Diocese of Lake Charles
SULPHUR — History came full circle on Palm Sunday weekend as the inaugural Solemn High Mass was celebrated at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in the same building that once served as the first Catholic Church in Sulphur nearly 100 years ago. The apostolate — the only one in the South for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest — is now home for the traditional Latin Mass in the Diocese of Lake Charles.
The 9:30 a.m. ceremony on Saturday, March 27, began with the “Rite of the Blessing of a Church” by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles. It was at the invitation of Bishop Provost that the Institute established the oratory, breathing new life into the original location for Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church. The structure recently served as the Sulphur Judicial Center since the mid 1980s.
“It is an anomaly to repossess an old church which was once transformed into a courthouse and make it a church once again,” His Excellency remarked during the homily. “What was once the site of many a baptism, wedding, and funeral will resonate with the sounds of prayer and sacred song and the most solemn of our rites, that of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
This isn’t the first time 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 in Lake Charles became a church parish, its origin was a mission in 1858 under the name of St. Francis de Sales. Bishop Provost wanted to revive a name that existed in the area’s early church history.
Joined by clergy, seminarians, and the faithful, Bishop Provost blessed the exterior and interior of the oratory. Beginning with the front doors, he walked around the perimeter of the church sprinkling the walls with holy water. As the procession made its way into the church, the choir began the Litany of the Saints. The bishop then sprinkled the interior walls with holy water, followed by the sprinkling of the altar, and then down the main aisle to the front doors of the church.
After the solemn blessing, the votive Mass for St. Francis de Sales, patron of the oratory, was celebrated in the traditional Latin Rite by the Very Reverend Canon Matthew Talarico, Provincial Superior of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The beauty of the Mass was enhanced by a choir made up of seven members from the Notre Dame Seminary Schola Cantorum, led by Mr. Max C. Tenney, the seminary’s Director of Sacred Music.
The oratory’s opening, originally scheduled for the fall of 2020, was pushed back several months after Hurricane Laura interrupted major renovations already in progress. The church suffered extensive damage to its roof.
Canon Talarico said he was “deeply saddened” to see firsthand the hurricane destruction last September.
“Our Institute was new here to Louisiana and seeing the church damaged and how much work would need to be done, I was wondering how we could overcome such unknown challenges,” he said. “However, over these past months, I am very impressed and very edified to see the courageous resiliency and the hardworking neighborly spirit of Louisiana. The Institute is privileged to serve here and be part of the legacy of restoring a historic edifice in the heart of Sulphur.”
Bishop Provost extended his expressions of gratitude to Reverend Canon Jean Marie Moreau, Rector of the Oratory. Canon Moreau has been overseeing the restoration since early 2020 while assisting with Extraordinary Form Masses in the Latin Rite at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Lake Charles and Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Sulphur.
Special guests for the inaugural Mass included Princess Maria-Anna Galitzine and her husband Prince Piotr Galitzine. The princess is the granddaughter of Blessed Karl, the Emperor of Austria. Also in attendance were Sulphur Mayor Mike Danahay and his wife Daphne, and Marcus Trahan, of Redmarque Construction in Sulphur. Trahan is the general contractor for the restoration project of the historic church.
The Very Rev. Rommel Tolentino and Rev. Sam Bond served as assistants to the Bishop, and Abbé Alex Barga, a clerical oblate for the Institute, was the Episcopal Master of Ceremonies. Among clergy from the Diocese of Lake Charles were the Very Rev. Ruben J. Buller, V.G.; Very Rev. Edward Richard, M.S, V.F.; Rev. D.B. Thompson, Rev. Michael Caraway, Rev. Monsignor Arthur Caulkins, Rev. Luke Krzanowski, M.S.; and Deacon Brian Kirk. The Rev. Damian Zablocki from the Archdiocese of New Orleans was also in attendance as well as seminarians from Notre Dame Seminary.
Immediately following the solemn Mass, Bishop Provost blessed two palm trees and a plumeria tree that were planted on the property to mark the momentous occasion of the Oratory’s opening.
“The trees serve as a sign of recovery for the church and symbolize new life,” Canon Moreau explained. “According to scripture, the just flourish like the trees; a symbol of life ever growing. Those trees will be remembered as being planted and blessed on the day of the inauguration.”
A reception in Father Vecchio Hall at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish followed the Mass.
St. Francis de Sales Oratory is located at 802 South Huntington Street in Sulphur. For a complete Mass schedule, visit www.Institute-Christ-King.org/sulphur-home