St Paul Catholic
With the pervasive serenity broken only by the concordance of breezes rustling through the leaves of the few remaining trees in St. Paul's Cemetery; and the interruptive wailing from intermittent train horns, with the rumbling from the rail tracks, the Cemetery keeps its silence amongst the tombs and head stones. A person can feel the "angels" that abound in the graveyard, keeping vigilance while overlooking the myriad of souls who have passed while making their journey through life's short interval. Standing at this place, very few people would be aware that it was the first place that was designated as a Catholic landmark. The cemetery was consecrated in 1850 as the final resting place for departed members of the Catholic community.
Pass Christian received its first resident priest in the person of Rev. Antoine Paul Guerard in May 1850 who in that year dedicated the first Catholic cemetery grounds prior to starting the Church building, which was completed in 1851. Both the Cemetery and the Church were built on the lot acquired in 1849 by Father Buteaux which was 85½ feet wide, but ran almost 8000 feet in depth, from the Beach toward Bayou Portage.
Rev. Francis Pont succeeded Guerard for the years 1863 through 1867. He began an expansion and building program, which resulted in the acquisition of lands to the rear of the church property for a Priest's house. Under his administration in 1866, he witnessed the opening of St. Mary's College for boys, operated by the Christian Brothers. He also built the first parish school for girls, extended the cemetery, and erected several churches in neighboring communities. Little did he know that in expanding the plots of cemetery grounds would he, himself, be laid there to rest. His notable shrine denotes his death on September 27, 1867. Pastor Francis Pont died at the tender age of 36, as a casualty during that calamity of Yellow Fever, along with the teaching Brothers of Pass Christian College.
In 1859, Father Holton broadened the cemetery yard by 42½ feet with the purchase of more Church grounds and again by another 42½ feet by Father Blanc in 1887. Rev William Leech had been both the Administrator and the Pastor. In 1923, he had the Cemetery cleared at its northern boundary which provided space for more plots, while drains were laid throughout the grounds. The iron fencing was started in 1925 and completed the following year.
During Father Hayes' pastorship, he, too, pursued the Parish's continued growth. His burial place and plaque are also located in St. Paul's Cemetery just across from the entombment of the ten Christian Brothers.
Much like a shrine, is the tomb which stands out with the etched names of the ten Christian Brothers who eagerly had participated in uplifting the Pass Christian College to national acclaim in educational standards. These Brothers had remained in Pass Christian during the perilous plague of 1867, which ultimately extinguished their breath, and sent them home to their abode in heaven. In 1957, the present granite memorial was placed in remembrance of these ten Christian Brothers, victims of the yellow fever epidemic during the year of 1867. Rev. J.P. McGlade, then pastor, officiated at St. Paul's Cemetery. The memorial was a gift from the provinces of St. Louis and New York wherein the victims originated their membership in the Order.
Following the wrath of Camille, a number of additional gravemarkers were added. Also, the result of the Camille disaster were many of the tombs and markers which were shattered; and much of the Parish records and papers were lost, including most of the historic Cemetery documents.
In November 1973, a committee of five parishioners was appointed by Father O'Brien to undertake St. Paul's Cemetery maintenance program. This included plot and tomb maintenance, cleaning, replacement, rebuilding, and identification. Having been established in 1850, the historic Catholic Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Pass Christian. The group was led by Sam Armato, Frank J. Daley, Drusella Courtenay, Rose Remus and Will Hayden. The task force accepted the arduous commission. Armato stated, "Our immediate problems are the condition of the tombs, high weeds and dead trees and unmarked graves and empty plots."
Father James P. McGlade, a former Parish pastor, was laid to rest on March 31, 1980 along with the entombment of his niece, Mary Ellen. Father Francis Duffy, also born in the County of Derry, Ireland. He, too, was laid to rest alongside Father McGlade. Father McGlade, at the time of his ceremonializing the shrine of the ten Christian Brothers several decades before, had made his secret appeal to remain at St. Paul in total and lasting retirement.
In March 1983, the cemetery was further enlarged by Monsignor McGough, with an addition to the west side of the old cemetery, which almost doubled the size of the previous grounds.
The Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart buried one of their Josephite members, with Father Thomas F. Sheeny, October 28, 1904 to October 7, 1993.
These clerics are not alone who remain in the hearts and memories of families and friends who reside or who have resided in Pass Christian.