The Liberty County Historical Commission will honor the long and important history of Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Raywood, Texas, with a county historical marker on Saturday, Oct. 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 they moved here other members of their families in Louisiana came to visit them and later decided to move their families to this rural community and surrounding area. They brought their French culture and their love for their Catholic religion. They became successful farmers and purchased large tracks of land for that purpose. These were hard working settlers, and this was an undeveloped area. Most of the families were farmers however some worked at the rice dryer. There was plenty of land however, money was short.
Because there was not a Catholic church in Raywood, the Catholic families had to travel miles to attend mass and receive the sacraments. The closet church for several years was 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 this the Catholic people in Raywood would travel to Ames for church. Some of the families had their own transportation, while many did not. They went to church in wagons, horseback, Model-T Fords, and some walked.
They were determined to keep their faith and they long for the day when they would have their own church. Ames’s church was where their children were baptized, made first communion, confirmation, as well as marry their children and buried their dead. The people loved the Ames Church but realized this was a long way to travel. In harsh weather, the roads were poorly prepared, and they wanted their own church in Raywood. These families had a dream, of their own church building in which to worship, a place to call their own.
This dream became somewhat of a reality when the first church building was constructed in 1935 and was named Sacred Heart. This was a glorious occasion and part of their dream became true. Partly because there was not a full time priest assigned to the church. This mission community on the prairie was served by Josephites priests stationed at Our Mother of Mercy in Ames, Texas.
The parishioners enjoyed their church and other improvements were soon accomplished, such as a cemetery, a hall, and a rectory for a priest. Talented members of the parish constructed these. After the completion of the rectory, the first resident priest, Father James Faherty, S.S.J., was assigned to the parish in 1952 and the parishioners felt their prayers had been answered.
The parish family continued to grow and by early 1970, the church became 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 so the first white sided church was in its last stages.
For many years it was the desire of the parishioners 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 road to paved ones, from kerosene lamps to electricity, small schools to larger and better equipped ones, running water, telephones, central air conditioning and heat, 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 this dream become a reality.
Father Frank was able to continue to instill strong hope and determination to build. As a result of hard working parishioners and the driving force of Father Frank groundbreaking ceremonies were held Nov. 14, 1976, next to the first church building. The new brick church and parish hall were dedicated Nov. 24, 1977. A new Family Life Center was dedicated in 1995, during the pastorship of Fr. John McBrearty.
Sacred Heart Church was pastored by the Josephites from 1952 to 1997. The Missionaries of St. Paul of Nigeria began to pastor at Sacred Heart in 1997. On Jan. 1, 2002, Sacred Heart Church began to operate under the order of the Missionaries of St. Paul of Nigeria and continues as such.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church is located at 3730 F.M. 160 N, Raywood, Texas 77582. The marker dedication will be held in front of the church.
Submitted by Linda Jamison, chair of the Liberty County Historical Commission; history of the church compiled by Sacred Heart Catholic Church.