175th Anniversary of Apparition part of nine-day celebration
By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
SULPHUR — Our Lady of LaSalette Catholic Church will celebrate a trio of special occasions Sept. 18-26 as it marks the Diamond Jubilee of its parish, the Sacerdotal Diamond Jubilee of Rev. Lawrence Kohler, M.S.; and the 175th anniversary of Our Lady’s Apparition at LaSalette in France.
The theme for the nine-day celebration is “Our Lady of LaSalette Church: 60 Years of Grace.” Highlights will include a nine-day novena of Masses, guest celebrants and homilists, Eucharistic and Marian processions, and a three-night parish mission preached by The Most Reverend Eduardo Alanis Nevares, Auxiliary Bishop for Diocese of Phoenix. Each day of events will take place at the church, 602 N. Claiborne Street.
Father Andrews Kollannoor, M.S., pastor of Our Lady of LaSalette, said it is important for people to gather as a parish to give thanks to God for 60 years of grace.
“In spite of going through a pandemic and natural calamities, the Diamond Jubilee is a time to revitalize our faith and community to bring us hope and help us to live a life in charity,” he said.
The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, Bishop of Lake Charles, will be the main celebrant at the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Sept. 19, followed by a Marian procession to the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette near the church’s prayer garden. It was on Sept. 19, 1846, when the apparition of the Blessed Mother to two children originally took place in LaSalette, France.
Because of Father Kollannoor’s great love for Our Lady, he directed parishioners to build an exact replica of the LaSalette Shrine. Construction began in 2016 with 250 loads of dirt brought in to replicate the Holy Mountain on which Our Lady of LaSalette appeared. Seven life-size Carrara marble statues, donated by Missionaries of LaSalette, were installed. The solemn blessing and dedication took place on Sept. 22, 2018, with Bishop Provost and Father Rene Butler, M.S., Provincial Superior, Missionaries of LaSalette, Mary, Mother of the Americas Province.
“It is important to remind people of Our Lady’s message to come closer to her Son and be converted to His heart of mercy and spread joy and peace to the people around us,” said Father Kollannoor.
Our Lady of LaSalette Parish, which today numbers some 600 families, began as a mission of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish in Sulphur. Property on North Claiborne was purchased in 1957 and a church was built and dedicated on Oct. 19, 1958. Within three years, the mission was elevated to an independent parish, and on Sept. 17, 1961, Father Leo J. Martel, M.S., was installed as the first pastor.
The parish would eventually bear fruit of one of its own members when Matthew Cormier was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Provost on June 7, 2014. Father Cormier, the only member of Our Lady of LaSalette Parish to be ordained and who now serves as a Dean in the Diocese, will be the celebrant of the 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Sept. 26, to honor the parish’s 60th anniversary.
In 1980, Father Joseph Decoteau, M.S., was installed as pastor and remained the longest standing pastor until his retirement in 2000. He served as a mentor to Cormier. During Father Decoteau’s leadership, many improvements were made, including a new front door to the church, library, pavilion, and adoration chapel.
The vibrant spiritual life of the parish has been evident in many ways over the years, but especially with the devotion of perpetual adoration. The conference room by the rectory was remodeled into a chapel and was blessed and opened for adoration on May 31, 1992.
“The parishioners are deeply devoted to the Blessed Sacrament,” said Father Kollannoor, “having almost 30 years of uninterrupted perpetual adoration here.”
Also in 1992, a generous donation to the parish made it possible to construct a prayer garden to include walking paths, Stations of the Cross for personal meditation, and a gazebo for relaxation and prayer.
In 2008, one of the biggest expansion projects of the parish — at a cost of $526,000 — occurred by adding 3,200 square feet to the church, including a new high altar. The project was contracted and completed by Ave Maria Construction Company in Sulphur. Bishop Provost rededicated the church and blessed the new altar.
It is not uncommon for generations of families to share their faith together at Our Lady of LaSalette. Whether it is participating in church bazaars, Live Nativity and illumination at Christmastime, or a re-enactment of the Apparition of Our Lady at LaSalette, there is one thing that remains constant: a true spirit of community.
Never was that unity felt more than on Dec. 15, 2012, after a man with a sledgehammer vandalized the church and adoration chapel destroying the front door and many statues. When news of the destruction spread, an outpouring of parishioners gathered to pick up remnants of the statues and prepare the sacred space for Mass to be celebrated later that day. Over the next several months, the Crucifix and Sacred Heart statue were restored to their former beauty.
The fellowship of the parish is also carried out in many organizations, the Altar Society being the oldest having been formed in 1955 when the area was still a mission of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish. Other ministries include Knights of Columbus Father Shahrigian Council 8978, Legion of Mary, Catholic Youth Organization, Samaritan Ministry, Kaycee Council Auxiliary, LaSalette Laity, A.C.T.S., and the Prayer Blanket and Bereavement ministries. To further the fellowship, a Day of Ministry Appreciation is celebrated annually.
Our Lady of LaSalette Parish continues to thrive and spread the Blessed Mother’s message of reconciliation as it has over the past 60 years. All are welcome to be a part of the Diamond Jubilee celebration.
Father Lawrence Kohler, M.S.
Father Lawrence Kohler, M.S., who served as pastor of Our Lady of LaSalette from 2000 to 2006, will be honored Sept. 23-24 for his 60th ordination to the priesthood of the Missionaries of LaSalette. Father Kohler was ordained on Sept. 24, 1961, in Rome. He taught in the seminary in Jefferson City, Mo., and preached missions and retreats throughout the United States for many years. Father Kohler retired in June 2005 and accepted residence at Our Lady of LaSalette.
Schedule of Events: Sept. 18-26
- Saturday, Sept. 18: Mass, 4:30 p.m., Very Reverend Edward Richard, M.S., V.F., celebrant; theme is LaSalette: A Call to Grace and Holiness
- Sunday, Sept. 19: Mass, 10:30 a.m., The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, D.D., M.A., Bishop of Lake Charles, celebrant; Marian Procession to top of Shrine following Mass; theme is LaSalette: 175 Years of Grace
- Monday – Wednesday, Sept. 20-22: Parish Mission, 6 p.m. Mass, followed by presentation at 7 p.m. by The Most Reverend Eduardo Alanis Nevares, Auxiliary Bishop for Diocese of Phoenix; theme: Encountering God with the Message of Mary at LaSalette
- Thursday, Sept. 23: Mass, 6 p.m., Reverend Luke Krzanowski, M.S., celebrant; and Reverend Monsignor Dr. Arthur B. Calkins, homilist; theme is LaSalette: A Call to be a Reconciled Reconciler
- Friday, Sept. 24: Mass, 6 p.m., Reverend Timothy Goodly, celebrant; Reverend Bino Francis, M.S., homilist; theme is LaSalette: A Call to Endurance in Suffering
- Saturday, Sept. 25: Mass, 4:30 p.m., Very Reverend Ruben Buller, V.G., celebrant; Eucharistic Procession to top of Shrine following Mass; theme is LaSalette: A Call to be Messengers of Good News
- Sunday, Sept. 26: Mass, 10:30 a.m., Very Reverend Matthew Cormier, V.F., celebrant; theme is In Thanksgiving for Our Lady of LaSalette: 60 Years of Grace
Note: Thirty minutes before Mass each day, there will be: Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Adoration, Novena Prayers, and Benediction. Confessions will also be heard with the exception of Sept. 20-21.