New leaders take St. Peter into 2013-14

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 14, 2013


LAPLACE – St. Peter Catholic School officially opened its doors for the 2013-14 school year Monday. And when it did, the community’s two major leadership positions, principal of the school and pastor of the church, had relatively new faces in those key roles.
The Rev. John Marse joined St. Peter as Pastor in January, while new Principal Marie Comeaux was tabbed for her post in July. While one has had a bit more time to become entrenched in his position, both are excited to see what the coming year will yield.
For Marse, joining St. Peter represents a homecoming: he was born and raised in Reserve. Marse was the chaplain at East Jefferson Hospital when he received a phone call from Archbishop Gregory Aymond concerning the position at St. Peter.
“He was very aware that this is my home parish,” recalled Marse. “He thought it would be a great fit. And I agreed.”
It wasn’t a snap decision for Marse, though, who had served in hospital ministry for 11 years.
“It took a lot of thinking and a lot of prayer (to come to a decision),” said Marse. “He asked me in early November, and on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I told him I would go. Keeping everything a secret and confidential was the hardest part. I didn’t even tell my family members. We wanted it to be a smooth transition.”
His familiarity with the area — and the community’s familiarity with him — has also aided matters in that respect.
“Whenever you have a new pastor, the first questions are always going to be, ‘What’s he going to be like? Who is he?’ But they knew me as a child,” said Marse. “They know who I am. Obviously it’s different in terms of who you are growing up versus who you are as a pastor later on, but it certainly helps.”
It’s added up to a very rewarding experience.
“Being with people I grew up with and helping them to be closer to God, closer with the Church and sacraments, it’s giving me life,” he said.
His next focus centers around the church’s 150th anniversary. Marse said the occasion will be celebrated throughout the upcoming year.
“It’s wonderful, being born and raised here, to be able to help our community celebrate a milestone,” he said.
Comeaux, meanwhile, comes to St. Peter as principal after a 12-year run at Resurrection of Our Lord School in New Orleans, the last six spent as assistant principal.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Comeaux of her first few weeks on the job. “The community has really opened their arms and embraced me. There’s such a rich history and tradition here, and it’s really a tight knit family. I’m amazed to see the generations that have come through here. We’ve got great-grandchildren of former students coming through the halls. They’ve welcomed my family and me, and I’m very excited.”
Comeaux now finds herself in charge for the first time. She said there were nerves at play, but as the first day of school approached, those nerves gave way to excitement.
“My stomach goes through waves, kind of like I’m on a roller coaster,” said Comeaux.
She said that she took the job after much encouragement from her husband and uncle, each of whom had full confidence that Comeaux was ready to make the jump from assistant to principal.
“They kept saying, ‘You’re ready, you’re ready,’” she said. “I have a lot to live up to. The last principal here did great things. But I love what I do. I loved being assistant principal, and I love the feeling I get from being here.”
She said that little can compare to the feeling of helping a child make a breakthrough in the classroom, and helping prepare her faculty to achieve those moments is a major motivator.
“Those days when you’re teaching a subject and a child has been struggling, and then you just see it click for them,” she said. “That, ‘They’ve got it’ moment. That’s always a great day.”
“From an administrator’s standpoint, helping your teachers get through the tough days to get to those moments, letting them know that tomorrow will be a better day, and seeing them bounce back, that’s also very rewarding.”
She also knows that on the first day of school, the student body carries a full representation of those emotions. Many children are dropped off in the carpool line for their first day of school smiling from ear to ear with excitement. Others are nervous or even scared.
Comeaux said she be waited for them with a special greeting.  
“They’ll be terrified and excited. Like I tell everyone here, ‘It’s your child. Every child here, look at them as your children and treat them how you’d want your child to be treated. Go out of your way to embrace them.’ Sometimes a hug can do wonders.”