and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Martinez said the mission and speakers such as Pisegna can serve to inspire parishioners.

“We take 40 days out of the entire year … focusing on this interior spiritual life and getting closer to God, in faith, community and other people,” she said.

Helping other people in their spiritual walk and other walks of life has been a passion for Martinez, who has worked at St. Thomas More for six years. She earned an undergraduate degree in liberal arts from LSU but later went back to school at age 40 to earn a master’s degree in theology from Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans.

She said she felt called to ministry.

“It’s a definite calling to attain a master’s degree in theology,” she said. “It’s a lot of reading, a lot of philosophy and a lot of studying. But at the end of the day, it’s probably one of the greatest callings that anybody can have. It’s such a gift to be able to minister to people every day. I absolutely just love it.”

For information on the Lenten mission, call the church at (225) 275-3940 or go to stmchurch.org.

Transformed by Grace

In eight years, Buddy King went from being a visitor to a cook and is now actively seeking people as coordinator of the Transformed by Grace program.

Transformed by Grace helps victims of drug and alcohol addictions and other destructive behaviors. The faith-based support group meets at 6 p.m. each Monday at Grace Works Church, 16131 La. 44, in Prairieville.

“God must have wanted me to be there (as coordinator) because I thoroughly enjoy doing it,” said King, a former well-known disc jockey who has had his share of destructive behaviors in his life.

King gets to meet and serve people who have become like family.

“They don’t care what I look like,” said the 74-year-old King, who sports long hair and several “Jesus” tattoos. “They love me and I love them. They’re my family. It means the world to me to do it and I thank God every day he allows me to serve him in that way. … I got Jesus and them and that’s it.”

King likes to talk, but he’s fine with mostly just listening in the meetings.

“The meeting in a way kind of runs itself,” he said. “We kind of let them do most of the talking and I kind of insert myself when I have to say something that might be meaningful. A lot of times when something is bothering you, when you talk, it helps.”

King said he gets daily help from his “three prayer angels” — Dette Rabb, of Baton Rouge, Judith Richard, of Denham Springs, and Nina Bisconti, of Alexandria.

“Whenever I get into trouble, I call on them,” he said.

King said he started attending the Transformed by Grace program in 2007 to seek help for his grandson who was struggling with addiction.

“After I got out there, I said I could help other people’s grandsons, sons and daughters, too,” he said. “I’ve already lived that life of drugs, sex and rock ’n’ roll. I was a popular disc jockey for a lot of years. I used to hang out with the musicians, the superstars and the millionaires. I had fun for a while. But the Bible says there’s fun in sin but it doesn’t last.”

He said his grandson is living clean. He encourages families of addicts to be patient.

“Don’t give up on them. Call me and we’ll do our best to help,” King said.

For information on the Transformed by Grace program, call King at (225) 293-7766.

King also welcomes musicians and others who want to come and share their testimony.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or by email to trobinson@theadvocate.com.