The Making of a Faith Community along the Banks of the Bayou Teche
The unincorporated community of Cecilia was originally known by the Spanish as La Punta, describing a deep bend in Bayou Teche. This was translated by the French into La Grande Pointe, or Grand Point as Cecilia was called in the late 1800's, until modern times when it was then called Cecilia, named after St. Cecilia. The community began as a small service center of sorts for the many landowners in outlying areas. As more settlers populated the land along the northern Bayou Teche, the need grew for easier access to religious services, education, and trade. It was because of these basic needs that the community became more than a crossover on the bayou trail between Opelousas and St. Martinville, the two early trading posts in the region.
Sometime after 1874, the first chapel to serve the people of Cecilia was built. It was located about midway between Four Corners and Grand Anse area, but later was moved closer to what is now Cecilia. It was visited twice a month by the Pastor of Breaux Bridge, Fr. Borias. At that time, this area of Louisiana was under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Some sources say that the chapel was named for St. Etienne, but that is not a certainty.
A church parish was created at Cecilia in 1890 and Rev. Augustin Blanc left Breaux Bridge in 1891 to became the first pastor. He would serve there for more than 38 years. He was born in France and was twenty eight years old when he became Pastor. He was ordained June 22, 1890. He used his own personal money to build the rectory which was to be repaid by the Archdiocese.
Mr. Placide LeBlanc and Mr. Onezime Calais gave six arpents of land to the church in Cecilia, as recorded in the St.Martin Parish Courthouse, dated January 9, 1891.
Fr. Louis Peronnet, the 2nd Pastor in Cecilia, also from France, died in 1950 and is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery. During his pastoral care, there were some difficult conditions of floods, disasters, economic depression and poverty, just prior to the great World War.
In 1939, lumber from the 1st church was used to build the parish hall and a new church was built.
St. Rose of Lima Church was established there for the African American congregation in 1944.
In 1949 a new rectory was built for St. Joseph Parish.
June, 12, 1949, Fr. Theard James (T.J) Hebert, son of Theard Hebert and Mabel Guidry was ordained on June 11, 1949 and said his first Mass here.
June 3, 1950, Fr. Floyd Calais, son of Theard Calais and Aline LeBlanc was ordained.
May 25, 1961, Fr. Daniel Schexnayder, son of Daniel Schexnayder and Manola Calais, celebrated his first Mass at St. Joseph.
Church renovations were begun in 1964 under Msgr. Bacque.
December 7, 1966, Fr. Alcus Trahan, son of Claude Trahan, Sr. and Leontine Berard, was ordained and celebrated his first Mass here.
Father Douglas Courville celebrated his first Mass in Cecilia on January 4, 1976.
Under Father Donald Hebert, the first Pastoral Council was established on March 23, 1976. In 1976, a new type of program for religious education and formation was established by Tommy Calais and Louis Richard, two seminarians. The first Hi-God program saw 90 participants.
In August, 2009, Father Michael Delcambre, originally from Abbeville, Louisiana became Pastor of St. Joseph Church. In 2010, under his leadership, a different concept in religious education and faith formation has been embraced. The focus of this program involves the entire congregation and the religious education classes are Parent/Student sessions. With the gifts of Father Michael and the character and spirituality of the people, this time in the history of St. Joseph promises to be a time of evangelization, renewed faith and substantial parish development.
St. Joseph Church Parish has a very interesting history marked with blessings from its Pastors and its people. The parish has been blessed and has blessed Acadiana with several vocations.
Cecilia is one of the last remaining strongholds of Cajun Language in Louisiana and 42.60% of the total population uses the language for daily communication, including 20.25% of the children.
The History of St. Martin- an Overview 1987 by Kenneth P. Delcambre. Official Report Relative to the Conduct of Federal Troops in Western Louisiana, During the Invasions of 1863 and 1864 – Compiled and Sworn Testimony Under the Direction of Gov. Henry W. Allen, Shreveport, La., April, 1865, by Kenneth P. Delcambre. First Facts about Breaux Bridge, Louisiana – March 1988 by Kenneth P. Delcambre and Claude J. Kenneson. L’Eglise De La Grande Pointe, A History of St. Joseph’s Church, Cecilia, La. , by Reverend Donald J. Hebert
^"US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
^"American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.