The Liberty County Historical Commission will honor the long and significant history of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Raywood, Texas with a county historical marker on Saturday, October 8, 2022 at 11 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend.
In the late 1880s, a few black families left Louisiana and settled in the small community of Raywood in Liberty County, Texas. Shortly after arriving here, other family members in Louisiana came to visit and later decided to relocate their families to this rural community and surrounding areas. They brought their French culture and their love for their Catholic religion. They became successful farmers and purchased large tracts of land for this purpose. They were hard-working settlers, and it was an undeveloped area. Most of the families were farmers, but some worked at the rice dryer. There was plenty of land, however, the money was lacking.
Since there was no Catholic church in Raywood, Catholic families had to travel miles to attend mass and receive the sacraments. The church closed for several years was the Immaculate Conception in Liberty. Then, in 1910, a church was built in Ames and administered by Josephite priests from St. Nicholas Church in Houston. In 1912 a resident priest was assigned to Ames, Texas, after which Catholics from Raywood traveled to Ames for church. Some families had their own transportation, while many did not. They went to church in wagons, on horseback, in Model T Fords, and some walked.
They were determined to keep their faith and longed for the day when they would have their own church. The Ames church was where their children were baptized, had first communion, confirmation, as well as married their children and buried their dead. People loved Ames Church but realized it was a long way to go. In bad weather the roads were badly prepared and they wanted their own church in Raywood. These families dreamed of having their own church in which to worship, a place of their own.
This dream somehow became a reality when the first church was built in 1935 and named Sacred Heart. It was a glorious occasion and part of their dream came true. Partly because there was no full-time priest assigned to the church. This prairie missionary community was served by Josephite priests stationed at Our Mother of Mercy in Ames, Texas.
The parishioners appreciated their church and other improvements were soon made, such as a cemetery, a hall and a presbytery for a priest. Talented members of the ward built them. After the parsonage was completed, the first resident priest, Father James Faherty, SSJ, was assigned to the parish in 1952, and parishioners felt their prayers had been answered.
The parish family continued to grow and by early 1970 the church was getting old and improvements were needed, and some were made. But the church and hall were small and could not accommodate the parish. A new church was needed, and the first white-walled church was in its final stages.
For many years the parishioners had a desire to build a beautiful brick church where they could show God how much they appreciated the many blessings he had bestowed upon this small community. They remembered the following: from dirt roads to paved roads, from kerosene lamps to electricity, from small schools to larger and better equipped schools, running water, telephones, central air conditioning and heating, and so we became a dreamer again. Father James Faherty gave us this dream of a beautiful new church and hall during his second pastorate at Sacred Heart and Father Gregory Frank made that dream a reality.
Father Frank was able to continue to instill strong hope and determination to build. Thanks to the hard work of the parishioners and the driving force of Father Frank, dedication ceremonies were held on November 14, 1976, next to the first church. The new brick church and parish hall were consecrated on November 24, 1977. A new family life center was inaugurated in 1995, under the pastorate of Fr. John McBrearty.
The Church of the Sacred Heart was run by the Josephites from 1952 to 1997. The Missionaries of St. Paul of Nigeria began pastoring the Sacred Heart in 1997. On January 1, 2002, the Church of the Sacred Heart began operating under the order of the Missionaries of Saint Paul of Nigeria and continues as such.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church is located at 3730 FM 160 N, Raywood, Texas 77582. The dedication will take place in front of the church.