History of Holy Family
Lawtell is a small rural community 7 miles west of Opelousas, on Highway 190. This was a center of a thickly - settled tenant farming area. A sizable number of the population in this area were African Americans Catholics who were members of St Bridget Church which was predominantly white church.
In 1953, a brick-veneered mission church was built across the railroad tracks on US 190. In the spring of the same year, Fr. Austin Chachere, a priest of Lafayette Diocese was made the first pastor of the newly established parish of Holy Family for the African Americans. In addition, Holy Family also had a mission church, St. Agnes.
In June, 1954, Bishop Jeanmard invited the Josephites to take care of the parish and on September 1, 1954, Fr. Adam Bellard, SSJ., was appointed as the first pastor of the Josephites. The church then was unfinished but they were able to celebrate Mass in a small hall, which was a mission chapel in Tyrone, Louisiana and had been moved to Holy Family.
The present church was originally built as a gym/hall in 1956. It was meant to be a temporary place for worship and to serve as a place to gather as community and have fundraisers for the future building of the church. Because of the lack of money and resources to build a new church the gym, a temporary worshiping place, was remodeled into a church with terazzo floor, pews etc.
In 1964, a joint religious education program with St. Ann, Mallet was begun. Due to the closing of the school at St. Ann, Mallet, a building was constructed for the purpose of teaching religion (CCD) across from the Lawtell Public school, on a property that was donated by Mrs. Elia Ledoux. The CCD program was conducted by the Blessed Sacrament sisters.
In 1972, Fr. John Barnett, SSJ was appointed as pastor of Holy Famoly. He undertook many repairs of the church and enlarged the parish hall. Most notable development was the erection of a steeple on the church. The Josephites continued to work until July 1982, when the Missionaries of Most Holy Trinity took over the responsibility of the parishes in Lawtell and Mallet. After 13 years of service the Trinitarians left the parishes and Fr. Andrew John, a diocesan priest of Lafayette was given the responsibility of the Parish in 1995.
Fr. Andrew continued his work as a pastor until the arrival of Claritian Missionaries in 1999. Fr. Wenceslaus Madu was the first Claretian missionary appointed as pastor, though his stay was short- lived. Then Fr. Dennis Osuagwu was made pastor in October, 1999. Fr. Dennis with his able leadership and total cooperation from the parishioners carried out lots of renovation works in and around the Church. Holy Family was sad to bid farewell to Fr. Dennis and to the Claritian Missionaries in January 2011, for he had become part of this large family. Fr. Rusty Richard, a diocesan priest was appointed as an administrator until June, 2011. In July, 2011, the parish was again given to the care of another Religious order, the SVD, popularly known as the Divine Word Missionaries. Fr. Susaimanickam Justin Arockiasamy SVD, served as the pastor of Holy Family Parish the next four years. Presently we have Rev. Borgia Aubespin, SVD who is a native of the area (Leonville, which is also part of St. Landry Parish) and a seasoned pastor of fifty years.
From a no place of worship of their own to a mission church and to a make-shift church (gym) and now to a beautiful Church we have come a long way not only in our social journey but also in spiritual journey. Today Holy Family is proud to have teachers, nurses, lawyers, Doctors and a person dedicated to serving God and his people, Fr. Jude Thierry, a priest in the diocese of Lafayette.
No doubt, it was people's faith in God that brought Holy Family thus far and it is the same faith in Him that will take us a long way.
History of St. Ann
The History of St Ann goes back at least to the 1850's if not earlier. In November 1856, a tract of land was donated by Jean Gallot and his wife Francoise Gallot "for the sole purpose of maintaining thereon a chapel for the uplifting and religious education of the few hundred colored people living there at the time." Another donation of piece of Land was made by Everest Guillory on June, 1873.
The diocesan records mention a church in Mallet n 1876, but it was not until 1884 or 1885 that a church in the name of St. Joseph was specifically mentioned by a Fr. Blaise Brache. Only in 1917, the chapel in Mallet became identified as St. Ann for the first time. Building a church in this site for the faith community of St. Ann remained more a wish than a reality until 1930.
St. Ann was a mission of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Chataignier and was served by the diocesan priest until 1950 when the church was turned over the care of Josephites. In 1951 St. Ann had its first parish priest, Fr. John J. Barnett, who immersed himself in the business of the church and built the new church and rectory in his first year. On the feast of the solemnity of St. Joseph, in 1951, Bishop Jeanmard, dedicated the new St. Ann Church. The Josephites shepherded St. Ann until July, 1982, when the missionary servants of the Most Holy Trinity took over the responsibility of the parish. Fr. John Ford was the first Trinitarian Priest to be appointed as the pastor of St. Ann. In June 1995, the Trinitarians were bid farewell and the parish was reverted to the diocese of Lafayette and a diocesan priest, Fr. Andrew John was appointed as pastor.
Fr. Andrew continued his assignment until the arrival of Claritian Missionaries in 1999. Fr. Wenceslaus Madu was the first Claretian missionary appointed as a pastor, though his stay was short- lived. Then Fr. Dennis Osuagwu assumed the responsibility of a pastor in October, 1999. With his able leadership and total cooperation from the parishioners a new hall came to be reality and many other developmental works were carried out in and around the Church. St. Ann was very sad to see Fr. Dennis leave in January, 2011 for he had become part of this large family. Fr. Rusty Richard, a diocesan priest of Lafayette was appointed as an administrator until June, 2011. In July, 2011, the parish was again given to the care of another Religious Order, the SVD, popularly known as the Divine Word Missionaries. Fr. Susaimanickam Justin Arockiasamy SVD, served the pastor of St. Ann's Parish for the next four years. Presently we have Rev. Borgia Aubespin, SVD who is a native of the area (Leonville, which is also part of St. Landry Parish) and a seasoned pastor of fifty years.
The history will be incomplete with mentioning the personal and spiritual Growth. Our ancestors built this faith community by sharing, caring, working and praying together. Today we can proudly say that this community has produced teachers, lawyers, doctors, politicians, and priests and religious men and women. This family is proud to have given a Bishop- Bishop Curtis Guillory SVD, a priest- Fr. Gregory Semien of Lafayette diocese, a religious brother- Br. Kerry Guillory OFM and two religious sisters- Sr. Beva Bellow, SSF, and Sr. John Marie Semien.
St. Ann has come a long way by faith and will go a long way, of course, by faith.