St. Benedict celebrates 40 years

St. Benedict Catholic Church of Grambling celebrated its 40th anniversary Sunday, with Bishop William B. Friend, celebrant of the Mass.

Father Nicholas Onyach is the pastor at St. Benedict. He said, "Mass was wonderful. The spirit was right. Everyone was lifting each other. It was like a festivity."

Onyach has been at St. Benedict since March 7, 2003. He is a member of the St. Franciscan Missionary of Hope Order from Kenya.

He said that Bishop Friend was wonderful, and his message was very timely. "He was encouraging all of us to reach out to unchurched people, those who do not go to church," said Onyach.

"Also, he said that the pastor alone is not responsible for the church. Everyone should cooperate with the pastor to make the community viable. Each individual should not become tired when working for God. He encouraged students with busy schedules to make time for God and remember that He does not forget about them," Onyach said.

Onyach said that he liked that Bishop Friend told students about Father Rothell Price, who was once a student at GSU and is now serving with the diocese of Shreveport. He served at St. Benedict from 1998 to 1999. "He encouraged young people to be open about vocations in church and be accepting if they are called to serve as nuns or priests," he said.

"Also, I was touched by the participation of all the people I serve – St. Benedict, the students, Hispanic community, and those in Farmerville," Onyach said. He praised the 40th anniversary committee and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Farmerville.

A highlight of the service for Onyach was seeing Father Cal Giesen, who served as pastor of St. Benedict from 1982 to 1986. "It was good to see a priest who served here come back and wish us well. He recognized some of the current members in church who were here 40 years ago. They are still here, which means he did well," he said.

Father Giesen said, "It feels great to see so many former parishioners. The choir sang well, and it was great to be on the altar with Bishop Friend and the other priests."

Mildred Gallot, a member since August 1955, before it was called St. Benedict, said, "It was a very beautiful Mass because we had participation by students, members of the congregation, and visiting priests.

"After Mass, those who were in attendance had an opportunity to fellowship with each other at a reception," said Gallot.

Gallot was part of the 40th anniversary committee, and she and Dorothy Hardy sent out letters to families of deceased members, friends, former church members, and churches. Also, she helped with the ad book, wrote the history of the church, and collected pictures. "We contacted former students asking them to participate," she said.

A member of the finance committee, Shirley Henderson, said the bishop’s homily was her favorite part of Mass. She said that Mass was wonderful. "I was impressed with the crowd. I hope that some of the visitors will return."

Youlila Rabon said that she has been attending St. Benedict, off and on, for the past 45 years. She first started attending as a student at GSU. She said of the Mass, "It was great because of the number of people involved in the ceremony. It was nice to see the people of St. Benedict and Farmerville working together as a group. It was a good idea to have the bishop there."

Other things Rabon enjoyed were the young people and the choir. "The choir was good. They had a unique, yet appealing sound," she said.

St. Benedict was raised to parish status in June1996. The new church was dedicated October 2, 1968. Father James Lyke was the first African-American priest to serve at St.Benedict.