PHOTOS — St. Elizabeth Catholic Church celebrating its centennial this weekend; see the details

Published 5:00 pm Friday, June 10, 2022

PORT NECHES — Fellowship, friendliness and “so much spirit” are how Dinker Wallace describes St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Port Neches.

And that has likely kept the church alive and well for 100 years.

Altar Society members Wallace and Kitty Trahan were busy Friday preparing the church for Saturday’s and Sunday’s celebration and Mass.

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Trahan has been a member of St. Elizabeth’s Church since 1958. On Friday she was in the church ironing gold colored fabric to be decoratively placed for the celebration.

“There’s a can-do attitude,” Trahan said of the church. “There are no borders. We tackle what opportunity we see and we love everybody.”

The celebration

On Saturday during the 4 p.m. Mass, Bishop David Toups will officiate the service followed by the time capsule dedication. The church will receive a historical marker in honor of the 100th anniversary.

Mark Fiorenza, who has been a member since 1994, is head of the 100-year committee for the church. He said the time capsule will include a COVID mask, church bulletin and the names of all members who were born, died, made their confirmation and those who graduated high school as well as the names of new members.

The capsule will be kept sealed for 50 years.

On Sunday, after the 11 a.m. Mass, there will be lunch served by the Knights of Columbus, a bounce house, face painting, game trucks and music.

The events are open to all.

The good works and history

“We are blessed by God, we always give back to the community and do what we can to help our schools,” Fiorenza said, adding the church also works to help the less fortunate.

The caring nature of the community church goes back to the roots in Port Neches.

Fiorenza spoke of the founding priest, the Rev. Fred Hardy. The 1920s-era priest took in orphans and helped find them homes. He had a hand in getting a number of local churches started, as well.

Hardy arrived in the area in 1921 as a missionary to form St. Elizabeth Church. His first Mass was celebrated in Liberty Theater in Port Neches, later known as Peltier Store, and the parish was formally established in 1922, according to information from the church.

The original location of the church was on Avenue B and most of the labor and lumber was donated.

During all of this Hardy faced danger and adversity. According to information chronicled by historian W.T. Block, the Port Neches Klan was active in the city and regarded the city park as their territory.

“In 1923, crank telephone calls warned Father Fred Hardy not to organize a local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, and a large stack of lumber to be used in building St. Elizabeth Church was burned, an obvious act of arson,” Block wrote.

But rather than be intimidated, Hardy organized the Knights of Columbus at Port Neches Park and they marched through the streets to the new church on Avenue B. The crank phone calls stopped and there were no more incidents of violence.

The church in Port Neches is named in honor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, also known as St. Elizabeth of Thuringia.

The church is currently located at 2006 Nall St.

The Rev. Jim McClintock, who is the current priest over the church, described the congregation as strong, vibrant, generous and serving of the community.

“They’re just inspiring, inspiring to me,” McClintock said. “We’ve been helping out with different charities in the area, helping the poor and have been a place of education and service.”

He recalled how the congregation has survived challenges; from the strong anti-Catholic sentiment, Great Depression, hurricanes, floods, plant explosions and the COVID pandemic — “but through all those challenges, St. Elizabeth parish has not only preserved, but thrived, as a shining light for all to see.”

The parishioners of St. Elizabeth community of faith, much like St. Elizabeth, have served Christ and the area with distinction, feeding the hungry, assisting the poor and those in need, teaching children and adults about Christ and his Church by word and example, he said.

And while the events this weekend have a place in the history of the church, there’s more to consider.

“This is just a small function to mark into the story of the Catholic Church in Port Neches and we look for many, many more chapters of faith, fellowship and service,” McClintock said.