Dr. Jennifer Lapeyrolerie and her husband René Metoyer were married in a civil ceremony in 1997, but as members of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church and the parents of three children, they desired to have their marriage convalidated by the church.
Since Lapeyrolerie and Metoyer met as students at Xavier University of Louisiana, they both reached the same conclusion when they saw the university’s new St. Katharine Drexel Chapel, designed by renowned architect César Pelli, rise from nearly the same spot where they had met as Xavier undergraduates.
They wanted to go back to Xavier to have their marriage blessed by the church.
“It was personal,” said Metoyer, who works as a substance abuse counselor. “It was personal because actually, where the chapel was built, is very close to the same spot where we met for the first time on campus – right across the street from what used to be the student center, which they eventually tore down to build the chapel.
“Twenty-five years later, we had come full circle, and the opportunity was there to share it with family and many of our friends. It was great to bring them back to Xavier and celebrate that time with us and for everybody to see the great strides Xavier has made and the great heights Xavier has achieved.”
Family ties to Xavier
Lapeyrolerie, a gynecologist-obstetrician, said in addition to their meeting at Xavier as students, the couple has extensive ties to Xavier through family connections. Both of sets of parents, many of their siblings and other relatives graduated from Xavier.
“It goes back for generations in both families,” Lapeyrolerie said.
Lapeyrolerie and Metoyer saw the chapel beginning to rise from the ground while they attended homecoming activities in November 2011. The chapel originally was scheduled to be dedicated in March 2012, but construction delays held off its dedication until Oct. 6, 2012.
But even though the chapel was unfinished, they got a sneak preview with an unofficial tour, and they started thinking again about how special it would be to be married there, and not just for the venue but for the spiritual message it would send to their children.
“That mostly came from my husband,” Lapeyrolerie said. “He felt this is what needed to be done. It was how he wanted to live and the example he wanted to set for our kids.”
Then they asked their pastor, Edmundite Father Michael Jacques, if he would witness their marriage.
“I asked him if we could do it there, and he thought it was fantastic,” Lapeyrolerie said. “He knew a lot about the chapel. He also was excited because he christened all three of our kids.”
Lapeyrolerie and Metoyer didn’t know it, but when they set their Catholic wedding for Dec. 29, 2012, they would be the first couple married in the chapel.
“We were trying to pick a venue because our pre-Cana instructions had started, and we figured the chapel would be open by the time we finished,” Lapeyrolerie said. “We knew homecoming was coming in November, and we were sure they would have it finished for then. When we booked it, (Xavier) was excited as well. I think now that the chapel is open, a lot of people are going to want to get married there, especially if both of them had an association with Xavier.”
Got to the altar first!
In August 2012, Lapeyrolerie met a woman, a Xavier graduate, who had just completed her residency and was working with her. The woman told Lapeyrolerie that she and her fiance, also a Xavier grad, were planning to be married in the chapel.
With a smile, Lapeyrolerie told her she liked the idea, but she had to break the sobering news: Lapeyrolerie and Metoyer would beat them to the altar.
“Her face cracked,” Lapeyrolerie said. “She thought they were going to be the first. We weren’t trying to be the first. We just happened to be the first.”
Lapeyrolerie said the night wedding highlighted the chapel’s lighting and architectural features, which include an oversized wooden sculpture of the Risen Christ above the altar.
“It was beautiful,” Lapeyrolerie said. “It is architecturally different than anything I have ever seen, the way the lighting is used. It’s a work of art. It really is. It’s visually appealing and quaint – not too big and not too small. I went there for the annual homecoming Mass and the choir was singing, and it was really touching. I wish it had been there when I was going to school there.”
The most touching part of the convalidation ceremony, the couple said, is that Father Jacques was there to serve as the church’s official witness. The beloved pastor died unexpectedly of heart problems six months later, on June 7.
“He was a very caring and compassionate man,” Metoyer said. “He loved the people that he shepherded. I think that’s the most important quality that there is for a shepherd, to be caring and compassionate about his people.”
Lapeyrolerie said she will always remember what Father Jacques told the couple that night.
“He said that every night before you go to bed to make sure you look at each other and say, ‘I love you and I need you,’” Lapeyrolerie said. “And when you wake up in the morning, you should say, ‘I love you and I need you.’ I am so glad he was available to do it. He enjoyed it and made it very special.”
For more information on the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 520-7575.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.