by Jessica Taylor

Faith plays an important role in the lives of people in South Louisiana. From Native-American religious ceremonies, to voodoo rituals and Christian masses, faith in the South has multiple faces.

Native American

Much more than a personal relationship between the faithful and their devotion, women in South Louisiana are proud to share their faith and to help others to find their faith as well.

One of the spiritual groups in South Louisiana is a small community of American Indians in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Native American cultures began to form rituals, which were practices formed around their methods of acquiring food, from hunting to agriculture. They also embrace ceremonies and rituals that provided power to conquer the difficulties of life, as well as events and milestones.

To Native Americans, religion does stem from the notions of God, but it is also formulated around their beliefs of powers. Therefore, their religious ceremonies focus on God and power.

Voodoo

Another common and interesting practice is Voodoo, something often associated with Louisiana.

Tina Granger, sociology professor at Nicholls State University, explains that Marie Laveau, known as the Voodoo Queen, changed how Voodoo is practiced today.

“Although Voodoo originated in Africa (Afro- Caribbean Vodou), Laveau’s religious rite on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain on St. John’s Eve in 1874 attracted 12,000 black and white New Orleanians, which brought the practice of Voodoo to South Louisiana,” Granger says.

Once news spread of her power, she began to dominate the other Voodoo leaders of New Orleans. Laveau, who was also a Catholic, incorporated some practices of Catholicism into the Voodoo belief system we know today.

“It’s not uncommon for those who practice voodoo to worship at the Catholic Church every Sunday and then worship voodoo that same evening,” Granger says

There are four phases of a voodoo ritual. They are all identifiable by the song being sung; preparation, invocation, possession and farewell. The songs are used to open the gate between the deities and the human world and invites the spirits to possess someone.

The core beliefs of Louisiana Voodoo include the recognition of one God who does not interfere in people’s daily lives and spirits that preside over daily life. Connections with these spirits can be achieved through dance, music, singing, and the use of snakes.

A strong sense of faith is one of the main shared characteristics of women down the bayou, regardless of religion.

Christianity

Although the Nicholls Community is a diverse body of people with different sets of beliefs, Christianity is one of the most predominant religions on campus.

Maegan Martin, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), interacts with other women of faith in the area on a daily basis.

Originally from Cuero, Texas, Martin came to Nicholls State University to work with athletes and students to help guide them in their faith.

“As a former collegiate athlete, I lead FCA [Fellowship Christian Athletes] at Nicholls State and mentor athletes in their faith,” Martin says. “As an athlete, injuries can happen, school can become difficult, and many other things can come into play, making it difficult to have faith and believe in God’s plan.”

She helps student-athletes as well as other students to keep faithful and to try to understand that, despite all adversities, God has a bigger plan for everyone’s lives.

Although Martin hasn’t been a resident here long, she says that, unlike anywhere else, she has encountered a large percentage of women who are strong in their faith in South Louisiana.

Whether it’s related to athletics, family or school, faith is often needed to overcome many obstacles in life.

Annie Knight, a sophomore mass communications student at Nicholls State University, is a faith-filled, passionate young woman who attends mass weekly.

Like many students, Knight has a full-time class schedule filled with school work and extracurricular activities. Despite her busy life, her faith is a substantial part of her day.

“I pray throughout my day with scripture through psalms. Also, during rough times or whenever I need guidance, I seek counsel from religious leaders such as a priest or the available leaders on campus,” Knight says.

Knight explains her faith helps her be the best version of herself, which right now consists of her being the best student she can be.

Along with Martin, Jocelyn Gosman is also a missionary and is the team director of FOCUS at Nicholls State.

Gosman, who was raised by a family of faith, explains how she fell away from her faith when she started college and rekindled in her faith through a Bible study she joined on campus.

Now that she’s a team director and a leader for FOCUS, she has grown even deeper in her faith.

“As a team director and leader, I start my day with an hour of prayer and I also try to engage others in faith and allow them to see how much they are loved by the Father as I have been loved through my personal experiences,” Gosman says.

