LULING, Louisiana — Alligators are a dime a dozen in south Louisiana, but Father Stephen Dardis, pastor of Holy Family Church in Luling, said he was dutifully impressed by the ambitious journey of a 7-foot gator that ended within a few feet of the front steps of the church.

“We have a canal literally right off the parking lot, and I’ve been seeing larger gators over the last few weeks further south on that canal,” Dardis said. “Definitely, in the Luling area, gators are kind of a thing. It’s not uncommon down here.”

Parishioner Arthur Bosworth, who helps out with gardening and landscaping at the parish, first spotted the gator.

“He saw it first near the church doors and then it made its way onto the lawn,” Father Dardis told The Clarion Herald, newspaper of the New Orleans Archdiocese. “Not everybody here is an expert, so we called the police department and they referred us to the wildlife (authorities).”

It took about 30 minutes for the wildlife personnel to respond and lasso the gator without incident.

“They said they were going to bring it to a happy place where there’s lot of animals of its own kind and in a natural habitat,” Father Dardis said.

Dardis grew up in uptown New Orleans — about 25 miles east of Luling — so “we didn’t see those kinds of things. But it’s pretty common here for somebody here to have a snake or a gator. I’ve ridden my bike on a bike path along that canal, and I’ve seen four or five in the last three weeks. They’re getting kind of big, so somebody’s feeding them!”

The parish had some fun with the gator’s timing. On June 5-6 — the feast of Corpus Christi — the Archdiocese of New Orleans will restore the obligation for Catholics to attend Mass.

The parish’s Facebook page read: “Even the alligators are coming back to church! All are welcome!”

Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.