Old Catholic Cemetery gets much needed facelift

By By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

Members of the Calcasieu Historical Preservation Society and the Catholic Cemetery Restoration Project held a cleanup Saturday

morning at Catholic Cemetery, on the corner of Iris and Common streets.

Before the actual event, the group members gathered around a table in the middle of the cemetery and ate a light breakfast

and chatted about the history buried beneath them. Some of the graves underneath the overgrown weeds and plants date back

as far as the late 1800s.

During the breakfast, Adley Cormier, a

local preservationist, talked to the group about how unique the site is.

He discussed

the different burial traditions that were visible among the

tombstones from French to Spanish traditions to the above-ground,

vault and underground burial methods. Catholic Cemetery is home to

at least 250 families.

“Cemeteries are very quirky in Southwest Louisiana,” Cormier told the group. “If you’re a cemetery lover, we have a number

of interesting ones here.”

The cemetery has seen its fair share of

hardships. From some of the vaults falling apart over time to people

coming and removing

items from the graves, the cemetery is far removed from the beauty

it knew long ago. Nancy Moss is the president of the preservation

society. As the group began cleaning — some grabbing sheers to

clip away vines, others putting on gloves to pull weeds — Moss

talked about how the cemetery deserves to have its beauty

restored. She said with so much history inside of the gates, it’s

a priority to keep the lot pristine.

“There are a lot of founding fathers buried here,” Moss said. Cormier chimed in from a distance that there were founding mothers

buried there as well.

“And founding mothers,” Moss said. “We really just want to make this place pretty again. That’s our goal.”

Moss said she was thinking about making the cleanup an annual event for the group — maybe even down the road, getting more

of the local community involved in restoring some of the area’s older cemeteries.

Shirley Maurer attended the event with her husband, Steve. She said that when it comes to learning about the history of a

region, residents of Southwest Louisiana have an advantage.

“People have to realize how important it is to get children to come out and learn about their area’s history,” Maurer said.

“Small towns and the families in them have the advantage of having multi-generational access to their kids. It’d be great

to get them out to teach them about the area’s past.”