Pastor of St. David Catholic Church in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Almost 10 years ago, the entire country was shocked at the devastation that occurred in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever touch U.S. soil, had hit the city. Though the region is still recovering from the storm, one church is providing hope to its commu-nity that normalcy may return to the beleaguered city.
Father Oswald Pierre Pierre-Jules, Jr., SSJ, is the pastor of St. David Catholic Church in the city’s Lower 9th Ward. Father Pierre-Jules has been pastor at the church since 2010 when he arrived after serving as an associate pastor for two years. Upon arriving at St. David’s, his first parish as a pastor, Father Pierre-Jules said he was pleasantly surprised at how far the parish was in its recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina.
“Even today if you go to the 9th Ward, you will still see the effects of Katrina,” Father Pierre-Jules said. “I was moved and impressed to see how far St. David was in terms of recovering. The faith community is resilient. And I knew that I had to do my part when it came to leading the parish and faith community in recovering from Katrina.”
Father Pierre-Jules under-stood the challenges, one was getting parishioners, both old and new, to come back to the church. Many parishioners were displaced because of the hurricane, he said, and some relocated to other cities and states. Nonetheless, he knew that he had to find a way to bring people to the church.
“I knew that I had to do my part,” Father Pierre-Jules said. “That’s why there is an evan-gelization ministry, whose goal is to go out in the neighbor-hood and let people know that St. David is back. It has been almost four years, but I can say that the parish is growing slowly, but it’s growing.” Another challenge would be Father Pierre-Jules being acclimated to the area and its residents. Though he had spent two years in New Orleans when he first became a Josephite, those years were in another part of New Orleans; and having just come from Washington, D.C., Father Pierre-Jules admitted there was a big difference between the two cities.
Father Pierre-Jules believes both he and the community feed off each other in improving the area.
“It’s a community where you can see that there is hope that the community will come back and be rebuilt again. That motivates me, too, that I have a part to play in rebuilding the community,” he said.
Part of that rebuilding is a former school that many parishioners attended. The old building was demolished and a new one has taken its place. The building will be dedicated on June 29, 2014. Once an elementary school, the new structure will house a Total Community Action Head Start program for the next few years. It is Father Pierre-Jules’ desire that the school be a symbol that the future is bright in the 9th Ward.
“The community is coming back. The building, and what will take place in it, will play a vital role in the church’s and the community’s recovery.”