November 1, 2009
Marvin Bordelon, native of Avoyelles Parish, who led a distinguished career as a priest, then left the priesthood in 1972 after his promising career that included recognition by a Pope and invitations to international events, died Sunday in the Washington, D.C. area. He was 83.
He was a theological writer and essayist. He also was a liberal thinker in a region then filled with conservatives, and was active in Civil Rights and other controversial issues during his ten years as a priest in Shreveport.
Bordelon, born in 1923 and ordained in 1948, served as a pastor in Monroe and Simmsport before serving as a editor and manager of the North Central Louisiana Register and as vice chancellor of the Alexandria Diocese before taking the helm of St. Joseph’s Church in Shreveport in 1958.
In 1962, he traveled to Africa on a fact-finding mission for the church and was promoted to Papal Chamberlain by Pope John XXIII. He also served as chaplain for the Shreveport-Bossier Catholic Physicians Guild.
As an essayist, Bordelon tried to explain the implications of the Vatican II Council that liberalized the Church, a council is which he was an active participant. He also was a co-author of an influential book, “The Parish in a Time of Change.”
He left Shreveport in 1967 to become executive secretary of the newly formed U.S. Bishops Secretariat on World Justice and Peace in Washington, D.C. and also was appointed by U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers as U.S. delegate to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO. Three years later, he became director of the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Department of International Affairs.
Bordelon also was one of a small number of people invited in 1971 to an unprecedented gala birthday party for the Shah of Iran. Bordelon refused the invitation, and returned it. He also became an outspoken and highly visible opponent of the Vietnam War.
But in 1972, he left the priesthood after gaining papal permission to become a lay person, remaining in good standing with the church while marrying but unable to administer sacraments.
He was born in 1924 in Avoyelles, the son of the late Russel and Mary Lillian Bordelon of Bordelonville. He was preceeded in death by a brother, Donald.
Among survivors is his brother, Rev. Roland Bordelon, former pastor of Mansura.
A memorial Mass for Marvin Bordelon will be said Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 at 3:30 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Catholic Church on Montrose Road in Rockville, Md. Bordelon donated his body to Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences Medical School in Maryland.