Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, the oldest Black Catholic parish in Shreveport, will celebrate 100 years this weekend with a celebration honoring the community’s storied history serving the Allendale neighborhood and the community at large.
The 9am Mass on Sunday, January 29, scheduled to be celebrated by Bishop Francis Malone, will be dedicated to the centennial theme of “100 Years of Servicing Our Families, Our Community, Our God” and followed by a reception.
“Many months of planning have gone into this and we're so excited that the day is nearly here,” said Fr Duane Trombetta, who has served as pastoral administrator at OLBS since 2021. Much of his tenure has coincided with the centennial planning, which began roughly a year ago.
“History is going to be a big part of the celebration. Sharing that venerable history of our church, our parish, our schools. And celebrating all the people who have served here, worshiped here, prayed here, and just build the community here.”
The parish’s history stretches back to 1917, when the Spiritan Fathers first requested to establish a church in Shreveport for African Americans. The religious order was one of few Catholic groups willing to minister fully to the Black community during Jim Crow, receiving funding—and later, religious sisters—from St. Katharine Drexel to undertake the effort in northwest Louisiana.
OLBS celebrated its first Mass in 1923 in a converted shotgun house, and the extant church building was constructed the next year. The parish also went on to establish a number of schools, including Notre Dame High School and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Academy, both of which have since closed.
A former administrator for the academy, a Sister of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate, will be present for this weekend’s Mass, alongside two priests who were raised at the parish, Fr Raney Johnson (ordained in 2021) and Fr Jim Moran, CO.
A number of public officials have also been invited to the liturgy and reception, which will feature an award ceremony honoring a figure who has “gone above and beyond to contribute in a meaningful way to the history and legacy of our parish and church.”
OLBS' centennial culmination comes at an auspicious moment for the parish, which in recent years has faced the threat of eminent domain, with a planned extension of the I-49 highway through the church’s majority-Black district. Members of the church have participated in various aspects of protest against the possible move, which would likely involve the demolition of OLBS.
“If we allowed it to, it could become a distraction for us and we're trying to just keep a positive, upbeat spirit,” Trombetta told BCM on Tuesday, the same day the parish received word that—despite mayoral approval—the road project will likely take a different route.
“If you live in Allendale, that’s good news because they’re not going to build a highway through you, or your neighbors, or your church, or your neighborhood,“ said John Perkins of Allendale Strong, an organization fighting to keep I-49 out of the neighborhood.
“But if you don’t live in Allendale and you want a quick shortcut to Arkansas, maybe three minutes faster, and you don’t mind spending the billions of dollars, then that’s considered a bad thing.”
Given that OLBS seeks to preserve the Black Catholic history of Allendale, its aforementioned centennial honor, to be presented on Sunday at the post-Mass reception, seems aptly named.
The recipient, to be revealed at the event, will receive none other than the “Extra Mile Award.”
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.