PIERRE PART — The priest and staff of St. Joseph the Worker Church are preparing for an overflow of parishioners, friends and family for the funeral service Saturday of a beloved, longtime priest, who had only recently retired.
“The church holds 500, (but) there will be twice that many here,” said the Rev. Al Davidson, who said he’s heard from priests coming from north Louisiana to attend the funeral of the Rev. Clarence Waguespack, 77, who died Monday after a fall from a bicycle.
The Assumption Parish Sheriff’s Office said Waguespack was wearing a helmet when he went for a bicycle ride on La. 70 near Lee Drive in Pierre Part about 3 p.m. According to the autopsy report, when he fell off the bike, he broke his neck, the Sheriff’s Office said.
“He was well loved and will be missed as part of the community,” said Davidson, who replaced Waguespack as pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Church.
Waguespack had been the pastor of the congregation at the church for 15 years before retiring in June 2013. He decided to remain in Pierre Part, Davidson said.
Waguespack, who was from Vacherie, was ordained a Catholic priest on Dec. 19, 1962, marking his 50th year in the priesthood in 2012.
Over his half-century as a priest, Waguespack served at several churches in the area: St. Charles Borromeo and St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge; Holy Family in Port Allen; St. Mark in Gonzales; Ascension of Our Lord in Donaldsonville; St. Joan of Arc in Bayou Pigeon; and Our Lady of Peace in Vacherie, his hometown.
“I am fortunate in that in his tenure here, he took a rectory, office and educational building that were 60 years old and brought them into the 21st century,” Davidson said of Waguespack.
“Six months before he retired, he had begun the renovation of the church itself,” Davidson said.
Davidson said there was an authority and a charisma about Waguespack.
“He was an awesome figure,” Davidson said.
Bishop Robert Muench, of the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge, also mourned his death.
“Let us remember Father Waguespack, members of his family, brother priests and deacons, friends, former parishioners and all who mourn his loss,” said Muench, who was on a retreat Thursday, in a statement.
Visitation for Waguespack will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Saturday at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 3304 La. 70 South, Pierre Part, with the Mass of Christian burial at 11:30 a.m.
Burial will be at St. Philip Church Cemetery, 1175 La. 18, Vacherie.