Martin, Knight and Gosman are the prime examples of South Louisiana women who, connected by their faith, create the hospitable, charitable, warm culture of South Louisiana.

So “Look at This” to learn more about other women of spirit from South Louisiana.

Meet these Bayou Women of Spirit

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by Jessica Taylor

From protecting individuals for the improvement of the community to successful businesses, the women of South Louisiana are an example of the impact empowered women can have in our community.

“Women in South Louisiana are powerful because they don’t limit themselves,” says Laura Valenti, professor of marketing at Nicholls State University.

Empowered women throughout the world are challenging the status quo. In South Louisiana too, women have proven to bring a different type of “hard work” to the table.

As a working mom who is also finishing her doctoral degree and teaching four classes full-time, Valenti’s own experience shows how women are capable of facing the struggles and balancing all aspects of a busy schedule.

“Moving around the country while I was growing up allowed me to see different parts of the United States, as well as how acted,” Valenti says. “[In Louisiana] I’ve seen more women in law enforcement, owning businesses, and all while being moms.”

Besides teaching, there are many other women in the community who share a similar type of power — police officers.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), nationally there are nearly 4,000 state police, 19,400 sheriffs’, and 53,300 local police who are women. Of all the federal law enforcement nationally with sworn officers, the Office of Inspectors General had the largest percent of female officers (25%).

Women are still a minority group among law enforcement. Across the 24 parishes in south Louisiana however, there are approximately 461 women who are police officers.

Throughout the community, there are many women that hold a tremendous amount of power.

Lieutenant Kim Lane, the Supervisor-Police Support Services, is another woman who has a strong impact in the community. She began her career in law enforcement at Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office in 1988.

“In 1999 I was hired by Lafourche Parish Fire District #3, where I worked as a dispatcher for the fire department, Lafourche Ambulance District #1 and Greater Lafourche Port Commission Harbor Office,” she says.

That same year she transferred to the Thibodaux Police Department. After working in the communications department for a little over a year, she became a patrol officer.

Now she is assigned to patrol as a shift commander with the rank of a lieutenant and is the first woman to hold this position.

Lane explains how the women of South Louisiana are free to be who they want to be and are openly accepted. Lane says her dreams of holding such a high position wouldn’t have been possible if the women of South Louisiana did not have this mindset.

“Lieutenant is a big deal in our department. There are many other high-ranking females in our departments, but I’m the highest-ranked woman in our department, which is a huge accomplishment,” Lane says.

She says throughout her department females are required to do the same thing as males and everyone is treated equally.

“We have to do the same physical challenges as well as tests,” she says.

Lane is also a bodybuilder, which she says helped her excel in the police academy, as well as in her department.

Many women in south Louisiana own businesses, placing them in an ultimate position of power.

Charlet Brignac, owner of Three Stitches Embroidery, is one of many women who own their own businesses. Brignac started out in the medical field working in radiology, but felt that career path was too demanding for what she wanted to accomplish in life.

“When I do something, I do it 100%. I didn’t feel that was being accomplished working in the medical field,” she says.

After that realization, Brignac opened Three Stitches Embroidery. The company has become a larger part of the community and is partnered with many organizations including the Nicholls Softball Team, as well as other athletic teams around the area.

Whether it’s protecting the community, owning businesses, or being a working mom, Bayou women hold some powerful positions. So “Look at this” and learn a little bit more about the powerful women who have impacted our community in so many ways.

Meet these Bayou Women in Power

by Jessica Taylor

Southern Louisiana is known for its unique culture, ambition in life, and the women who make this happen.

From fitness to art, the women at play in Louisiana show their strength by bringing something special to everything they do.

Jenny Lafont, fitness instructor at the Nicholls State Recreational Center and Thibodaux Wellness Center, is one of those strong women. A former collegiate swimmer at Texas A&M University, Lafont has a genuine love for fitness, and she is inspired by Olympic swimmer, Janet Evans.

“Evans was the only person who truly inspired me to continue to swim competitively,” Lafont says. “I admired her and her commitment.”

