About Our Parish
Holy Ghost Catholic Church History
Holy Ghost Church is a parish with a rich history. Below is only a synopsis of this history obtained form celebrating 75 years; 1920-1995. Foreshadowing the labors of the Holy Ghost Fathers were the efforts of Fathers Francois Raymond and Gilbert Raymond, both of whom took considerable interest in the work among the Negroes of this area. After the schools for whites were underway, Father Francois Raymond bought property and erected a school for the blacks of St. Landry Parish in 1875. The school continued to grow as the people saw a need to educate their children.
A large section of St. Landry Church on the north side had been set aside for the Negro parishioners, but it was evident that our growing population needed special attention and more adequate quarters. The Negro parishioners wanted to have organizations to which they could belong. This was fully noted by the Rt. Rev. Canon A. B. Colliard, pastor of St. Landry Church, after he assumed the pastorate in 1919. He therefore, took up the matter with Most Rev. Jules B. Jeanmard, Bishop of Lafayette, LA. Consequently, a separate church and parish would be established. The Holy Ghost Fathers were invited to take charge of this new parish. Ever zealous in the field of Negro work, they willing accepted the undertaking. In October, 1920, the new parish was set up, the church being dedicated under the invocation of the Holy Ghost.
Father Hyland was appointed by his provincial to this important missionary work. The coming of the Holy Ghost Fathers to Opelousas in 1920 changed the entire outlook of the colored Catholics of the city and environment. For the first few days , Father Hyland, the new pastor lodged in the school, celebrated Mass in the convent, with the Sisters taking care of his material needs. On his first Sunday spent in Opelousas, he celebrated Mass for the Colored parishioners in St. Landry Church. A mass meeting was held in the school auditorium when it was decided that all religious services would henceforth be held there until a church could be built. Mass, therefore, was celebrated in the auditorium until March, 1921 when a combination church and school was dedicated. To do this Fr. Hyland had much opposition to over come; some civil leaders did everything possible to thwart his plans. On the 7th day of November of that same year, the Civil Charter of the Holy Ghost Church was granted. (The granting of the charter was indeed the first milestone along our journey of progress).
The school then became a parochial school and was named, Holy Ghost School. A young priest, at the age of 34, Father Hyland began the difficult task of finding a location for the parish center, a church. The task was difficult; for the people of the town did not want a colored church in their neighborhood.
The people, overjoyed at the prospect of a church of their own, rallied behind their new pastor. Out of their meager purses they contributed with a generosity that showed they were real Christians; anxious to provide a suitable dwelling place for their Lord and Master. Father Hyland, with the combined zeal of a Francis Xavier and Cure of Ars, set forth to conquer the obstacles that beset any such noble enterprise. Reluctantly, but unabashedly, he walked among the people of Opelousas, White and Black alike, seeking financial aid and prayers for the success of his undertaking.
After doing much searching for property, the old Printing Press Building and property which had also been General Banks’ headquarters during the Civil War, was purchased for the Holy Ghost Church. The Banks Building was used as a cafeteria for the school, while the new church building was built with the church on the first floor and a hall and classrooms on the second floor. Father Hyland then acquired the old residence of Judge Kelly Andrus on the north side of the church property in 1923 which was formerly the church rectory. Later on, the property north of this, belonging to the Boagni family, was purchased up to the railroad tracks of the Gulf Coast Railroad. This railroad was on the south side of Perry Lane. The high school building south of the sisters’ school was built in 1912. The R. R. property, ¾ acre, was finally acquired by the Holy Ghost Church, costing $800.00 to fill in the ditch. When Father had finally succeeded in purchasing the property next to this judge, he was faced with the judge exerting his energies and power to prevent his building. Failing in this, the judge nevertheless, succeeded in forcing Father to erect the church in the rear with the entrance in a little alley leading from Union Street.
Undauntedly, Father Hyland built the church in the rear, but continued to champion the cause at every turn while the sisters and people prayed and worked.
During the time of organization, the sisters gave earnest and willing cooperation. Mother John, Sisters Eulalia, Kostka, Visitation, Thaddeus and Norbert, at that time stationed in Opelousas, were privileged to aid in the work. Each one gave whatever assistance was necessary in planning and conducting the fairs held to raise money for the church.
Early in January of the following year, Father Hyland moved from his little room above the school, which was his rectory, across the street to the General Banks Building of Civil War fame.
History tells us that on March 6, 1921 was a day resplendent with the beauty and fragrance that a southern spring brings only to Opelousas. This day was a “fait accompli” that only a Father Hyland could have dreamed; a day in which he lived and worked- the dedication of the New Holy Ghost Church! The imposing line of dignitaries, the brilliant escort of children, the prayerful beauty of the sanctuary and church, the strains of sacred music, the chanting to the psalms by the clergy as they marched along , all combined to form a scene of religious splendor never to be forgotten. No less brilliant, but more impressive still, must have been the scene within the Temple of God- the Solemn High Mass of Love and Thanksgiving, offered in the presence of His Excellency Bishop Jeanmard which had as its ministers Rev. Father Semery of Opelousas as celebrant. The Very Rev. Eugene Phelan, C.S.Sp., Provincial of the Holy Ghost Fathers as Deacon, and Rev. Father Nolans, S.J., of Grand Coteau as Sub-Deacon. Present in the sanctuary were Very Rev. A.B. Colliard, Rev. E. McNally, S.J., Rev. S. Frankauhe, S. J., Rev. Fr. Kelly of Holy Rosary in Lafayette, Rev. A.B. Lachapelle of Port Barre, Rev. C. Gruel of Lawtell and Rev. M. Jansen of Washington. The sermon was delivered by Msgr. Kavanaugh of New Orleans. At the close of the ceremonies, Most Reverend Bishop Jeanmard congratulated the pastor and people of having accomplished so much in so short a time.
For the next thirteen years Father Hyland labored unceasingly for the spiritual and material welfare of Holy Ghost Parish. Since the formation of Holy Ghost Catholic Church, there have been many pastors and assistants contributing to its growth.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are Children of God.