Let me tell you a little bit about Father Marc Noel, pastor of Holy Cross Catholic Church here.
He is of French Canadian ancestry and grew up in a small town in western Canada. His parishioners at Holy Cross are blessed to have him with us in Natchitoches.
He is a good man and a good priest. You can usually find a smile on his face and he exudes a cheerful, compassionate Christianity. I love his homilies. He always starts off with an attention-grabbing anecdote and goes on to provide wonderful lessons, almost always taken from the scriptures, on how to live life on earth in order to obtain salvation in the next.
I know there are lots of priests, ministers and rabbis with similar fine attributes as those of Father Marc. But my pastor has something that they don’t have — the coolest, fastest priest’s car in Louisiana.
The auto in question is a 1972 Dodge Charger. And it’s not just any Charger, although any vehicle of that model and vintage would be cool wheels. Being a DIY man, Father Marc has modified it, tweaked it, embellished it and souped it up. He has replaced the original 318 cubic inch engine with a 5.9 liter Magnum crate powerplant. He estimates that it now produces something over 400 horsepower.
He has installed fuel injection, a Hurst shifter, fat tires — the list could go on and on. “It’s a work in progress,” he says, just like human beings are works in progress.
“When I was a kid I always liked cool cars. I liked the 1955-57 Chevrolets and later the 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda.” So, 22 years ago, when he was a seminarian at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, he was offered the car by a generous family from Alexandria, he gratefully accepted. The Charger was right up his alley.
But he has had some adventures in the car. Years ago, he drove it to Pensacola to visit a friend who was also a priest and to attend a religious conference. Taking a lunch break from the conference one day, Father Marc was driving the Charger when his friend noticed smoke coming from under the dashboard.
“Then, boom, the car died,” he said. “Here I was in Pensacola. How was I going to get my car fixed, how was I going to get home?” Then he remembered a Bible verse that enjoins us to be grateful to the Lord, even in times of adversity. “So I said, thank you Jesus.”
It turns out that the part that broke was in warranty and the supplier said they would send him the part to Pensacola. “So, thank you Jesus,” I said again.
On the way back home, it began to rain. It began to rain very hard. And the Charger began hydroplaning on the interstate. It left the road and went into a ditch but Father Marc managed to maintain control and safely reentered the highway. “Another thank you, Jesus.” he said.
These days, he takes his pride and joy out for a spin about once a month, to keep it in good running order. (His every day driver is a truck.)
Some of the quotes in this column are taken from a homily that he gave at a youth conference last year and is available on YouTube. But Father Marc and I have discussed his car several times, a subject he is always glad to engage in.
And he even said he may take me for a ride sometime. I’d like to reciprocate and give him a lift in my 1939 Chrysler Imperial. Father Marc and me. Two lucky car guys.