Nowadays, Lafont spends her time sharing her passion for fitness by teaching yoga, core, and spinning class every Monday and Tuesday.

“I wanted to do something like coaching, but in fitness. I got certified to teach, and fell in love with helping others,” she says.

Like Lafont, the women in South Louisiana are independent and motivated.

Deborah Cibelli, professor of Art History at Nicholls State University, talks about the strong-willed women of South Louisiana. She compares the women of South Louisiana to the women in the film “Steel Magnolias.”

“Since I started living here, I’ve noticed women in South Louisiana are much more ambitious and determined than women in other areas of the United States,” she says.

Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Cibelli moved down to South Louisiana for her teaching job. She holds a doctorate in art history from the State University of New York at Binghamton. At Nicholls, she teaches courses on Ancient Art, Non-Western Art, the Italian Renaissance, and Women in the Baroque, art between years 1600-1750.

“In college, I studied foreign language and always came back to art. I was attracted to art from different countries and when I figured out art history was a concentration, it seemed appropriate for me to do,” Cibelli says.

Besides teaching, Cibelli is currently the director of the University Honors Program and Assistant Dean of the College of Arts. Cibelli is able to share her passions and possibly inspire young women to follow her path into the art world. Art plays a major role in the culture of South Louisiana.

Art is also a big part of the life of Juliana Pennison, owner of Peony Photography. Pennison’s business is based out of Thibodaux, La., but she was raised in Galliano, La.

Pennison always has a camera around her.

“My mom was a family photographer and she taught me all the fundamentals and took me with her to every shoot she did,” she says.

At 16 years old, Pennison was approached to do a small wedding, and her career took off from there.

Pennison explains the moment she knew she was destined for wedding photography was when she got a call from a bride whose grandfather passed away a month after her wedding.

“The bride wanted to thank me for getting one last professional picture of him dancing with her and she was going to cherish it forever,” Pennison says.

Then it clicked.

“I am documenting incredible, once-in-a-lifetime memories for so many people. The high-energy pressure of my days and the beauty and love we get to witness reminds me this isn’t just a job, but the best career I could have hoped for,” she says.

Pennison is able to capture one of the most important moments in some women’s lives and turn it into something that will last forever. She shares her passion with couples around the bayou region and can serve as a model to other young women. Pennison proves that hard work and determination breed success.

Lafont, Cibelli, and Pennison have a certain drive and ambition that is unique to women in Southern Louisiana. So, “Look at This” to learn more about the women at play who bring something special to the bayou region.

Meet these Bayou Women at Play

by Caroline Marcello

The Thibodaux Service League started in March of 1974 with goals to educate women in the community and to take part in charitable acts. In 1982 a group of service league members decided to put together a collection of recipes to create a cookbook. They tested hundreds of recipes to create the Louisiana Legacy Cookbook. What started out as a local project for women in the league, turned into a trip of a lifetime to New York City for five service league members.

In November of 1984 Jan Maki, Marie Falgoust, Gloria Lynch, Peggy Rouse, William Tate-Mitros, and Jeanne Chiasson boarded a plane with ten ten ice chest of food and headed to New York. This trip was a culmination of two years worth of promotional events for the cookbook. At this time the cookbook was being sold in forty states but this party introduced the book to highly regarded critics in New York.

William Tate-Mitros, an employee for the New York Times Company, offered to give a party featuring the Legacy Cookbook and the Thibodaux Service League members. The reception was held at the New York Times headquarters and featured authentic cajun cuisine. Some of the recipes included marinated crab claws, crawfish benny, and boursin.

“We were quite the site,” said Jeanne Chiasson as she looked through photos and newspaper articles from the trip. “It was an amazing trip and all the ladies had the best time.”

Now thirty-three years later, Jeanne’s daughter Stephanie Chiasson Toups is working with a whole new generation of service league members to create a new edition of the Legacy Cookbook titled Louisiana Legacy Today. “Throughout the years we have thought about creating a new cookbook, but we knew there was no way we could do better than the original Legacy,” said Stephanie.

