Leon Keller Poché Jr.
Hometown: Crowley, Louisiana; resident of New Orleans since 1980
First priestly assignment: St. Mary Magdalen, Metairie
Masses of Thanksgiving:
June 8 at 4 p.m. at St. Rita in New Orleans; June 9 at 9:30 a.m. at the Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on State Street; and June 29 at 4 p.m. at St. Mary Magdalen.
Late wife’s jewels, saintly medals encrust chalice
I went to New York to pick out my chalice in person. It is gold and about 10 inches tall. I was looking for something relatively simple, because my wish was to add some of my late wife’s jewelry to it.
A priest who preceded me in seminary, who was also a widower, gave me an idea of how to decorate the base. I asked a local jeweler to cut my wedding band in the form of a cross and lay my wife’s wedding band right on top of it. The resulting design suggests a Celtic cross.
My wife, Maureen, also had a pair of diamond stud earrings, one of which she had lost in Hurricane Katrina. She had held onto the other earring, saying that someday she wanted to do something special with it. With this in mind, I asked the jeweler to take the diamond from this earring and place it at the center of the cross formed by our two wedding bands.
These merged rings occupy one of six distinct sections on the base of my chalice. The other five sections are encrusted with medals depicting St. Joseph, St. Peter, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Holy Family and Our Lady of Prompt Succor – the latter chosen because of my family’s ties to Ursuline Academy. Ursuline is the alma mater of Maureen, her mother and our daughter, and is the current school of our granddaughter. Maureen and I were also active on the shrine’s board of trustees in the years leading up to her death.
Six other chalice jewels – a small round diamond above each of the six base sections – also belonged to my wife. I would give her a single diamond on every wedding anniversary, and she had had a bracelet made out of them. I asked the jeweler to choose six and place them on my chalice.
The inscription on the bottom of the chalice will include my name and ordination date, the words “in union with Maureen Poché,” and her date of death.
I am thrilled about the way my chalice turned out. Every time I celebrate Mass, I will also be able to remember my wife.
At Mass, the chalice reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us, so if priests are to celebrate it to the best of their ability, making this sacred vessel meaningful is important.
As a priest, I am most looking forward to celebrating the Mass and sharing the experiences of my life to help others in their times of need. As someone who was married for 35 years, cared for a sick spouse and knows the challenges of family life, I think I have a unique perspective from which to help people.
– Beth Donze