“Faith Matters” column for Aug. 10, 2013

David Lauricella Jr. had visions of going into the corporate world after graduating with a business management degree from Loyola University — not following his father and grandfather in their respective professions.

“I was thinking about finding a good job and living the American dream,” he said.

But Lauricella, 30, of Loranger, ended up going to work for his father’s small construction business and then pursuing another dream: Following in his grandfather’s footsteps as a minister.

Three years ago, Lauricella succeeded his grandfather as the pastor of Harahan Christian Church in Harahan — the church his grandfather Marion “Sugar” Lauricella founded in the 1960s.

As a 22-year-old, David Lauricella was sitting in church one Sunday when he envisioned himself in the pulpit.

“A week later, my grandfather came to me and out of the blue said, ‘Son, have you thought about pursuing the ministry?’ ... Slowly but surely I started working toward the pulpit.”

For the last five years of his grandfather’s life, Lauricella studied under him.

“He knew the whole point in ministry is to get across the Word of the Gospel to the people,” Lauricella said, adding that his grandfather had a passion for service, including helping in disaster relief at home and missionary work in Africa.

Lauricella still works in his father’s company.

“I’m kind of pulling two ways,” said Lauricella, who is married with two young daughters. “I had to do a lot of sacrifice, but it was all a labor of love.”

Lauricella’s first love was baseball. He starred in high school and earned a full scholarship to Southeastern Louisiana University, but when a new coaching staff took over in his freshman season, Lauricella was told he was no longer in the program’s future.

That setback was the first step toward a closer walk with God, he said.

“I remember praying a very, very deep prayer and basically gave my life to Christ. I said, ‘You take it.’”

With God’s help, Lauricella said, he made the decision to transfer and went on to a stellar four-year career at Loyola, garnering all-conference honors as an infielder. He ranks as one of the top players in school history.

More than 10 years later, the boyish-looking Lauricella hopes to help his congregation of about 50 members grow spiritually and numerically through the Word of God while also maintaining a small-church appeal.

“I’m not going to stress out if we don’t become a massive church,” he said. “Really, we’re a small, personal church where I get to interact with people all the time.”

Lauricella said he wants to be a humble servant with a heart for God and his word.

“I never want to be fake. ... Every time I approach the Word I’m awestruck, like I’m not worthy to even read the Word much less preach the Word,” he said.

Lauricella cites John 14:6 — “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (NASB) — and says, “I believe that this is one of the most monumental statements ever made, not just in the Bible, but throughout all of history and should be at the heart of every single church and believer.”

Visionary leaders

Baton Rouge ministers will be among those honored at a reception recognizing “community leaders who have expressed their vision for change in the lives of youths and adults who desire to do better as it relates to criminal activities.”

The second annual City Social — “A Cry for Help, Stop the Violence, Save the Children” — Visionary Awards For Change Recognition Reception is set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 17 at the McKinley Alumni Center, 1374 Thomas H. Delpit Drive, in Baton Rouge.

The event is presented by The P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. (Prison Reform And Corrections Training Institute Changing Ex-Offenders), a program led by Ginger Northern.

The Rev. Henry J. Brown, pastor of the Star of Bethlehem and First Emmanuel Baptist churches; Bishop Gregory Cooper, of Antioch Baptist Church and Morning Star Full Gospel Church; and the Rev. Evonne Dunn, of Spirit of Truth Ministries, will be among the honorees.

“(Dunn) works within the prison system, changing lives by bringing women to Christ,” Northern said. “She ministers to them and inspires them to seek Christ first in all that they do and everything else will come to pass. Pastor Brown diligently works in and around the community mentoring to young men and women ... Pastor Cooper lost a child to violence and has been advocating for nonviolence ever since. He’s taken young men and women under the ministry and inspired them to stay in the word, trust God and lean not unto their own understanding but acknowledge Him.”

Northern has a master’s degree in general counseling and a doctorate in philosophy with a specialization in alcohol and substance abuse and minor in community intervention. She is also an ex-offender.

“It was God’s plan that began the vision ... You see The P.R.A.C.T.I.C.E. is not just a business it’s a ministry. What we PRACTICE is what we PREACH,” she said.

Tickets for the reception are $15. Call (225) 447-2991.

‘Committed to Serve’

Progressive Baptist Church, of Geismar, is a committed church with a committed pastor.

Both will be celebrated at the church’s Black and White Pastoral Gala, said gala committee member Lamonica Solomon.

The semiformal event is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Elegant Affairs, 14190 Airline Highway in Gonzales. Deadline for tickets is Aug. 18.

The theme is “Committed to Serve.” It is part fundraiser for the church and its plans for a new building, and part appreciation to the Rev. Warren Richard for his 12 years of service as pastor.

“This is really the first opportunity where it’s a catered event and the members can come and enjoy the fact that we are honoring our pastor and we are trying to grow our church. And we just want to share all the great things we’re doing within the community,” Solomon said.

Guest speaker for the event will be the Rev. Donald Lee, a former columnist and copy editor for The Advocate.

“When I was approached about being the keynote speaker for the event to honor Pastor Richard, I was greatly honored,” Lee said. “He truly has a heart for what God has a heart for — people. If anybody’s ‘committed to serve,’ it’s Pastor Richard.”

Lee is the pastor of Kingdom Living Christian Center in Dallas and co-author of the book “Married to Commitment.”

Solomon was a classmate of Lee at Grambling State University.

“It was a real honor for me to know him as being a real man of God and knowing his true heart,” Solomon said of Lee. “He just seemed like the perfect match for what we were looking for.”

A native of Beaumont, Texas, Lee returned to his hometown after living in Baton Rouge from 2000- 08. He moved to Dallas about three years ago to start his church.

Tickets for the gala are $45. Call Solomon at (225) 921-6274.

“Faith Matters” runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or trobinson@theadvocate.com.