It may not be a “miracle”, but the marble statue “Our Lady with Child, Protectress of Storms” has been a visual promise of hope and strength since her dedication to the Our Lady of the Star Parish and Shrine Catholic Church in Cameron, LA. Although Cameron has suffered severe damage multiple times since the Shrine’s introduction to the area, little to no damage has occurred to the statue itself.
According to the official site for the Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish and Shrine, the shrine is a highly recognized part of the Catholic church. “This Shrine, though first founded by the Most Reverend Maurice Schexnayder, second Bishop of Lafayette, on October 6th, AD 1963, was recognized as a diocesan Shrine on March 25, AD 2020, by the Most Reverend Glen John Provost, third Bishop of Lake Charles. It has become the center of devotion to Our Lady in which the faithful seek her powerful intercession and protection against the ravages of the storms that come up from the Gulf, spreading chaos and disaster. We also come here to seek this same motherly care in the face of other dangers, both bodily and spiritual, that threaten us in southwest Louisiana. In addition, the same Bishop Provost obtained the favor from the Apostolic See, in 2010, of the establishment of a spiritual bond between the Shrine of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, likely the oldest church in the world dedicated to the honor of the Virgin Mother of God. As such, a pilgrim to this Shrine may obtain the same indulgences and spiritual benefits as if he were making pilgrimage to that Papal Basilica.” As many of you have seen, Cameron Parish and much of Louisiana experienced significant damage. Lives were lost, homes were lost, but the spirit of Cameron is not.
A Facebook post by Andrew Mudd of Baton Rouge, from Cameron, LA says it best.
See full link here: https://www.facebook.com/Andrew.N.Mudd/posts/10217445527425922
For a full history of Cameron, Louisiana and it’s rich Catholic history, please read below. CAMERON – The first permanent settler in the area of Louisiana south of Lake Charles may have been Pierre Vincent, a native of St. Martinville, who made his home in what is now Vincent Settlement in 1810. There were others in the area before him — horse traders and cattle drovers — but they left no permanent mark on the land. After Louisiana became a state of the Union, however, the area between Lake Charles and the Gulf of Mexico began to attract more settlers.
In the 1830s Milledge McCall settled in what is now Grand Chenier. After the same time St. Germain Ellender homesteaded in Hackberry. The Theriot family settled Chenier Perdue in 1847, and in 1849 Little Chenier became the home of the Primeaux Family. These early settlers lived in a virtual no-man’s-land, because of the difficulty of transportation. The Calcasieu and Mermentau Rivers afforded the only means of communication. A small settlement grew up at the mouth of the Calcasieu River, as a staging area for the interior. It was called Leesburg after an early settler, and in time it would become the city of Cameron the seat of the civil parish of the same name. Catholic families of the area were visited occasionally by priests from Galveston, Lake Charles or Abbeville until 1890, when all of Cameron Civil Parish became the Church Parish of Sacred Heart, with the Rev. John Engberink as the founding pastor. Father Engberink set up headquarters at LeBouf’s (now Creole) because of its central location, but he soon set about building small chapels at other settlements.
A gift of two acres of land by George Marshall, an early settler of Leesburg, provided the stimulus for the construction of a small chapel, under the title of St. Joseph. It was dedicated on July 8, 1894. Mass was celebrated thereafter once a month. Father Engberink was able to build the chapel only through the contributions of many individuals. He devoted $100 of his own to the cost. Another $15.45 was gained from a mission collection; $64.40 was contributed by individuals in New Orleans. Archbishop Francis Janssens of New Orleans, who had established the parish, sent $50. An additional $50 came from Mother Katharine Drexel, who did so much for the Black and Indian Catholics of Louisiana and elsewhere in the South and Southwest. Father Engberink also engineered the construction of a chapel for the Black Catholics of Leesburg, called St. Hubert Mission. The First Mass was celebrated there on July 7, 1895.
The isolation of the area, and the dearth of building materials made life difficult for priests serving the area. The constant threat of hurricane was another difficult factor. In 1909 Leesburg was devastated by a hurricane, and the two chapels were demolished. The Rev. John J. Hoes, then Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, reported that because of the devastation, he was not able to secure funds to repair the chapel, so it was abandoned. There was no chapel in Leesburg until Rev. J. M. Heil became the pastor in Creole. Asking the Archdiocese of New Orleans for assistance, he wrote: “Leesburg is on the mouth of the Calcasieu at the Gulf of Mexico. The Catholic congregation has 23 families, most of them poor ones, and there has not been any priest for six years. There was, in former years, a kind of a chapel, but owing to the storm and rain has been entirely ruined and never built because of the lack of financial resources.” The Archdiocese responded with a grant of $500.00 and on April 18, 1914, Mass was again celebrated in Leesburg. This chapel was named for St. James.
