Bishop Provost blesses refurbished church, parish hall in Ragley
By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles
RAGLEY — On August 4, 1903, Pope Pius X devoted his papacy to Instaurare Omnia in Christo, “Restore all things in Christ.” That motto was on full display 120 years later at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in the Diocese of Lake Charles as Bishop Glen John Provost blessed the newly refurbished church and parish hall on August 20, 2023.
“Our goal at Saint Pius X is to give everyone an encounter with Christ through beauty,” said Rev. Jeffrey Starkovich, Pastor of Saint Pius X in Beauregard Parish since July 1, 2018. “We believe a beautiful liturgy, expressed in a beautiful faith, creates beautiful family and community. We want to put Christ first in all we do.”
The sprinkling of holy water on the walls of the church, in the sanctuary, and among the congregation occurred at the 11:00 Mass on the eve of the Feast Day of Pope Saint Pius X. It was three years that Hurricane Laura devastated Saint Pius X church and parish hall on August 27, 2020.
“It’s been a long three years, but we give thanks to God for the many blessings that we share together,” said Father Starkovich.
Hurricane Laura caused significant damage to the campus of Saint Pius X. According to Starkovich, the classroom building was destroyed, and the church was gutted to the studs, as was the church hall.
“We also suffered effects from the floods and Winter Storm Uri. Then, we had a tornado in January 2023 that damaged the roofs and bricks of the hall and the church,” he said. “We are still working to recover from the tornado, and we have a long way to go on exterior work.”
Rev. Starkovich, a priest now for 12 years, has seen firsthand what people can achieve when they are willing to sacrifice for God and one another.
“I am reminded of the Elter and Forst girls. I sent a text to the parish that I would have Mass on Sunday, August 30, 2020, for anyone still in Ragley,” he recalled. “Alaina Elter, Blake Elter, and Isla Forst wanted to ‘put on their Sunday best for Jesus’ after the storm, so they put on dresses and came to Mass.”
Despite water everywhere, damaged sheetrock, and no air-conditioning, Father Starkovich offered Mass while the storm-wearied faithful prayed.
When parishioners were not at Mass or cleaning up at their homes, they were in the church parking lot handing out supplies, hot meals, water and ice. Supplies distributed totaled 200,000 pounds because of the generosity of so many. That generosity has extended several years later.
The altar in the newly renovated church was donated by the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It had been used in Immaculate Conception Parish since the early 1970s after the Second Vatican Council but was replaced with a smaller altar during the Cathedral’s extensive restoration in 2019 to conserve space in the sanctuary.
“When Saint Pius X parishioners expressed a desire to rebuild their church, having been damaged during Hurricanes Laura and Delta, I offered the Altar of Sacrifice to the parish and the people of Saint Pius X,” said the Very Rev. Ruben Buller, Pastor of the Cathedral.
“Their dedication to the rebuilding and improving of their parish is admirable, and the Cathedral wanted to support them in any way possible as it has for other parishes throughout the Diocese,” Father Buller remarked.
The kindness shown to Saint Pius X shines a light on the importance of helping one another during times of struggle.
“I am personally edified that the Mother Parish of the Diocese of Lake Charles has been able to assist the youngest Parish of the Diocese of Lake Charles. This shows the continued growth and vitality of the Church!” said Father Buller.
Bishop Provost likened the faith of Saint Pius X parishioners to that of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28.
“The faith of the Canaanite woman was in the Lord. She persisted in asking God to heal her daughter,” the bishop said. “She was no wilting lily.”
Starkovich remarked how God brings goodness out of suffering, noting this is a challenge to keep in mind.
“Our people have suffered much. Many lost their homes and livelihoods in five natural disasters. Yet, they are generous, and I have seen God create bountiful love and faith,” he said.
Among those inspired by examples of great faith is Justin Fontenot, a second-year seminarian whose home parish is Saint Pius X.
“I am grateful that I am a part of this parish. To witness the ways the people of Saint Pius have grown from the multiple storms over the past three years, I have realized how the challenges have made the parish stronger,” he said, noting that Father Starkovich has been a great role model for him.
“Whenever I think of Father Jeff, I think of ‘all things for all men.’ That is what the priest is,” Justin shared. “There is no job that is beneath Father Jeff. He will do anything that needs doing, but the greatest thing he does is offer the Mass.”
Justin’s parents, Kevin and Michelle Fontenot of Moss Bluff, have been a part of Saint Pius X since it was a mission of Saint Theodore Catholic Church before being established as a Parish on August 21, 2014. Now, it is where they call home and where Justin discerned before entering the seminary.
“It was very overwhelming and humbling to be a part of the Mass and blessing,” said Michelle, who remembers the recovery progress taking a few steps backward earlier this year when a tornado struck down in Ragley on January 24.
“Hurricane repairs were completed in the church hall where Masses were being held temporarily. The next week, we were supposed to move back into the church following reconstruction, but each structure would require new roofs for a second time,” Michelle recalled.
While Saint Pius X Catholic Church has seen its share of hardships the past several years, Michelle credits its first two pastors with continued growth and energy of the thriving parish.
“Our first pastor, Father Tim Goodly, brought so much to our parish when it was first established, and now Father Starkovich has built on top of that and expanded our ministries. He has done so much for our parish, and people are responding in a positive way,” she remarked.
Father Starkovich sums up the perseverance and resiliency on the part of St. Pius X parishioners best.
“Whenever we focus on Christ, he will give us what we need. As we all continue in recovery, the more we focus on the presence of Christ, the more he leads us to the heavenly homeland.”
Visit the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lake Charles Facebook page to view more photographs from the Mass and Blessing.