Annunciation Parish, Kiln and Hancock County, Mississippi have a long and
interesting history. This year marks another milestone in this journey as Annunciation Parish celebrates its 150th anniversary.
Bishop Louis F. Kihneman will host a celebratory mass on June 23 at the 11 a.m. mass followed by a reception
in the Parish Hall. Both Father Bob Higginbotham, the current pastor, and Bishop Kihneman welcome all parishioners and friends of Annunciation to this celebration.
The parish was originally established as a mission of Our Lady of the Gulf Parish in Bay St. Louis in 1869.
The earliest white settlers of this area were mainly of French descent, moving west from Mobile. Because they were French and most of them were Catholic, French priests also came to minister to their needs. The first Catholic diocese in Mississippi was established in Natchez in 1837 and ten years later Our Lady of the Gulf parish was established in Bay St. Louis. It is the fifth oldest parish in the state.
The priests from OLG were given responsibility to this area, referred to as the Three Rivers Mission, they generally visited the area every six weeks either by boat or by horseback.
Diocesan reports indicate that a new church was built here in 1886 to replace the original one in 1869 that had grown too small. It was dedicated by Bishop Janssens in November of that year. From then on, the church was known as the "Church of Annunciation."
It was served by Fr. Henry Mortier in 1890, followed by Fr. Henry Chauvin, and in 1919, Fr. Alexander C. Denis from Belgium took over as pastor for the next 26 years. He is still remembered by older parishioners today for his
dedication and frugal lifestyle. Following the death of Fr. A.C. Denis, the religious order of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians) assumed responsibility for the Parish, with Fr. Francis Xavier Toner assuming the pastorate in June 1945.
The missions of Annunciation Parish at the time encompassed Fenton, Rocky Hill, White Cypress, and later Catahoula, where a chapel was dedicated in September 1949. The Trinitarian Sisters came to the parish in 1950 to assist with the religious education program. Sister Mary Ellen Henebury is probably the best remembered of these, especially for her work as nurse serving the poor of the area for the next 25 years.
Then in 1959, Annunciation purchased a public consolidated school that ended up operating in Kiln for many years with 260 students of whom 240 were Catholic. It was renovated by the parish and opened as a Catholic school with classes up to the 8th grade in 1960 with the assistance of the Trinitarian Sisters followed by Sisters from the order of the Religious of Jesus and Mary from New York. The school continued to operate up to 1985, when it closed due to insufficient enrollment and financial problems. It is now the present day Annunciation church.
The Trinitarian Order continued to take care of the parish until 1988, when it reverted to the care of the Diocese of Biloxi and so in June 1988, Fr. Henry McInerney was appointed as pastor, the first diocesan priest since 1945. The
parish then welcomed Fr. John Noone in 2002. Unfortunately, Annunciation was hit by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. When repairs were being made, it was discovered that the church had more damage than was previously thought. Fr. John received approval to renovate the gym. The old church is now being used as a chapel for daily mass and adoration. With this, Annunciation was able to bring decommissioned artifacts from older churches to life in the new church. Then in 2015, Annunciation welcomed Father Richard LaCorte. Currently, Fr. Richard is
serving as Annunciation's priest in residence and Fr. Bob Higginbotham is the current pastor.
As the parish begins the celebration of its 150th anniversary, Fr. Bob would like parishioners to
reflect on all the changes the parish has witnessed over the years of its existence.
"We pray that God will continue to bless this parish and all of our parishioners and that He will endow us with the wisdom to see His hand in every new day that draws upon all of us," Higginbotham said.
Father Bob invites all parishioners and friends of Annunciation to the celebrator mass on June 23 at the 11 a.m. mass, followed by a reception in the Parish Hall.