By Tereza Ma and Joanna Puddister King
CLARKSDALE – On Sunday, Nov. 20, St. Elizabeth parish in Clarksdale held a triple celebration celebrating the parish’s 110th anniversary and the Feasts of St. Elizabeth and Christ the King. Though the day was chilly, the warm welcome of the community drew all in attendance in for a day of worship and fun.
St. Elizabeth parish began in 1891 with the assignment of the first pastor, Father Louis Dutto, who remained with the parish for seven years. The first building was on Issaquena Avenue and was described as “little more than a shotgun house” that seated about 100 people at most by Cleta Ellington in “Christ the Living Water: The Catholic Church in Mississippi.”
By 1913, as the Catholic population grew, a larger brick church and rectory were built on Fairland Place by a young Irish pastor, Father Peter Keenan.
Writings of the day describe the Delta region as a diverse settlement with many northern Europeans, Italians, Lebanese, Chinese in the area. The same seemed to ring true to the diversity of the descendants who still attend the parish today.
“Knowing our church history helps us understand how our ancestors lived their faith as we consider how we live ours today,” said Camille Walker, parishioner who delivered remarks for the parish’s anniversary. “The lives of our forefathers help us to grow in our faith and to continue their love and care for the church as God’s children.”
In 1969, St. Elizabeth parish moved to Florence Street where the church building is still located today.
As for celebrating the parish’s anniversary and two feasts, Father Raju Macherla said that he didn’t plan the coincidence, “but God helped us come together in this way on this special occasion.”
During his homily at the celebration, Father Raju reflected on the feasts and talked about his parish and parishioners that he loves so dearly.
“Repeat after me: “I love my church and today is my church feast,” Father Raju said to smiles across the pews.
“We celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, graduations, so we should certainly celebrate the church feast.”
Father Raju weaved in stories of different parishioners and their history through his homily. From “family pews” that he said signified a meaningful, tangible attachment to the church, to profound memories from church visitors who still consider St. Elizabeth their home parish, since attending there as children.
“I have heard so many beautiful true stories from you,” said Father Raju. “I have shared all these stories to tell you that though we live elsewhere in the country or world, the church plays a vital role in our lives every day. It is from the altar that we receive the grace of God.”
After the celebration Mass, the parish had a classic Thanksgiving feast with ham, turkey and Delta-made delicacies. There were games for all ages – even adults engaged in the fun, making memories and celebrating a parish with warm traditions and love for their community.