The women active in today’s league have decided to create a totally different kind of publication. They are working on creating a picture cookbook perfect for any southern women’s coffee table. “We hope to have a picture of every recipe as well as pictures of Thibodaux landmarks and our beautiful bayous. We hope to really highlight our culture,” said Stephanie. Craig Perk from Vacherie, Louisiana is set to take the photos that will be featured in the book.

The book will be divided into four the seasons with seasonal recipes organized accordingly. For example, the fall will feature popular tailgate items for Nicholls football games while the spring section will include crawfish recipes perfect for lent.

They are now collecting and testing recipes to see which selections will make it into the book. With the first photo shoot scheduled for June, Stephanie and the service league members are busying trying recipes from the original legacy as well as new recipes from local chefs. “My favorite recipe so far has been our new take on crawfish benny. Instead of using ingredients like pimentos we used red bell peppers and instead of can mushrooms, we used fresh mushrooms. We put a healthier spin on the original recipe and it’s delicious,” said Stephanie.

These cook books have given women of the bayou region the opportunity to share traditions and our unique culture with generations. They have showcased the hard work and dedication of the Thibodaux Service League and all of their members. The hope is that Louisiana Legacy Today will be out by December of 2018. They will be available to buy on the league’s website and will make the prefect Christmas gift from any fan of the original cook book and any up and coming cajun cook.

by Caroline Marcello

Cajun Culture Runs Deep

There are many aspects that come together to create a truly unique culture in Southern Louisiana. Locals place a twist on just about everything, and women in particular love adding cajun flavor to everything they do. Their art, apparel, and stories shouldn’t be taken at face value because everything carries a deeper meaning than what meets the eye. Everything women touch in Louisiana has love, soul, and, of course, a cajun twist.

Art

An artist’s inspiration can come from practically anywhere, especially in South Louisiana. The southern state is rich with culture just waiting to be captured–in paintings, photos, and words. Artists don’t need to travel far to find inspiration. In fact, most of the landscape found in art is probably the artist’s backyard! Throughout the year many art shows and festivals are held to showcase work.

Annelise Delahoussaye is a local artist here in Thibodaux. She has had the unique experience of creating art with Tony Bernard. Even though Bernard isn’t a household name yet, he was the apprentice to George Rodrigue who is known word wide for his Blue Dog paintings. “It such a cool experience getting to work with Mr. Bernard. He is a huge up and coming artist in our area and he learned from the best,” said Delahoussaye. “I don’t think he thought about gender when he asked me to work with him but it was an empowering experience for me because he could have picked any of the other guys at the art show, but he picked me. He recognized my talent and it always feels good to get recognition for the work you put your heart and soul into.”

Annelise works on her art every chance she gets. Here she explains how she started painting and how her art has evolved into what it is today.

Apparel

Women in the South take pride in their appearance, and even more so in their children’s appearance. Andree’s Baby Boutique in Thibodaux caters to these women and their stylish children. They first started as an antique store but after twins were born into the family the Richard’s decide to take their local business in a new direction and started selling baby clothes.

Andree Richard, the store owner of the boutique, says that there is something special about southern mothers. They take pride in their culture and they share their love for their area with their children. “We sell a lot of cajun themed clothes. Our smocks have crawfish, alligators, snowballs, and things that only people in the south understand,” said Richard.

“When we go to the market every year these vendors only sell to Louisiana stores. It’s a thing down here that people in other states just don’t get,” said Richard. These special pieces that represent so much of our culture also can be handed down from family member to family member. “These are high-quality pieces so they last forever.” Mothers are able to get so much use out of Andree’s clothes, they are timeless pieces that their children can wear at any age and represent their favorite Louisiana tradition.

Stories

Everyone has heard of the childhood stories Little Red Riding Hood, The Tree Little Pigs, and The Night Before Christmas. Louisiana mothers read their children Petite Rouge, Les Trois Cochons: The Cajun 3 Little Pigs, and The Cajun Night Before Christmas. Cajun culture has even made its way into traditional folk tale stories.

