St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Grand Bay, Al
The Story of how the Catholic Church began in Grand Bay is very special. It was God’s plan when Father Emmet Kennedy broke down in his buggy passing the area and met Virgil Davis. He spent several days with the Davis family on Old Pascagoula Road. During this time Father Kennedy spread the Word of God to the entire Davis family. On April 16,1912, Virgil Stewart Davis was baptized and within a year, eighteen other relatives were also baptized Catholic. Among these converts was his son Rictor who served as sexton from 1912 until his death on February 5, 1985, Virgil’s other seven children, among these Senora Davis Marchand, and niece, Edna Davis Ramsay.
Virgil died in 1913 and was buried in the Davis family cemetery. His widow Rosena and their children continue to live at the family home, now called a “Station”, where the priest could come and offer a Holy Mass monthly. Father Kennedy came from Saint Margaret’s on Thursday, spent the night, and offered Mass on Friday morning in the parlor. The Marchand and Poiroux families moved to the area from Canada and also attended Mass.
In 1924, Virgil’s widow, Rosena, donated land for the church. Total cost for the building was $900.00. Father O’Donoghue donated the altar in memory of his father. Thad Davis gave the bell tower at the church’s present location.
The wooden mission church was dedicated on November 16, 1924 by Bishop Allen. That day three girls were confirmed, Athaliw Dezauche Long, Audrey Davis McCollough, and Margaret Lutz Sims. No one seems to know how the name “St. John the Baptist” was chosen.
Over the 40 years, Mass was offered monthly on Friday until St. Margaret’s received an assistant priest who offered Mass on Sunday’s at St. John’s. The other Sundays the faithful gathered for catechism and rosary. Mrs. Senora Davis Marchand taught from the Baltimore Catechism.
In 1955, Father Joseph Adams of St. Margaret’s enlarged the mission church and had electricity put in the church along with wall fans from the army surplus store for $1.00 each mounted on the walls. Also, there were paper hand fans and eight pews doubled to sixteen. The tabernacle was replaced with one from St. Mary’s with Father Cronin’s help.
Weddings, funerals and baptisms could now be celebrated. Holy Week and confirmation were held at St. Margaret’s. The priest came on Wednesdays for children’s catechism. On June 18, 1972 Father Duignan announced that we were no longer a mission church, but a parish. Father Hugh Maguire was our first pastor, 1972-1981, and stayed at St. Vincent’s.
A house was moved to the 10 acres on Shell Road Highway 188 where the present rectory and church are located. The house was repaired when Father Maguire was in Ireland. Now he has a place to live.
The congregation grew and we now had three Masses on Sundays= in the little church. Plans for a new church began. A building committee was formed, and ground breaking for the present building July 28, 1974 by Bishop May, who dedicated the new church building on March 21, 1976. One of the few articles brought from the old church was the bell, a warm remembrance of many Sunday mornings ringing in the little county church.
By 1990 we had 212 families, and the new rectory was completed. father Maguire was soon moved to Christ the King Parish. Our pastors were:
Rev. Charles Aucoin 1981-1982
Rev. Russel Biven 1982-1987
Rev. Gordon Milsted 1987-1995
Rev. John Stryjewski 1995-2000
Rev. Msgr. Hugh Maguire 2000, who died in March 2009
Rev. Msgr. Warren Wall 2009-2011
Rev. Antony Kadavil 2011-2018
On July 8, 2018, Rev. Sherwin C. Monteron was appointed pastor. The parish includes 109 registered families.
First Deacon of St. John Parish, Deacon Billy Graham 2013- present
This Church today, owes much to two men, Father Emmett Kennedy, a priest, and Virgil Davis, a farmer. They lived with the Word of God and kept the faith
——- Written by Ruth Marchand Pigorsch—–