A new Liberty County Historical Commission marker that recognizes the history and significance of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 3730 FM 160 N in Raywood, was unveiled in a ceremony Saturday, October 8, attended by dozens of church members and local historians. .
The history of the church dates back to 1935 when the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart constructed its first building. Originally a mission of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Ames, the church was built with a $3,000 donation from Mrs. Katherine Fitzpatrick of Philadelphia, who also requested that the church be named Sacred Heart.
The church’s history was read aloud at the marker’s dedication by church member Leo Sterling Jr.
“In the late 1880s, economic life in Louisiana offered few opportunities for African Americans. Most lived and worked on farms, worked as tenants, laborers or other unskilled services, and were not landlords. With deteriorating social and economic conditions in Louisiana, many of these residents turned to Texas and better opportunities. The first pioneers settled in the Raywood area in the 1890s and began to migrate to the Liberty County area. The settlers brought their unique Creole heritage and deep affection for the Catholic faith. These Creoles shared a strong commitment to family, church and country. They took their faith seriously and it was a priority in their lives,” Sterling read.
Since there was no church in Raywood, these families had to travel to Liberty to attend mass, often over muddy roads and in bad weather. In 1910, a church was built in Ames, administered by the Josephite priests of Houston. The Raywood settlers were determined to serve the Lord in their own community and dreamed of the day when they would have their own sanctuary, Sterling continued.
In 1934 Raywood was recognized as a growing community and 52 families attended the church. Fitzpatrick’s $3,000 donation, which is about $60,000 in today’s dollars, was the seed capital the first church needed. Expansion projects later added a cemetery, parish hall, family life center and rectory that were only made possible by the generosity of many Catholic families.
In 1955, the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart had 505 members and the mission was elevated to independent status, thus removing it as a mission from Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Ames. By 1977, when a larger church and parish hall were added, church members had raised enough money to cover the full cost.
Since 1997, the Missionaries of Saint Paul of Nigeria have been pastors of the church. Sacred Heart is today the center of culture and civic engagement in the Raywood area.
Closing the ceremony, Father Emanuel Mbam, originally from Nigeria, blessed the historic marker after its unveiling, then took a moment to share his vision for America as the country faces an important election. mid-term in November.
“In every democracy there is always conflict and opposition, but always remember that outside of this place people don’t know about Democrats and Republicans. What they know is the United States of America, so whatever you do to keep this country great, please transcend political affiliation and do your best. Outside of here, a lot of people look up to the United States. Of course, it’s not perfect, but I haven’t seen a perfect country either,” Mbam said.
“As the elections approach, we are praying. In many places, election time is a violent time. Yes, you have your own conflicts here, but you don’t kill each other. So no matter how bad you think it is, always remember that you are very blessed,” he said.