by Hunter Dawkins, Publisher – editor@thegazebogazette.com

After more than a decade of the doors being shut, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church returned as a cultural community center on Saturday, June 18 in DeLisle.  

Established in 1874, Our Lady of Good Hope Parish was built by the Josephite Order who also constructed what became known as Our Mother of Mercy in downtown Pass Christian.   Father Theophile Meershaert was appointed first resident pastor after the parish began in 1872.

In 1896, Father RJ Sorin was announced pastor where served for nearly six decades until his death in 1955.  During his service, Sorin requested relief for the church where the Josephites created the St. Stephen’s Mission church that was led by the African-American parishioners.  

Dedicated in 1927, St. Stephen’s School and Auditorium was constructed through the service of Father Stephen Sweeney but destroyed by fire.  

The church was later built by Sweeney, while he was still pastor of St. Philomena’s Catholic in Pass Christian.  The congregation of St. Stephen’s were called “The Cathedral in the Pines” by Bishop John Gunn of the Diocese of Biloxi.

Following Sorin and Sweeney’s deaths, the Josephite Order was replaced by the Trinitarian Order in 1963.  From 1963-1984, the parish of DeLisle transitioned from nine different pastors with Father Hubert Wolf being the longest serving.

Due to the destructive forces of Hurricane Camille in 1969, the Our Lady of Good Hope Church was destroyed beyond repair and the congregation started participating at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church on the eastern side of DeLisle.

Because of this destruction, St. Stephen’s status was changed in January 1973 from a mission to the mother church of the DeLisle parish for the Diocese of Biloxi, merging the three Catholic communities of the area into one unified parish at the request of Bishop Joseph Brunini.

Following the devastation to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church held weekly masses for the community.  Shortly after the storm, Bishop Thomas Rodi of the Diocese of Biloxi approved a request to build a parish facility at the present location off Kiln-Delisle Road or the western part of DeLisle.

In 2010 construction began and Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church opened in 2011. During this time period, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church masses were closed, the church consolidated and unified with the Most Holy Trinity.

Although the church doors were closed, the congregation met to provide an input of the future community center.

(Churches of Pass Christian & Holy Trinity Church contributed to the story)