A spiritual experience can be more than just a religious one. St. Landry Parish has a way of tantalizing a person’s intangible mass of self, peppering their soul with new sensation.
For some people, music moves the soul. A singer’s words edge them sweetly into nirvana or a musician’s skill lulling them into a place no one else can know. And for others, food has that same effect, harkening one’s thoughts to sweeter times with people they love and fond memories. This is not to detract from the spirituality of religion. The weight of the history and traditions of the buildings and locations with each stone dedicated and lovingly assembled to the singular purpose of worship cannot be denied. These quiet places reveal themselves as havens of spiritual peace that can be found nowhere else. Sometimes a spiritual connection makes itself known in a glimpse of the past, an item, a picture, a museum detailing what is now lost to time.
The spirit can be moved by many things-be it nature, music, art, food, religion, or history. Though there is much that can move a soul, all of them can be found in St. Landry Parish.
At the St. Landry Parish Visitor Center, this sustainable building comes alive in the spring with the blooming of Louisiana irises. You can read more about the plants surrounding the center, here. However, an impressive array of greenery is not all that you’ll find on the grounds of this award-winning visitor center.
Right outside the building, as you begin to walk the path thousands of others have walked since it opened in 2011, stands a steel statue, gleaming against the blue of the Louisiana sky. This statue depicts Amédé Ardoin, legendary accordion player widely regarded as the progenitor of Cajun and zydeco music. Cajun and zydeco jam sessions are still held at the center on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays, and music remains one of the key facets of the parish. There’s always a live music event going on during the weekend.
Continue your journey into Opelousas proper by stopping along Highway 190 to the Louisiana Orphan Train Museum. Hundreds of photos line the walls showing the orphans who rode the railway from the New York Foundling Hospital into a new life in St. Landry Parish. You may even find a connection you never knew about, a piece of your own history connecting your spirit to these travelers of the past. If you feel like some outdoor activity, Dashing W. Farm allows you to experience the mystique of horses in a way unlike any other found in the state. Joe and Susan Urban are your guides to personal development at this quiet 5.26-acre farm.
Opelousas also offers a myriad of churches, each steeped in a rich history that can add new depth to your spiritual journey. The St. Landry Parish Catholic Church founded in 1770 by French Capuchin friars, features distinctive red brick. It is open for tours by appointment, as well as its cemetery, which is the final resting place of old prominent families as well as Napoleonic general Garrigue de Flaugeac. The Catholic influence in Opelousas also extends to the Holy Ghost Catholic Church, founded in 1920 and is home to the largest black Catholic congregation in the United States. The Treasures of Opelousas, a group affiliated with Holy Ghost, created the first Zydeco Festival in Plaisance in 1982. This grass roots effort gave birth to zydeco festivals all over the world.
While Opelousas is the home of zydeco, Grand Coteau is the site of a miracle. Nestled in a copse of sprawling oaks is the site of the only recorded, Vatican-approved miracle in the United States. Learn the story of Mary Wilson, who in 1866 was healed by St. Joseph Berchmans with 500 witnesses present. A shrine to the saint is erected on the spot and is open for tours by appointment.
Also located in Grand Coteau is the St. Charles Borromeo Church. This picturesque church houses a 3,104-pound bell that still rings clearly across the countryside. Aside from these soul-enlightening experiences, you can find a nice assortment of boutiques and antique shopping lining the town’s main street. You may even be able to snag a sweet dough pie from the Kitchen Shop or grab lunch at Chicory’s Café surrounded by the words of hundreds of books.
If your soul finds peace in shopping for gifts among the artifacts of time, the historic steamboat town of Washington offers a notable option for you. Peruse the halls of the Old Schoolhouse Antique Mall. This 1930s-era high school’s hallways offer antique shopping from many vendors with each room housing a different theme. If you stick around Washington, you can also find St. John’s Episcopal Church, built circa 1874. This building was used in the filming of “Free State of Jones”, a Civil War era movie.
If you like your shopping with a side of art, Sunset provides the perfect backdrop for your outing. Café Josephine opens their coffers of wine and hors d’oeuvres at each participating gallery on select Saturdays. See the colorful and striking strokes of paint at Artworks by Ted Bertrand, or the one-of-a-kind finds at boho and the Funky Flea. There’s also Jerilyn’s Fused Glass Art Gallery, where delicate glasswork shards hang from the ceiling in vivid arcs. Spirituality reveals itself in Sunset through the handmade things of artisans.
There’s a lot to be said about the spiritual places in St. Landry Parish, in particular our historic churches. Unfortunately, in the spring of 2019 three churches-St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church-were lost to fires from a person motivated by hate. The landscape of our parish has been forever changed, and the history brought and cared for by these churches has been lost. But the outpouring of support and love that came from across the country. Their efforts raised over $2 million. While not able to erase the damage done, the efforts can raise something powerful in its place, a message of hope and community that stands stronger than denizens of hatred.
There is more to discover than is mentioned here. You can visit our Spiritual Trail Itinerary for a route suggested by the St. Landry Parish Tourist Commission, or filter by Spiritual Tours in our Things to Do section of our website. Find what speaks to your spirit, today.