Diocese of Lake Charles
St. Francis de Sales lived his life doing seemingly ordinary things in extraordinary ways. This was the means of his sainthood.
In this very same spirit, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will establish St. Francis de Sales Oratory in the Diocese of Lake Charles.
At the invitation of The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, the Institute will establish the oratory in Sulphur, breathing new life into a building that has its roots in Catholicism.
The former site of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church, which was repurposed in 1985 as the Sulphur Judicial Center, will soon be home for the Traditional Latin Mass celebrated by priests of the Institute. Dedicated to offering the Extraordinary Form of the Holy Mass, the Institute offers the opportunity for faithful Catholics to also receive the full range of sacraments in this same Form.
“This is very exciting for us,” said the Rev. Canon Matthew Talarico, provincial superior of the U.S. Province of the Institute in Chicago, “as this will be the first apostolate in the South.”
The Institute has 120 priests worldwide, with another dozen expected to be ordained in the summer of 2020. Currently, they are active in 12 countries and 17 dioceses across the United States. The Diocese of Lake Charles will be the first in Louisiana since their establishment in the U.S. in 1996.
Familiar with the charism of the Institute, “Bishop Provost found it to be a great compliment to the spiritual landscape of the diocese,” said Canon Talarico. “I know he appreciates St. Francis de Sales and the Salesian spirituality.”
This won’t be the first time, however, for Southwest Louisiana to have a church named in honor of the saint widely known for his book, “Introduction to the Devout Life.” Before Immaculate Conception became a church parish, its origin was a mission in 1858 under the name of St. Francis de Sales.
Canon Talarico explained, “Bishop Provost wanted to revive a name that existed for the first Catholic church in Lake Charles. Naming the oratory after St. Francis de Sales goes along very well with our patron saint of the Institute and our spirituality.”
As the Catholic community grew in those early 20th century years, it was during the administration of Monsignor Hubert Cramers, pastor of Immaculate Conception, that the first Catholic church in Sulphur was built in 1907. It served as a mission chapel of Immaculate Conception. Monsignor Cramers laid the first foundation stone, and for more than 10 years, the all-wood structure would be the center of Catholic life in Sulphur on the corner of Huntington and Logan (Cypress) streets.
The Most Rev. Jules B. Jeanmard, first Bishop of Lafayette, elevated the church from its mission status and established the parish of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on June 29, 1919. The Rev. Joseph LeBerre was appointed the first pastor.
The LaSalette Missionaries were entrusted with the parish a few years later in 1921. A second structure was built in 1922 and blessed by Bishop Jeanmard in October of 1924. It is that building which stands today as the Sulphur Judicial Center on the site of the first church.
Emphasizing the historical significance, the provincial superior said, “Canonically, it is a way to put this building back into use again for the good of the people of the Diocese of Lake Charles. This is an innovative way to give a future to what was once home to Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church and fill a spiritual need so people can experience another type of spirituality that will be well received.”
The closing date on the sale of the property is planned for mid-January after which time repairs and renovations will begin to transform the Sulphur courthouse back to a church.
“A solution for the building and the spiritual needs of the people can come together,” said Canon Talarico. “When we come to a diocese, the bishop will give us the canonical status of an oratory. We are not a parish but an oratory, like a supplement to one’s spiritual life. That’s what Bishop Provost has in mind for our apostolate in Sulphur.”
Established canonically in 1990 by Monsignor Gilles Wach and Canon Philippe Mora in Gabon, Africa, the Institute’s stated mission is “the honor of God and the sanctification of priests in the service of Church and souls.”
The idea for establishing the Institute of Christ the King was born from an interest by more and more young men who wanted a traditional Catholic formation to the priesthood. Since its foundation, it has been inspired from the writings and examples of a trinity of patron saints — St. Benedict, St. Thomas Aquinas, and especially St. Francis de Sales.
Canon Talarico said the priests are trained in spiritual direction that models St. Francis de Sales who wrote a lot about spiritual direction. “Priests of the Institute are always trying to bring people full circle to the altar through instruction, spiritual direction, planting seeds of faith, and teaching them how they can be holy and happy Catholics in their homes and families,” he continued.
The Institute puts great emphasis on charity toward God and neighbor. “… ultimately there’s peace and joy that comes from charity that nothing else in this world can give,” Canon Talarico said.
The provincial superior noted that priests ordained to the Institute of Christ the King are referred to as Canon to signify a particular lifestyle.
“Our priestly life is halfway between that of diocesan priests and that of religious clergy like monks. We have community prayer like religious, but then we also have the apostolic pastoral duties similar to that of parish priests,” said Canon Talarico. To assist priests in their apostolic work, the Institute also has clerical oblates in addition to a community of religious sisters called the Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus.
The Institute is based nationally in Chicago and internationally in Gricigliano in Tuscany, Italy, the Archdiocese of Florence. Priests receive their seven-year formation at St. Philip Neri Seminary, located about 170 miles from the Vatican. The main center for the one-year pre-seminary program for U.S. candidates operates from the St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis, Mo., while some young men receive training at other apostolates throughout the United States.
For more information on Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, visit www.institute-christ-king.org.