A brief history of St. John's parish
Friday, 2 August 2013

A brief history of St. John the Baptist  parish, Grand Bay

Grand Bay’s story began when Father Emmett Kennedy’s buggy broke down while passing through the area. Father Kennedy, the pastor of St. Margaret’s in Bayou La Batre, spent several days with the Davis family. On April 16, 1912, Virgil Steward Davis was baptized. Within a year, eighteen other relatives, including his son Rictor, were also baptized. Rictor served as the church’s sexton until his death in 1985.

After Virgil’s death in 1913, the Davis home became a mission station. Father Kennedy came monthly on Thursday, spent the night, and offered Mass on Friday morning in the parlor for the family and neighbors, including the Marchand and Poiroux families.

In 1924, Rosena Davis donated land for a church. The wooden church was dedicated on November 16, 1924, by Bishop Allen. Father J.R. O’Donoghue donated the altar in memory of his father, while Thad Davis gave the bell. The same day, Athalie Dezauche Long, Audry Davis McCollough and Margaret Lutz Sims were confirmed.

Over the next forty years, Mass was offered monthly on Friday. When St. Margaret’s received an assistant priest, Mass was celebrated here on some Sundays. On other Sundays, the faithful gathered for catechism and the rosary.

In 1955, Father Joseph Adams of St. Margaret’s enlarged the mission church and had electricity, fans, pews, and a new tabernacle  installed. A priest came on Wednesday for children’s catechism.

On June 18, 1972, St. John the Baptist became a parish with Father Hugh Maguire (1972-1981) as the first pastor. A new church, classroom, and activities center building was dedicated on July 28, 1976. The bell from the old church was moved to the new building. On April 8, 2009, the bell was stolen.

The subsequent pastors were Fathers Charles Aucoin (1981-1982); Russell Biven (1982-1987); Gordon Milsted (1987-1995); John Stryjewski (1995-2000); Msgr. Hugh Maguire (2000-2009), and Msgr. G. Warren Wall (2009-2011).

In February 2011, Father Antony Kadavil was appointed pastor. The parish includes 189 [updated figure] registered families.

The parish 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.

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