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HISTORY OF THE CONGREGATION OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES ROMAN

CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE PARISH OF AVOYELLES, LOUISIANA

 

The Church is located at 1315 Egg Bend Road, approximately eight miles North of Marksville, LA, in the rural community of Fifth Ward, also known as Egg Bend.  Back in the 1840’s, the steamboat, “Valley Queen”, made monthly runs from New Orleans, LA to various “Landings” along the Red River, bringing supplies to the pioneer farmers along the route.

 

The people would gather on the banks at the bend of the river, which was approximately three miles down stream of the Avoyelles and Rapides Parish line.  They would bring pails, baskets, and boxes of eggs, along with locally grown produce, to for trading for sugar, coffee, and calico.

 

The crew of the “Valley Queen” began calling the landing and subsequently the settlement – “EGG BEND.”  To this date the name remains on the U. S. Corp of Engineer’s, The U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and Louisiana Department of Transportation Traffic and Planning Division’s maps for the Parish of Avoyelles.

 

Property Donations:

 

On May 7, 1925, Mrs. Alice Beauclair, wife of Mr. Christopher Kelone, but from whom she is separated and divorced, declares that for the purpose of erecting a Catholic Chapel in the vicinity of Egg Bend, donated one acre of land unto The Right Reverend Cornelius Van de Ven, Bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria, LA and his successors in office, for the use of the Catholic Congregation of Egg Bend. 

 

Also on May 7, 1925, Mr. Jacque Guillot and wife, Azelina , along with their children, i.e.; Armas, Julie, Denux, Emeric, Amenith, Oliva, Toliver and Predeau; donate one acre of land unto The Right Reverend Cornelius Van de Ven, Bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria, LA and his successors in office, for the use of the Catholic Congregation of Egg Bend.

 

On August 4, 1925, Mr. Leonidas O. Kelone, married to Ida Ferry, donated 1.38 acres (+)(-) unto The Right Reverend Cornelius Van de Ven, Bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria, LA and his successors in office, for the use of the Catholic Congregation of Egg Bend.

 

History:

 

Our Lady of Lourdes Parish of Egg Bend, Avoyelles Parish, LA was a mission parish of St Frances de Sales Catholic Church in Echo, Rapides Parish, Louisiana for many years.  In 1925 Father Joseph Jacquet’, a missionary priest from France, who was stationed in Echo, Rapides Parish, LA,  built the first church, with the help of five men, Christopher Kelone, Maurice Neck, Ulyssess Lemoine, Cicero Bonnette and Jacques Guillot.  Before completion of the church, Father Jacquet’ died.  He requested that he be buried next to his little church.

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The Church was named in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes where the Blessed Virgin Mary   appeared 18 times, in 1858, to Bernadette Soubirous, a young peasant girl, now known as ST. Bernadette, revealing herself as the Immaculate Conception.  Asking that a chapel be built on the site of the vision, she told the girl to drink from a fountain in the grotto.  No fountain was to be seen, but when Bernadette dug at the spot designated by the apparition, a spring began to flow.  The water from the still flowing spring has shown remarkable healing power.

 

On December 1, 1941, the “CONGREGATION OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE PARISH OF AVOYELLES, LOUISIANA” was chartered as a corporation, domiciled at Marksville, RFD, in the Parish of Avoyelles, State of Louisiana.  The short name for the church is “Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church”.

 

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church continued as a mission of St. Francis De Sales Catholic Church under the pastorship of Father Isadore Deculear and Father Herman Couvillion.  The priests would travel by horse and buggy from Echo to the Church in Egg Bend to conduct church services.

 

In 1948, Bishop Charles P. Greco consented to make the Egg Bend area a “Church Parish.”  He purchased an old building from Camp Claiborne after World War II, for conversion as a rectory for the church.

 

Two Belgian priests, Father John Jansen and Father Henry Beckers were the first resident priests to live in the rectory.  Father Jansen remained in the Church Parish for many years, while Father Beckers stayed a short while.  Mrs. Sue Boucher, of Shreveport, Louisiana, was hired as the housekeeper.  Miss “Sue”, as she was affectionally known, served in that capacity for twenty eight years.

 

During this time, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, in Moncla, Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, became a mission church of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and remained so until June 30, 2010 at which time it became a mission church of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church of Deville, Rapides Parish, LA.

 

Father Passchyn who remained a short while, later replaced Father Jansen as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes and St John the Baptist Churches.

 

Father Charles Dekeukalere was next appointed as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and St John the Baptist Churches, in 1955.  He remained in that position until his departure in May of 1982.

 

On March 16, 1959 The Most Reverend Charles P. Greco, Bishop of Alexandria, transferred the three tracts of land that were donated to The Right Reverend Cornelius Van de Ven, Bishop of Alexandria, and his Successors in Office, for the use by the Catholic Congregation of Egg Bend; along with all building and improvements thereof, to the “CONGREGATION OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE PARISH OF AVOYELLES, LOUISIANA CORPORATION”.

 

In 1969, Father Charles Dekeukalere oversaw the building of a new church with the old church being converted to a church hall.  The old church remained in service until it was sold in 1970 to Reverend Bonnette of Simmesport, Louisiana, to be again used as a church. A new church hall was built in 1971.

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Father Jules Claes was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John the Baptist Churches, in May 1982.  He initiated several needed projects to include the paving of the church parking lot.

 

In 1986, Father Angelo Messina, also known as Father “Snoopy”, because of his Snoopy doll collection, became the new Pastor, bringing about a new development and participation in the churches.  Father Messina was the first diocesan priest assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church by the Diocese of Alexandria.

 

In June 1990, Father Kenneth Roy, a native of Avoyelles Parish was appointed by the Diocese of Alexandria to serve as the Parish Priest where he served until June 1993. 

 

Father Mathew Michael succeeded Father Roy as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes and St John the Baptist Catholic Churches.  In 1996, Father Mathew left to pursue studies in clinical pastoral care, which administers care to the sick in hospitals.

 

In June 1996, Father Daniel P. O’Conner, a diocesan priest, replaced Father Mathew as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic and St John the Baptist Catholic Churches.  Upon his departure from Our Lady of Lourdes, Father O’Conner served as Boy and Girl Scout Chaplain for the Diocese of Alexandria and as director of Vocations and Seminarians.  He also became pastor of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church in Alexandria, Louisiana.

 

Father Rusty Rabalias, an Avoyelles Parish native replaced Father O’Conner as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes and St John the Baptist Churches in February 2000. Father Rabalias remained in this position until June 2005.  He was reassigned to St Joseph Catholic Church, in Marksville, Louisiana as pastor.

 

Father Paul Kunnumpurarm, M.S.F.S., a native if India, was reassigned from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Vidalia, LA to Our Lady of Lourdes and St John the Baptist Catholic Churches, Egg Bend and Moncla, respectively,  Avoyelles Parish, LA, on June 1, 2005.  Father Paul has worked diligently to improve church participation and mass attendance. He has overseen the construction of an addition to the rectory, which serves as a conference, CCD class, meeting room.

 

Father Silverino Kwebuza, A. J., a native of Kanungu District, Uganda, was appointed Pastor of Holy Ghost / St. Richard Catholic Churches, Marksville, LA; a position he held from August 2003 until  June 2008 at which time he went back to Uganda until May 2010.  On July 1, 2010 he was assigned as Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Fifth Ward (Egg Bend) and St. Martin of Tours Church in Belledeau, Avoyelles Parish, LA.