The Cajun Night Before Christmas, written by “Trosclair” in 1992 has been a long time family favorite in many homes. The author took the traditional story and added cajun phrases like “Cuz dere on de by-you” (translated to cause here on the bayou) and “Den down de chimney” (translated to then down the chimney) to add a definite cajun flair.

Local authors have found a way to add a local influence into classic childhood stories to give children a greater appreciation for our cajun culture. Being from Galliano Louisiana, Andie Chiasson-Kearney has the cajun accent down pat and it gives the story a live animation of how it was meant to be read.

“We have The Cajun Night Before Christmas at my house and I read it to my son Lincoln every year,” said Kearney. These books give locals another opportunity to add southern culture in their children’s lives.

Check out an excerpt from The Cajun Night Before Christmas.

by Sarah Zeringue

Holly Marie is not your typical Monday-Friday business owner. She works hands on providing the Mathews and surrounding area’s finest seafood. Whether it’s fresh from the boat or boiled to perfection, she works diligently to provide the community with the best catch. Not only does she serve the community with the finest seafood, she also helps visitors in the area with how to peel and eat seafood.

Here, she shows us how to eat crawfish like a true Cajun… and like a lady at that.

by Caroline Marcello

Tradition runs deep in almost every aspect of southern living. Generations learn from previous generations. Things like recipes, stories, and family heirlooms are passed down to keep traditions alive. Even though these things don’t cost a lot, the sentimentality behind them make them priceless.

One common item passed down from earlier generations is jewelry. Briana Berthelot, the 22-year-old daughter of Vickie Berthelot, wears three rings every single day. Each ring is passed down from a different generation, one from her great-grandmother, one from her grandmother, and one from her mother. Even though each ring is from a different decade, the styles are cohesive but distinctly different.

Jeanne Gianelloni wears a ring that has been passed down four generations. The ring was given to her by her aunt, who had two boys. “It is a beautiful ring and I always admired it when my aunt wore it. I never thought that she would give it to me, but when she did I cried,” said Gianelloni. Even with it being over 100 years old, the ring is still in great condition.

Sydney Rutter also has many pieces of jewelry from her mother. Sydney said, “The pieces I have are necessarily very old but they all hold meaning to me and my mom. One she bought while traveling abroad during college, and another was given to her by my father.”

No matter if the ring is 100 years old or 10 years old the story behind them can be just as significant.

Women in South Louisiana hold tradition and family close to their hearts. If you ask most women they prefer something old rather than something new. These pieces of jewelry hold stories that can be passed down from generation to generation, and they are timeless and classic.


Jewelry Trends Through the Years

1920s

The 20s was best known for their Art Deco style jewelry. During this period, the common trends were geometric pendants, pearls and diamonds.

This Kappa Sigma Fraternity pin from Derwood Fulton, a 1928 initiate of the Beta chapter was handed down to his great nephew Tatum Gehbauer. After Fulton’s passing, his niece Barbra Joe Fulton found the pin and gave it to Tatum.

Tatum is a current member of Kappa Sigma on Nicholls campus and says his great uncle’s pin is his most prized possession.

1940s

This decade was dominated by glamour and diamonds. White and yellow gold, colorful stones and pearls, were also the signatures of the time.

This ornate necklace was given to Sydni Facheaux after her grandmother passed away. This beautiful peice reminds Sydni how her grandmother influenced her own style. “She was always a original person with her style and I think that is something that was passed down to me too,” says Sydni.

1970s

Darker colors stoned emerged in the 1970s and beaded jewelry became the next big thing. On the runways, large golden pieces were very popular.

This statement ring owned by Mallory Matherne is a perfect example of a 1970s cocktail ring. “I think it’s so funny how things come back in style. This was my mom’s ring from the 70s and I get asked all the time where I bought it,” said Mallory.

2000s

The past influences the trends of fashion in the present. Most jewelry seen today can be classified as a blend of new and old. Just like this engagement ring from 2014.

Designed special for Katie Callahan, the center diamond was from her grandmother. It was taken and redesigned to create this beautiful and modern engagement ring.