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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.

The solemn blessing of St. Francis de Sales Oratory in Sulphur
was held on Saturday, March 27. The Oratory, still undergoing
restoration, was once the site of the original Our Lady of Prompt
Succor Catholic Church, and in more recent years put into use
as the Sulphur city courthouse.
(Photo by Morris LeBleu / Diocese of Lake Charles)

“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.

Bishop Glen John Provost is assisted by Canons
Jean Marie Moreau and Matthew Talarico — priests
for the Institute of Christ the King Soverign Priest — 
as he blesses the Institute's new apostolate,
St. Francis de Sales Oratory in Sulphur.
(Photo by Morris LeBleu / Diocese of Lake Charles)

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 Matthew Talarico, second from left, Provincial Superior
for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, celebrates
the inaugural Solemn High Mass at St. Francis de Sales Oratory
in Sulphur. Canon Jean Marie Moreau, second from right,
has been named Rector of the Oratory.
(Photo by Morris LeBleu / Diocese of Lake Charles)

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.

The painting above the altar in St. Francis de Sales
Oratory is on loan from Sacred Heart of Jesus
Catholic Church in Creole, one of several coastal
churches destroyed by Hurricane Laura. A reredos
is being designed for placement behind the oratory's
altar to include niches for several religious statues.
(Photo by Morris LeBleu / Diocese of Lake Charles)

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. 

Bishop Glen John Provost is joined by clergy and seminarians
in a procession ahead of the blessing ritual for St. Francis de
Sales Oratory, an apostolate for Institute of Christ the King
Sovereign Priest. Bishop Provost blessed the exterior and
interior walls of the church in addition to the doorways
before the inaugural Solemn High Mass.
(Photo by Morris LeBleu / Diocese of Lake Charles)

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


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