Growth was still slow, however, as families in the area struggled to repair damages. A year later a new pastor, the Rev. P. J. Buissink, reported the Catholic population at Leesburg Mission was only 127, including children. Three years later, all was again devastated by the hurricane of 1918. Large areas of Cameron Parish were damaged, with 40 dead and 46 seriously injured. The chapel of St. James was among many buildings destroyed. In 1927 a new pastor, the Rev. Cornelies J. van Merrienboer, came to Creole. He reported to Bishop Jules P. Jeanmard of Lafayette that there were only 20 Catholics living in Leesburg. It was not until 1937 that another Chapel was constructed in Cameron. One reason for this was the construction of the roads into Cameron Parish in 1932, which helped to end the isolation of the area. The new chapel, named for St. John the Evangelist, was constructed under the supervision of the Rev. Francis I. Bischof, for an expenditure of $1,902.25. The fund came from the following contributions: $1,087.25 from Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Daigle, $400 from Mr. and Mrs. Mark Richard for the pews, $70 from Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Richard for road construction; and $345 from John Henry Phelan of Beaumont for the altar.
In 1945 the Missionaries of LaSalette took charge of Sacred Heart Parish in Creole. The mission at Leesburg, which was now named Cameron, prospered. Services were increased, and by 1948 Mass was being celebrated in Cameron every Sunday, and by 1957 every day. Then came Hurricane Audrey in 1957. Damage to the chapel amounted to $6,000. In 1958, while people of Cameron Parish were putting their lives and businesses back together, Bishop Maurice Schexnayder, who had visited the area many times, issued a decree on June 21 making Cameron an independent church parish, under the protection of Our Lady of the Sea. The Rev. Eugene Senneville was appointed the founding pastor. Within a year a new rectory was built. Land for a future church had been purchased by the Rev. Alvarez Gilbert, MS, while pastor at Creole, and Father Senneville began landscaping it.
In 1963, the present shrine, dedicated to the Mother of God, Protectress from storms, was built upon the initiation of Bishop Schexnayder. The seven-foot marble statue of Our Lady with child was commissioned by Bishop Schexnayder while in Rome. Enrico Pandi was the sculptor, from the Tavarelli Marble Co. of Carrara, Italy. The 36-foot- high shrine was dedicated on Sept. 11, 1963, after a committee headed by Norman McCall and Albert Colligan collected the funds to build it. In 1968 the Rev. Whitney LeBlanc followed Father Senneville as pastor at Cameron, but his administration lasted only six months. He was followed by the Rev. Alcide Sonnier in August of 1968. The energetic Father Sonnier supervised the building of the present church, which was dedicated on Nov. 7, 1971. On June 1, 1976, Father Sonnier was followed by Msgr. Curtis Vidrine, whose 21-year term has been the longest in the history of the parish. Under his supervision a new parish center and education building was constructed, which was dedicated on Oct. 17, 1980 by Bishop Jude Speyrer.
On June 19, 1983, the parish celebrated its 25th anniversary. Bishop Speyrer was the celebrant of the Anniversary Mass, with Msgr. Vidrine, Father Sonnier and Father LeBlanc as concelebrants. The beautiful church building and the other facilities of the parish stand as a tribute to the people of Cameron, and to their fathers and grandfathers who sacrificed so much to make it all possible. On July 1, 1997, Msgr. Vidrine officially retired, and Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish began a new chapter in its history with a new pastor, the Rev. Alfonse Volpe. (This history was written by Truman Stacey of and for the Diocese of Lake Charles for the Jubilee Year 2000.)
The community of Cameron and the state of Louisiana as a whole is rallying together to support their neighbors in an attempt to rebuild what has been lost. Much of the state is without power and many of our neighbors are displaced. Any efforts you can make to aid is appreciated and valued, especially prayer. See this link for a list of GoFundMe sites created to aid in the disaster relief. SMART iNKLING, a marketing agency out of Shreveport, LA would like to offer our assistance as well. Please respond to the original thread of this post if you are in need or are a person or agency formed to assist with relief efforts, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can protect our neighbors. Be blessed!
UPDATE: A paypal has been created to support Our Lady of the Star and Sea Parish. To donate, please contribute here.