Saint Paul Bell

Saint Paul Bell

forged Circa 1884
326 South Washington Street
Lafayette Historic Register Number 110
Designated August 16, 2018

Saint Paul Bell was commissioned by the African-American community of Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church prior to the establishment of Saint Paul the Apostle Catholic Church. In 1884, a $1500 fund was raised by Black parishioners for the purpose of donating a bell to their Parish Church. Saint Paul Bell is significant because it marks important historic events that represent the nature of the relationship between White and Black parishioners within Lafayette’s Roman Catholic Church. In 1884, Black parishioners purchased the bell to send a message to White members of Saint John Church that they were to be considered fully-participating members. 27 years later, they requested and were granted their own church at a time when the Catholic Church was actively standing against racial segregation. In 1910, at a meeting with Black parishioners of Saint John the Evangelist Catholic Church regarding the building of the new Saint John Cathedral, Father Teurlings asked about their preference in seating arrangements. He asked if “Colored People” would prefer to be seated in the rear as was the custom, or would they like a side aisle of a wing, or would they like to have a place upstairs. According to Father Teurlings, a woman blurted out, “There is one thing we would like, but there’s no use talking about that.” After being assured she could talk about anything she wanted, the woman said, “Oh Father, if we could only have a church of our own.” Shortly thereafter, Father Teurlings succeeded in convincing New Orleans Archbishop Blenk that Lafayette’s African-Americans should have their own Parish, and in 1911, Saint Paul the Apostle Parish became a reality. The Saint Paul Bell was donated back to Saint Paul Church Congregation when their Parish Church was built.

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