While many Catholic churches have only one or no choir, Holy Ghost & St. Richards have four choirs – one for each of its four weekend Masses. Worshippers at Holy Ghost & St. Richards are always blessed with dynamic and spiritual homilies as well as a range of music taste from gospel singing to professional renditions of the hymns you remember from yesteryear accompanied by today's most sophisticated organ.
Third and fourth generation parishioners at Holy Ghost are worshipping in the original 84-year-old wooden structure that served its founding members. Care has always been taken over the years to maintain the original design. Wood paneling and acoustical ceiling tiles that were installed in the ‘60’s have been removed to reveal its original beaded-ceiling walls and ceiling. Its original, uncomfortable, wooden pews have recently been replaced with the church’s third set of pews that now have padded seats, backs, and kneelers that match the new carpeted floor and altar. Today’s worshippers praise God in a comfortable climate-controlled atmosphere.
Parishioners at Holy Ghost Catholic Church & St. Richards Chapel are in an Ecumenical and participatory atmosphere; there is a place for everyone and everyone is provided an opportunity to share his/her gifts and talents: There is an active Pastoral Council and Finance Council for those who have time to share their leadership qualities; both male and female serve on the usher board; and, lectors and Eucharistic Ministers are made up of both genders and are represented by the young and the young-at-heart. The youth of the parish sing in one of the four choirs, serve as altar boys and girls, and they also participate in the CCD program. There are teaching positions, support staff positions as well as chaperone opportunities for those who like to work with children. The church and civic communities enjoy “Southern Cooking” at the spring and fall dinners that are held each year. Holy Ghost & St. Richards Chapel are noted for its pork and chicken dinner sales that are served with the usual trimmings. The plates are always served heavy and food is always lip-smacking good. The men of the parish are at their bar-b-que pits shortly after midnight to make sure the meat for the dinners is ready for the 11:00 a.m. -1:00 p.m. meal. When the early birds show up at 10:00 a.m., we are ready for them, too. Although the dinner sales are supposed to be and is a FUND raising event, everyone looks forward to them because it is so much FUN. Religious organizations such as the Christian Mothers, Knights of St. Peter Claver Council and Court provide additional avenues for people to serve God by serving our fellow man.
The annual church fair dates back to October of 1920 when great preparations were made for the first fair. Father Nolan and his parishioners worked very hard for the event. When at last the big day came for the fair there also came a torrent of rain. In spite of the heavy downpour of rain, the fair realized $300.00 which was a nice little sum in those days.
In his great zeal for souls, Father Nolan was able to reach out to a few of his parishioners who, as they expressed it, “Changed their Profession.” One such person was an old man of 60 years who was to make his Holy Communion. Father had him seated in the sanctuary during High Mass. It was an impressive sight to see Our Divine Lord being received by this old gentleman for so many years had drifted away from the Church.
During the first few years of his stay in Marksville, Father Nolan took residence with the priests at St. Joseph’s rectory. However, always desiring to get closer to his people, In August of 1921 the Provincial of Holy Ghost Fathers informed Father Nolan that he was to move on to another Mission. It was with deep regret that the people bade farewell to their first pastor for they really loved him.
Come! Worship with us at: Holy Ghost Catholic Church located at 121 S. Preston Street in Marksville, Louisiana or at St. Richard’s Chapel, located on St. Richards Loop in the Hickory Hill community, just north of Marksville. You will have a soulful experience.
Holy Ghost Catholic Church is located in the seat of government in Avoyelles Parish on South Preston Street in Marksville, Louisiana. This little wood framed church that provides a tranquil place of worship for its 286 families (approximately 500 members) according to the 2004 census, is unique in that its school – Holy Ghost Catholic School – (now defunct) founded by Sister/Mother Katherine Drexel of the order “Sisters of the Holy Family” was established before Holy Ghost Catholic Church. Our church motto is: “To Love God through Prayer and Service”.
It was in the year 1916 that the Reverend Nicholas Judermann, pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Marksville, started negotiating with the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross – Shreveport, Louisiana to staff a school for the black children of his parish. After consulting with Bishop Cornelius Van de Ven, Mother Theresa LeMeur and her community of Sisters accepted the invitation of Father Judermann and began preparations for the new school. The Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross donated the necessary land for the new facility on the southeast portion of their property and with funds received through generosity of Mother Katherine Drexel – foundress of the Blessed Sacrament Sisters – a new school was built and completely furnished in Marksville in agreement with the Bishop of Alexandria. The first classes were held in the fall of 1917 with full instructions given to the lower and upper elementary levels. Sister Placide Le Gall and Sister Ann of Jesus of the local Daughters of the Cross – Presentation Convent Community, were first to staff the new facility with close to one-hundred students enrolled from Marksville and the surrounding areas.
Young Katherine Drexel made headlines in 1889 - as a wealthy young woman at age 20 (1858-1955) - when she entered a convent and gave up the family banking fortune, then valued at $7 million. Rather than live a life of advantage, the Philadelphia-born heiress wanted to devote herself to the education of Native Americans and African-Americans.
Her stepmother, Emma Bouvier, was a definite influence on her life, both with respect to her piety and her love and concern for the poor. In her early twenties, Katherine began to think of a religious vocation. After the death of her father, she and her sister began to use their wealth to help others.
At first counseled to continue her philanthropic work outside religious life, Katherine, at a private audience with Pope Leo XIII in 1887, spoke of the need to have more priests work with the American Indians. The Pope’s response to her was: “Why not become a missionary yourself?”
