BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An annual tradition of giving had even bigger meaning this year for Baton Rouge Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Muench.
It would be the final time the outgoing bishop delivered Christmas joy to hundreds of families in need. They waited patiently out in the cold for a special Christmas blessing that is gr anted each year by none other than the bishop himself.
"It's incredible," Muench said.
Muench, who has been in Santa's seat, at St. Vincent de Paul for some 15 years recently announced he plans to retire. But not before unloading a sleigh of Christmas joy to local families one last time. Each child is greeted with a smile and a bag of toys, of course, but the real gift he said is the message it sends.
"We must be grateful to our God and our community," Muench said.
The smiles on the children's faces are the volunteers' biggest reward. They get to watch a lot of the young ones grow up and appreciate their generosity and service.
"It's wonderful. It's charity and I think they are doing a good thing," Shaylyan Chapman said.
"I like to be here because it's family up in here," Diamond Barton said.
Michael Acaldo with St. Vincent de Paul said more than 700 families received gifts this year. That's more than 200 from last year. The numbers show the need has gotten greater, but he said, the donations have too.
"It's all about the children. It's about giving and sharing a wonderful spirit with them. The spirit of compassion, giving and it is just so wonderful,"
"God is really going to bless them for sharing that love like that with the children," Trevtria Norman said.
As for Muench handing over the reins next year, that is going to be tough. The next man to wear jolly Old St. Nick's hat is going to have some big boots to fill.
"I will not upstage the next bishop but whoever the next bishop is, when he is named and installed, anyway he needs me. I could give him a few pointers, you know," Muench said.
The bishop, who turns 75 this month, said he plans to continue living in Baton Rouge after he retires.