Parish History

Independence and Husser, La.

The people of Mater Dolorosa Catholic Church were first served by Fr. Columban Wenzel, O.S.B., one of the pioneers among the Benedictine monks in southeast Louisiana. Fr. Wenzekl attended the needs of the Catholics in Independence from his ministry at Saint Joseph's in Ponchatoula, where he was stationed. Around 1896 he built the first Catholic Church in Independence, and came every Sunday to celebrate Mass. The Church he bui8lt was a small frame structure, which had to be enlarged twice because of the rapid growth of the congregation, especially the new Italian immigrants from the island of Sicily. 
From 1898 to 1908 Mater Dolorosa Church was served by the pastor of St. Helena in Amite, Fr. Felix Rumf, O.S.B. In 1908 Fr,. Placido Gabrielle, O.S.B. became the first resident pastor, according to Roger Baudier in his book The Catholic Church in Louisiana. Soon after his arrival in Independence, Fr. Gagrielle built the present concrete4 structure which now serves as a museum of ancient traditions, customs, and culture from early times. That church replaced the old one which had been partly destroyed by a storm in 1907. The parish was under the direction of the Benedictine's from 1898 to 1913 when the Dominican Fathers of the Province of the Most Holy Rosary in Spain began their ministry in Independence. The same Dominican Fathers established a seminary for their province at Wadesboro, Rosaryville. The first Dominican pastor was Fr. William Martin.
In 1931 St. Dominic's became a mission of Tickfaw and a frame building   replaced the box church. The present brick church was erected and dedicated in 1958 when Fr. Odilo Alt, O.S.B. was pastor. Fr. Odilo had the exquisitely beautiful Stations of the Cross sent directly from Germany.  A hand carved rosary, made from a single solid piece of wood, was made by Warren H. Bahm and decorated the vestibule of the church. In 1961 the Diocese of Baton Rouge was formed and St. Dominic's became attached to Mater Dolorosa as a mission church. Once again the parish came under the care of the Dominican Fathers until 1994 when the diocese assumed pastoral care of the community.

In 1921 Sister Mary Margaret, O.P. and her Dominican Sisters from the Congregation of St. Mary, in New Orleans, established the first Catholic school in Independence.  The school, a two story frame edifice, was located where the Parish Office  is now located.  It bore the name of their founder, St. Dominic.  They staffed the school until 1979. From 1979 to 1986 the school was under the direction of the Dominican Sisters of Cabra, Ireland.


    The Most Reverend Pelegrino De La Fuente, O.P. was the last Spanish pastor.  He was later assigned to the Philippines where he became the bishop of Manila.  The Dominican Fathers of the province of St. Albert the Great, with headquarters in Chicago, took over the pastorate of Mater Dolorosa in 1938.  Fr. Daniel M. Della Penta was the first American Dominican appointed as pastor of Mater Dolorosa and was dearly loved after spending almost 25 years attending the spiritual needs of the people. During his tenure a new school with the name of the church, Mater Dolorosa, was built in 1949, along with the Cucchiara Center in the same year. The new convent was build in 1962.
A new church building fund was started by the pastor, Fr. Leonard Curtis, O.P.  The new church, compliant with the liturgical reforms ushered in by the Second Vatican Council, was completed during the pastorate of Fr. William J. Aldridge, O.P. and dedicated on May 27, 1973.  Fr. Dominic J. Tamburello, O.P. was a beloved pastor from 1979 to 1987.  Fr. Isidore V. Vicente, O.P. succeeded him as pastor from 1987 to 1994.  During his tenure the new school gymnasium was finally built.  In 1994, the Dominican Order decided to cease pastoral care of Mater Dolorosa and St. Dominic's and the bishop of Baton Rouge assigned Fr. Dean Martin as the first diocesan pastor.  He served the community until the summer of 2000 when Fr. Paul A. McDuffie became the pastor until summer of 2007. Fr. Chris Romaine resumed as pastor until February, 2009. Fr. Paul Yi briefly became the administrator of the parish until July 1, 2009 when  Fr. Howard Adkins was appointed as Pastor of Mater Dolorosa and St Dominic .
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