MLK 50: St. Rose de Lima a place to pray and a source of pride for Bay St. Louis

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Less than a mile away from the Gulf of Mexico stands a place of worship initially intended for African-American Catholics in Bay St. Louis.

St. Rose de Lima has served as a place to pray and a source of pride for generations.

"Since 1926," explains church matriarch Marilyn Smith. "And this year we are celebrating 91 years."

This year marks 49 years since Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated outside his hotel room at the Lorraine Hotel. As part of WGNO-News with a Twist's yearlong commemoration of the life of Dr. King, we are reflecting on the past, evaluating the present – and seeking solutions for the future with stories that highlight local Civil Rights history and more.

Smith's family has been coming here for just about all of that time, and while living on the coast has its risks, she said parishioners have managed to fashion beauty out of some of the storms that have come their way.

Take, for example, the beautiful church altar, which started out as a piece of driftwood found by one of the church's parishioners.

One also can't help but notice the stunning mural that was designed by artist Auseklis Ozols of the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, with some help from parishioner Kat Fitzpatrick.

St. Rose de Lima is a vibrant parish, with incredible services every week and an acclaimed choir.

For Smith, this is home.

"I feel the love," she says. "I feel the warmth of this community. I'm thankful because of the people, the religious who taught me, the priests who served here, and the people who come here."

"It means the whole world to me," she continues. "It's my life. This is where I started, and this is where I'm sure I'll finish."

Click here for service times and directions.