The annual Gretna Prayer Dinner that was held on Tuesday, June 28 has given locals the pleasure and enlightment of breaking breading and worshiping together. Believers of all denominations have enjoyed the event for almost three decades.  

Fr. Steve Ryan and Val Coles

Gretna Community Association President Val Coles did a splendid job as Mistress of Ceremony and chairperson and for the event, as did Jefferson Parish Councilman at Large Ricky Templet who served as Honorary Chairman.

Templet welcomed the guests and said, “It is exciting to be the Honorary Chairperson of this very special event. The last time I had this honor was in 2006, after Hurricane Katrina. It’s somewhat of the same as the year after Katrina because in this world we live in today, “Loving Your Neighbor,” tonight’s theme is more important than ever. This is the 29th year of the Prayer Dinner and I had the pleasure of working personally from the very first year with Mrs. Jo Duhe, who started this event. Many events come and go, but the exciting news is that the Prayer Dinner has stayed as a focal point of faith and belief in Gretna.”

Councilman at Large Ricky Templet, Jefferson Parish and President Cynthia Lee Sheng

Each year a donation of the proceeds of the Prayer Dinner is made to a local non-profit organization. This year the recipient was the Community Center for Life, a pregnancy center located at 539 Lafayette Street in Gretna. This non-profit Christian organization serves mothers and families with unplanned pregnancies. Community Center for Life works to educate the clients on their options, equip them with the facts, and empower them to make life-affirming decisions and to continue their pregnancy. Each aspect of the program is tailored to each individual client and where he or she is in his or her journey.

Father Stephen Ryan, SDB who is the Director/Head of Archbishop Shaw High school was Guest Speaker. “There is a great opportunity for us tonight to reflect on the theme – love one another as I have loved you,” he said.

Fr. Steve Ryan

Father Steve said his go to mantra is “Jesus, help me to be more like you!” He learned this from Msgr. Kenny in confession in the 5th grade and pointed out that one can’t say this enough times in a day.

“This little talk is a wakeup call – love God more. Let him love you and me more and love others more. And this wakeup call is simple. Go strongly to Jesus.” 

“Aim higher,” Father Steve said in his wonderfully inspiring talk. He passed on that aiming higher is a goal taught to the students at Shaw. Archbishop Shaw is the only boys’ high school on the Westbank, an archdiocesan school administered under the Salesians of Don Bosco. Founded in 1962, the school was named in honor of Archbishop John W. Shaw, who had a special interest in the Catholic community of the West Bank. The mission of the Salesians is to serve the poor and the young through the Preventive System of John Bosco in light of the gospel and Jesus Christ.

Judge Barron Burmaster, Councilman Jackie Berthelot

Shaw is active this summer with a Summer Camp still open for boys and girls from 4 – 12 which is now in its second session that runs from June 26 until July 14. Total fee per child is $140 for the week, with sibling discounts. Many activities offered including swimming, dance and much more. Register online at

Also, attention men! Shaw is hosting the Westbank ACTS Men’s Retreat to be held July 20 – 23 at the University of Holy Cross. This 3-day Catholic retreat with a purpose of helping men come to love and experience God is $350 per person which includes housing and meals. Contact Shaw High School for details.    

The Gretna Prayer Dinner had an impressive lineup with musical entertainment by Amber Dorr and the Body of Christ Band. Gretna Police Presented Colors, and Ferninand Meggs, John McDonogh VFW Post 3121, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Body of Christ Band

Sophia Parigi with Louisiana Kids sang the National Anthem, Pastor Jo Cooper of Gretna United Methodist Church said the Invocation and Rev. Bryan Howard, pastor of St. Cletus Catholic Church offered the Benediction.

Scriptures were read by Clark Knightsen, Lulu Greene and Lilian Mackey. Prayers were read by Jesse Hunter, Vincent Cox and Cynthia Lee Sheng.

Everyone enjoyed the dinner prepared by the St. Cletus Knights of Columbus and the service by the David Crockett Fire Company #1. What a remarkable time it was for hundreds of Christians from different churches of different faiths, to spend an evening together!