Upon returning home, Katharine – in 1889 - accompanied Bishop James O’Connor of Omaha on a tour of western missions. A year later, she decided to become a religious and entered a novitiate program with the Sisters of Mercy. Finding no religious order that answered her sense of mission, Katherine Drexel received permission to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. On February 12, 1891, Katherine made religious vows as the first Sister of the Blessed Sacrament for Indian and Colored People in answer to the Pope’s question and God’s call.
Her life’s work lay ahead of her and for the next forty years she directed the work of her Congregation of Sisters. By the year 1935, when Katherine suffered a heart attack, the Sisters had 49 foundations in the west and the south.
Throughout her life, Katherine was a deeply religious woman and a model of piety. Her declining health and the subsequent necessity to turn over her administrative duties to others finally allowed her more time for the contemplation to which she was originally attracted.
Perhaps her most noteworthy achievement was the establishment of Xavier University in New Orleans in the mid 1920’s, the first university for blacks in the United States. Katherine Drexel, who lived to 96, was a daring, prophetic and resourceful woman who knew that God had work for her to do on behalf of two groups of people who had been largely overlooked in 19th century America.
In 1941 PopePius XII wrote to her and described her work as “a glorious page in the annals of the Church.”
Katherine died at age 96, on March 3, 1955. On November 20, 1988 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II who spoke of her life as one “of exceptional apostolic service.” In his sermon at the Mass of beatification, the Holy Father said she “was a woman of lively faith, deeply committed to the truth revealed by Christ, the truth she knew so well because she constantly listened to Christ’s voice.”
Much of Katherine’s spiritual strength was drawn from the Blessed Sacrament, as Pope John Paul noted: “She was always eager to deepen her love for Jesus, whom she received and adored each day in the Eucharist. Her union with Christ the King gave her confidence that whatever was done in His name would bear much fruit for the sake of the kingdom.”
It is our privilege to remember and honor Blessed Katherine Drexel, who lived so close to our place and time. She was a virtuous, holy woman who preached to us by her contemplation and apostolic zeal.
At her canonization on October 1, 2000, Pope John Paul II praised her for choosing “to give not just her fortune but her whole life totally to the Lord.” Her feast day is March 3rd.
It was not too long after the school was in operation that Bishop Van de Ven obtained the services of the Holy Ghost Father – a congregation of missionary priest founded in France in 1703 to establish a church (Holy Ghost Catholic) in Marksville, Louisiana. Their order served this church parish from 1919-2001 starting with Fr. T. J. Nolan, CSSP of Ireland and ended sixteen pastors later with Fr. Charles Coffey, CSSP.
In September of 1919, the Reverend T. J. Nolan C.S.S. became the first pastor of Holy Ghost Catholic Church – Marksville, Louisiana. When he undertook his new assignment in the vineyard of the Lord, all he saw was a school house, and owing to the weeds, which had been allowed full sway during the four months past, it was with difficulty that one could get to the school. When Father Nolan saw the interior of the school he decided at once to make a few changes. Since the people were most anxious to have their own church, Father Nolan had the stage area of the hall serve as the sanctuary and he installed an altar and communion rail. This arrangement continued until the new church was built in 1923.
The first time Sunday Mass was said in the hall there were nearly 150 persons present with about 60 people receiving Holy Communion. The total receipts for the offertory collection amounted to $8.00. On that same Sunday evening the parishioners held a reception for their new pastor. Father Judemann, Father Nolan and several members of the congregation spoke. Ice cream and cake were served and a delightful time was had by all in attendance.
Sister Katherine Drexel, in agreement with the Bishop of Alexandria, donated $2,000.00 on August 4, 1916 to erect a building to become Holy Ghost Catholic Church. A few months later, on April 12, 1917, she donated $3,000.00 to enlarge that building. Three years later, on January 12, 1920, Sister Katherine Drexel donated $3,000.00 to build the rectory for Holy Ghost Catholic Church. According to Consumer Price Index, those amounts in today’s dollars would be $33,725.00; $28,720.00; and $27,600.00 respectively. Therefore, in today’s dollars, Saint Katharine gave a total of approximately $90,000.00.
Holy Ghost Catholic Church was established in direct response to the time in American history. The founding parishioners of Holy Ghost were restricted to a few pews in a back corner of the big Catholic church in town and were served Holy Communion only after the preferred parishioners had been served. They were graciously asked/required to leave. Although Holy Ghost Catholic Church has had an all-black congregation, today’s congregation welcomes and boasts a diverse and active multi-ethnic congregation where visitors are welcomed by people of God who are the epitome of “Southern Hospitality”.
Transportation was poor – at its best – during the mid to late 1920’s. Black Catholics in the outlying area of Marksville in the Hickory Hill community had difficulties to attend Mass in town so the church came to them; thus the establishment of St. Richard’s Chapel. The priest at Holy Ghost was no better off with transportation than the parishioners. He and an altar boy drove out to the Hickory Hill community in a horse-drawn buggy on at least one Saturday afternoon each month and slept overnight in the sacristy to offer Mass on early Sunday Morning in an acquired church building. This facility was replaced in the late 1950’s when a new church building was constructed. Land on which that facility was built was donated by a parishioner – Mrs. Pauline Williams and her husband Hopsin Williams, Sr. – a non-Catholic who worshiped at the Baptist Church in this community. The priest and the altar boy drove back to Marksville after that Mass on Sunday morning to offer 10:00 a.m. Mass at Holy Ghost. There are approximately 79 families served at St. Richards Chapel which represents about 170 members – according to the 2004 census.
News and Events
.....for the current news and events for Holy Ghost Catholic Church -- Marksville and/or St. Richard Chapel, call (318) 253-7131.