Black History Month: Celebrating Our Lady of Grace
Published 8:34 am Friday, February 10, 2023
In 1937, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church was established as the first Black Catholic parish in St. John the Baptist Parish. Eighty-five years later, the church is still rich in multi-generational roots, and the members who have grown up inside the church walls say it feels like home.
The origins of Our Lady of Grace Parish trace back to 1931. Father Jean M. Eyraud, pastor of the nearby St. Peter’s Church in Reserve, expressed a desire to build a church for the Black children of his parish. Eyraud had the old John L. Ory school building in LaPlace moved to St. Peter’s in Reserve, where it became the first Black parochial school in the community under the name St. Catherine School.
Eyraud requested that a separate church Parish be considered for the Black Catholics in the community. After careful consideration, it was decided a new mission would be established in Reserve. Father Roderique Anthony Auclair, S.S.J., one of the Josephite priests who dedicated their lives to evangelization in the African American community, was assigned the task of developing the mission in 1936.
Construction of the church, rectory and garage were completed in 1937, and Father Auclair named the church Our Lady of Grace at the request of two major benefactors who wanted the church to bear the name of the Blessed Mother.
The first Mass was celebrated on Palm Sunday, March 21, 1937. The mission was officially dedicated just under three months later by Archbishop Rummel on June 13, 1937.