A Grandiose Building with a War-Torn Past

St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas, LA

This immense and ornate church holds centuries of stories which tell the impact of wars on Acadiana.

This cathedral-sized church in Opelousas is called the “Mother Church of Acadiana,” for it was the second to be founded in the Diocese of Lafayette, and many smaller church parishes have been formed within the wide boundaries of the original parish (“Parish History”). The beginnings of the parish date back to the 1750s, when missionary priests administered sacraments in the area (“Parish History”). Several churches have been built to serve this church parish over its long history; the current structure dates back to 1908 (Harper 55). During the Civil War, Opelousas served as the capitol of the Confederacy, bringing the war to the church’s front steps. Beginning in mid-1863, Federal troops camped around St. Landry Church, looting graves and destroying church property (Harper 46-47). In fact, “[t]he church would have been completely destroyed, but thanks to the Irish Catholics in the Union ranks, it was spared outright elimination” (“Parish History”).
The structure of the current church was designed in hopes that St. Landry would one day become a cathedral (Harper 55). In front of the church is a statue honoring Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur, a military chaplain who died as a prisoner of war in World War II and has received military honors for his bravery. Lafleur celebrated his first Mass at St. Landry, and every year on September 7, the anniversary of his death, a memorial Mass in his honor is attended by hundreds of people (Oubre). The history of this church is marked with events related to war, yet the cavernous space, filled with sacred artwork, invites worshippers to peaceful contemplation.