Our Lady of Grace Historic Sanctuary, in the city of Reserve, was the only Catholic Church in its area that served African American parishioners exclusively when it was built in the 1930s.
Prior to the sanctuary’s construction, area African Americans were given seating in two or three of the rear pews at the segregated St. Peter’s Catholic Church. Black parishioners were allowed to take communion after white worshippers, and they were restricted from being choir members or altar boys. Our Lady of Grace, an 80-by-40 square foot, 350-person capacity church, was built exclusively for African Americans in 1936 under the direction of Father Roderick Auclair with the help of the local community. It soon gained another structure for providing Catholic schooling for black children.
The church was targeted for demolition in 1992, but it was saved by a two-mile move to its current location, on the grounds of the former Cornland Plantation. The sanctuary is now home to the non-denominational Riverlands Christian Center, and exhibits tell Our Lady of Grace’s story using historic photographs, documents and video.
It is located at 123 Redemption Way in Reserve and is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.