FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The neighborhoods off Terrell Avenue just south of downtown are rebuilding around their old foundation: Its churches.
The neighborhood is a mixture of dilapidated wooden homes, newer brick houses and city-supplied infrastructure like light fixtures and sidewalks that encourage development.
And on every other corner, it seems, there is a church. And one of its churches is as original as any in America.
Every Sunday morning at 10 a.m. you can feel the spirit of the African-American church through the beats of a drum, the bluesy progressions of the piano and the soulful lyrics of its gospel music.
Take a guess at what denomination it is, though. You don’t have to go far, just look at the statue of the black Virgin Mary outside the church’s front door. They’re Catholic. Our Mother of Mercy Church has been there nearly 100 years.
“Jospehite’s founded this as a black church as they have all their churches,” said Rev. Jerome Ledoux, the church’s pastor.
Father Ledoux moved here from New Orleans after Katrina. His style of gospel mass came with him.
“I thought the Catholic Church was Catholic,” Ledoux said. “Catholic means universal, embracing everything. And finally it became universal when it began to embrace the Negro spiritual, black gospel.”
Decades before in the Catholic Church, the gospel melodies were allowed but the songs weren’t sung in English.
And singing gospel music in Latin just didn’t have the same impact.
“There is no music more sacred than the Negro spirituals,” LeDoux said. “It is straight out of the
Gospel. It is straight out of the heart of the slaves. Where Were You When They Crucified My Lord? You don’t get any more spiritual than that.”
The church’s message is delivered in a manner that’s evolved as the foundation of worship for generations of worshipers.
“It’s very important because we get to practice our faith with people who are very similar to our culture,” said Richard Alexander, a church member who said he tried attending several other churches before settling his family into the Our Mother of Mercy parish.
“The only way to preach the gospel effectively is according to a man a woman’s or child’s culture,” LeDoux said. “That’s the way you communicate with a person.”