Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Crowley, LA originally began as a Mission Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel Church. Auxiliary Bishop Maurice Schexnayder, serving as Pastor of St. Michael in the 1950’s, purchased four acres of land in south Crowley and erected a lovely frame church, naming it Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel. The chapel seated about 450 people, and various Priests from Lafayette assisted in the celebration of Sunday Masses at 7am and 6pm.
On December 5, 1958, Fr. William Reintjes, C.S.s.R., the Vice-Provincial of the Redemptorists in New Orleans, accompanied by fellow Redemptorists Fr. Elmer Toups, C.S.s.R., and Fr. Gerald Bass C.S.s.R., traveled from New Orleans to Lafayette to meet with Bishop Schexnayder to discuss the establishment of the new Parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary and setting a date to do so. Bishop Schexnayder decreed the erection of the new Parish and set its boundaries as the territory south of the railroad tracks in Crowley, with the effective date of January 1, 1959 and with Fr. Elmer Toups, C.S.s.R., as the first Pastor.
The Redemptorists arrived in Crowley on Tuesday, December 30th and assumed care and leadership of the Parish on January 1, 1959 and would continue to live and serve the church community until the year 2003.
During those early days of the parish, residents of the community of south Crowley embraced the new Redemptorist Priests and were proud to have a Parish of their own. The Mass schedule was changed to three Masses on Sunday: 6 am, 8 am, and 6 pm. The Redemptorists spent their first months settling in and establishing various parish organizations and societies as well as arranging Catechism classes for the youth. Groups established through the years included the Rosary Altar Society, the Ushers Society, the Knights of the Altar (servers), the Sacre Coeur Knights of Columbus, the St. Vincent de Paul Society for the poor, the Legion of Mary, as well as others.
Novena devotions to Our Mother of Perpetual Help were also begun and continue to be prayed today.
Once the various organizations were in place, the Priests turned their time and attention to building a permanent grade school building in February of 1961. The school was opened later that same year on September 5. The first building housed a cafeteria with four classrooms attached which held 60 students. Eventually, three Sisters from the School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived to teach in Redemptorist School. Throughout the years, the school expanded to meet the needs of increased enrollment, which included grades Pre-K through Eighth.
In 1968, a groundbreaking ceremony for the new rectory took place, and the Redemptorist Priests moved into it the following year. Other major undertakings included the building of the Parish Hall and a new school gymnasium.
During the administration of the parish by the Redemporists, Immaculate Heart of Mary was blessed to have two young men from our Parish who joined the Redemptorists. Fr. Michael Schatzle, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Schatzle, was ordained as a Redemptorist Priest and after serving as a Priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, retired in May, 2019. Fr. Byron Miller, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Miller, was also ordained as a Priest for the Redemptorists and continues to serve.
Beginning with Fr. Elmer Toups, CSs.R. (1959-1967) who arrived in 1959, the Redemptorists served the Parish for 44 years. Pastors after Fr. Toups included Fr. Clement Monroe, CSs.R. (1967-1972), Fr. Gregory LaHay, CSs. R. (1972-1978), Fr. Alphonse Abadie, CSs. R. (1978-1981), Fr. Edward Glebe, CSs. R. (1981-1984), Fr. Clement Monroe, CSs. R (1984-1987), Fr. John Farnik, CSs. R. (1987-1990), and Fr. Joe Steffes, CSs. R. (1990-1999). Fr. Gerard "Gerry" Seibold, CSs.R. (1999-2003) was the last Redemptorist Pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church.
Other Redemptorist Priests and Brothers who lived and served at IHM throughout the years included Enos Babin, Gerald Bass (1959-1961), Robert Gaydos (1975-1983), Kenneth Broll, John Bosco, John Buttimer, Alton Carr (1969-1981), Edward Cosgrave, Warren Drinkwater, Christopher Farrell, Evan Gautreau (1969-1971), Joseph Greenwell (1982-1984, 1993-2003), Joseph Hasler, Henry Heim (1966, 1988-1990), James Hennessy, Samuel Maranto, Lamar Partin, Arthur Patton, Joseph Pelletteiri, Stephen Plei, Carl Schindler, Vincent Soriano, and Eugene Staub.
In 2003, The Redemptorists announced that they would no longer be able to serve Immaculate Heart of Mary and departed Crowley on June 1, 2003, turning over the care of the Parish to the Diocese of Lafayette. At that time, the Parish purchased the rectory and former convent from the Redemptorists.
On June 10, 2003, Fr. Rusty Richard, a native of Scott, LA was assigned by Bishop Edward O’Donnell as the first Priest of the Diocese of Lafayette to serve as Pastor of the Parish. During his time, the convent was renovated to serve as the rectory. The former rectory was converted to serve as the Parish Life Center and the Parish's Offices. Fr. Rusty left the Parish in 2005.
In the summer of 2005, Fr. Matthew Higginbotham, a native of Lafayette, was appointed Pastor of the Parish by Bishop Michael Jarrell. During his administration, the church was restored with a new altar, reredos, ambo, faceted stained glass windows, and sacred art. After twelve years of faithful service to Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fr. Higginbotham was given a new assignment in the summer of 2017.
Fr. Jason Vidrine, a native of Ville Platte, was appointed Pastor of the parish by Bishop Douglas Deshotel and arrived on July 3, 2017 to serve Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. In April 2018, a new Praesidium of the Legion of Mary was formed, which took the name Mater Redemptoris (Mother of the Redeemer) Praesidium in homage of the legacy of the Redemptorists in the Parish. That summer in June, the Parish hosted Vacation Bible School for the first time in many years with a tremendously successful turnout. Unfortunately by the Fall of 2018, Redemptorist school experienced a low enrollment and sadly had to close its doors in May, 2019. Later that Fall, in October 2019, a Junior Praesidium of the Legion of Mary was formed. Fr. Vidrine guided the Parishioners during the COVID-19 Pandemic, airing Masses on the weekend when the public celebration of Holy Mass was not allowed. During this time, a Communion rail was erected in the church. In April, 2020, Bishop Deshotel appointed Deacon Joshua LeBlanc to assist Fr. Vidrine at Immaculate Heart, the first Deacon in the history of the Parish to be assigned to serve the Parish. Around the same time, IHM Parishioner and longtime altar server, Caleb Henry was accepted as a Seminarian for the Diocese of Lafayette - the first vocation for the Diocesan Priesthood in the Parish's history. He is the son of Blake and Celeste Henry. After four years of faithful service to Immaculate Heart of Mary, Fr. Vidrine was given a new assignment in July of 2021.
Immaculate Heart of Mary is grateful to all of the Priests and lay Faithful who worked so long and hard throughout its history to establish the Parish and helped it to grow and prosper as well as for the Priests and Parishioners who continue to make our Parish grow and flourish today.