Wednesday, May 14, 2014

history of st. rita's church

     Near the calm waters of Catahoula Lake, under the majestic oaks of its banks, the Indians were succeeded by the Acadians, a handful of courageous and religious people; despite their hard work in the Atchafalaya Basin, trapping, fishing, farming, they kept looking at the bright side of life and transmitted to their children their religious and cultural heritage.

     The first spiritual help in their isolation came to them from Saint Martin de Tours, under the pastorate of Fr. Joseph Peters, in the beginning of the 20s. Mass was celebrated in homes, in the public school, in the storage room of Aurelien Doucet's grocery. Aurelien and his wife gave a temporary place on his land to a very modest chapel, which was moved later on to the actual location of the church, when Mr. Gaston L. Rousseau, on October 18, 1927, donated a piece of property to St. Martin's Church. 

     A few more arpents were added by Mr. Joesph Dauphinet, Sr. and Isabelle Bourque, his wife, on May 31, 1948. This donation completed the shape of the triangle where stands today the Church of St. Rita. About the end of 1951 the worn-out chapel was replaced by the building, which became the Church of St. Rita, erected by Bishop Jeanmard on May 29, 1952.

     Father Marcel Dion was the first pastor. Appointed on May 31, 1952, he started by a busy week his administration: May 31, the marriage of Marcel Borel and Hazel Latiolais; June 6, the funeral of Bobby L. Latiolais, 7 year old son of Antoine Latiolais and Ursule Faucheaux; June 8, baptism of Wayne Pat Lasseigne. Fr. Dion built a rectory, placed on the Church ground a beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart; and very effectively he gave deep foundations to the good spirit of the community.

     When in 1961 Bishop Schexnayder transferred Fr. Dion to Lafayette, Fr. Frank Bussieres took his place, bringing his young energies to the service of Catahoula for ten fruitful years. When he left in 1971, the rectory was enlarged, the Madonna Hall was built, the Mausoleum and Cemetery were organized, and land had been purchased for an eventual religion teaching center.

     The passage of the third leader of St. Rita, Fr. John Spekschate, was short but remarkable: the interior of the rectory and church was remodeled, a parking lot was prepared, and the Legion of Mary was established. Sickness prevented him to realize the beautiful dreams he had in store for his parish. In June 1974, he had to retire to his beloved Holland, and the community was without a residing priest for about 6 months, until on December 14, 1974, Fr. Columban Lesquivit was installed as the fourth pastor of St. Rita.
     May God continue to direct the growth of Catahoula and to keep in the heart of the people faith in Christ and His Gospel, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Virgin Mary and obedience to the Church!

~ Fr. Columban