- by Wendy Sullivan
Last weekend, a new statue of St. Rose de Lima was welcomed into the Bay St. Louis church that bears her name.
During the special service, Rev. Alfred Ayem, SVD, blessed the statue while parishioner Nathaniel Fairconnetue presented a history of the saint’s life.
The statue smiles serenely and wears a crown of different colored roses over her wimple. In her hands she hold a crucifix, a rosary and four more roses.
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“Sharing her life story as a role model for others is so important to the work of the parish,” he continued.
Building on that idea, parishioner Nathaniel Fairconnetue presented a history of St. Rose’s life. Born Isabel Flores de Oliva in 1586 in Lima, Peru, she was nicknamed Rose due to the image of roses on her infant cheeks.
A special child with a strong faith, Rose turned from her family’s expectations for marriage and entered a convent at a young age. She spent her days in prayer and working for the poor. She died at the age of 31 and was canonized as a saint 50 years later.
In addition to being the parish’s patroness, she is also the patroness of gardeners and florists. In his sermon, Rev. Ayem said that, as a friend of Mary and child of Jesus, St Rose demonstrated her love for them.
Parishioner Mimi Lassus commented, “it is wonderful to have the image in the church.” Parishioners Dorothy Raboteaux and Marilyn Smith both remembered an earlier statue that was damaged and perhaps lost during the post-Katrina restoration of the church. Smith served on the committee that facilitated the purchase of the new statue.
“I’m glad she is finally back!” said Raboteaux.
Honoring her name and the rose crown around her head, several women set vases of roses in front of the statue.
Faith, community, music, and art have a long and special place in the history of St Rose de Lima Church and Bay St. Louis. According to the website, the parish’s school, opened in 1868, was the first school in Bay St. Louis for African-American children, in conjunction with Our Lady of the Gulf. The church was built and consecrated by 1926 and initially served the African-American community, but it now has a diverse parish membership.
In addition to parish life, the church is a popular stop for Gulf Coast visitors drawn by the unique history and art in the building. The statue of St. Rose stands near an enormous mural by New Orleans artist Auseklis Ozols and his student Kat Fitzpatrick, created in 1991. The mural reflects the coast’s diverse community with a resurrected Christ of mixed heritage. Behind him, but draped in an early morning fog, is an equally realistic ancient live oak tree with its Spanish moss and century plants. (Read more here.)
Many furnishings in the sanctuary are carved from local trees, and the altar itself was created by noted Bay St. Louis artist Ellsworth Collins. Read more about Collins and his former house on Sycamore Street in this archived Shoofly Magazine column.
Rev. Ayem welcomes people to come to the church and see the images on the walls, the stained glass, the statues and the furnishings, all reflecting what he views as “the goodness of living with faith.”
St. Rose de Lima Church
301 South Necaise Avenue, Bay St. Louis
Parish phone (228) 467-7347
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