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Church History
“SANCTA MARIA ORA PRO NOBIS”  
HAIL MARY, PRAY FOR US
Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, Lake Village, Arkansas located on Lake Chicot is dedicated to our Blessed Mother under the title, Our Lady of the Lake. 
The words, ‘Santa Maria, Ora Pro Nobis,” in Latin, found over the round-arched entry above the front doors of the church entrance translated are, “Hail Mary Pray for Us.” 
 
The church built on Italian lines, was constructed under the direction of the pastor, Reverend Edward N. Hinkley in 1939; and dedicated by Right Rev. Bishop John B. Morris, the 3rd Bishop of Arkansas Diocese in October of the same year. It replaced an older structure in Lake Village dating from 1866. 
 
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Headlines in the diocesan paper, “The Guardian” at the time were as follows:  
“Our Lady of the Lake Centennial Celebrated 1866 – 1970:” 
 
“The 100th Anniversary of the Parish was celebrated in 1970.  Guest speakers and visiting clergy highlighted the centennial celebration of our Lady of the Lake last Sunday (Friday Sept. 25, 1970);

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 Principal celebrants of the Mass were Rev. Bernard L. Bolds, pastor. Other celebrants were the Father George A. Carns, a Dermott pastor and former pastor at Lake Village; the Rt. Rev. Msrg. Joseph Gallagher, dean of the Southeastern District; the Rev. Jean Marie Germaine of Oak Grove, La. and the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Thomas Pendergast of North Little Rock.  
 
Special guests present were the Rt. Rev. Albert L. Fletcher, Bishop of Little Rock and the Rt. Rev. Msrg. Lawrence P. Graves, auxiliary Bishop. The Rt. Rev. Msrg. Joseph Murray was master of ceremonies and Bishop Fletcher read the homily. Commentator was Joe T. Reilly of Greenville, Mississippi , grandson of Mrs. Joseph Bertram Johnson founder of “ St. Mary’s of the Lake”. The name was later changed to “Our Lady of the Lake” in 1869.” 
 
The Centennial Book is available in the book section of our website www.ourladyofthelake.us. has a detailed history of the church, and is a must read. There are also other books that will interest you about the history of our church and the Italian immigration to Sunnyside.   Page 3 
Southeast Arkansas was just as remotely removed from the nearest Catholic communities at Arkansas Post and Pine Bluff as it was from Greenville, Mississippi. Diocesan boundaries were not considered by the early bishops and priests in their efforts to convert souls to Christ and to administer to the needs of the scattered families. The distance from Lake Village to Greenville was only about a mile as the crow flies. Because of the bends which existed in the Mississippi at that time one could paddle across the river, pick up his skiff and walk across a narrow neck of the land, put his boat back into the water and paddle a little more. Greenville had accommodations for a priest, but Southeast Arkansas had neither church nor rectory.  
 
At this time Mrs. Joseph Bertram Johnson (Katherine Kiernan) began pleading with the Bishops of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana for the establishment of a Catholic mission in Lake Village. They worked hard, held strawberry suppers to help raise funds. Services were held in homes until they acquired a site adjacent to the to the holdings of their parents, and built a white frame church on the banks of Lake Chicot (then known as Old River) and was dedicated in 1869 as Saint Mary’s of the Lake.  
 
 
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The mission of the church was at that time beyond computation, but regular services were held at Sunnyside: Hyner, Cottonwood, and Hebron. Even areas as remote as Lakeport, Clover, Eudora, Luna, and Readland were included to convert souls to Christ and to administer to the spiritual welfare of the families.  
Although many have read stories of Father Frank Joachim Galloni reaching the faithful by horse in the early years, Father Theophilus Okpara, present pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Church, has no horse, but continues work as in the past, serving missions at Holy Spirit Church in Hamburg, and Holy Cross Church in Crossett. Arkansas. He is active in prison ministry as well.  
Missionary Carmelites reside and serve in Hamburg, Arkansas. They are: Sr. Gisela Esperanza Rivera; Sr. Rosendina García; Sr. Marileth Cabrera; and Sr. María Gabriela Torres.  
 
 
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Bell System of Our Lady of the Lake Church 
 
 
The church bell system was installed in our Lady of the Lake Church in 1966 by Rev. Bernard Bolds, the resident pastor from 1948 to 1973. His love for church music and classical was his obsession. He worked hard to raise money for the purchase of and to have the system installed.  
He had hundreds of beautiful hymns played 15 minutes on every quarter hour. Although some of the neighbors and townspeople complained; they became accustomed to it and missed the music, if by chance it was not played.  
 
 
 
Father Bolds loved his system so much that converts had to endure much longer sessions of learning the faith. 
He would keep them hours longer to have their company in listening to strains of “Mule Train” by Frankie Lane, and other similar songs by various artists of that era and played them so loudly it was heard it was all over town and if the winds were right, even across the Lake Chicot. 
 
These sessions that generally lasted less than a year were extended as much as two years for some. They said that Father Bolds needed to share what he perceived as a wonderful gift for not only himself, but for others as well. As he listened he would close his eyes and sit quietly with them. 
 
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Our Lady of the Lake Architecture 
 
 
 
The basic architecture of the Renaissance was the adaptation of the classical, with balanced columns, domes, and symmetrical facades. The rounded back, as you see on our Lady of the Lake, accommodates the same in the front apse; there is no spring point. This circular form often appeared in architecture, especially Byzantine. Romanesque was the dominant architecture in Europe during the 8th – 12th century. It was characterized by Roman precedents, particularly arches and barrel vaults, as evidenced here.  
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Architecture of Our Lady of the Lake Church 
 
When Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church was built in 1939 it was constructed on the beautiful Italian lines of masonry and concrete. Its exterior was faced with blended shades of red brick. The steps, columns of the front entrance, window sills, and panel above the front entrance were all carried out in cast stone. Steel trusses support a standing seam metal roof. Its windows are of cathedral art glass. The nucleus of the building fund was done with $5,000.00 bequeathed by Father F. J. Galloni for the erection of a new church and the rest of the cost of $30,000.00 was carried out with the enthusiasm and cooperation of the parishioners of Our Lady of the Lake Parish. 
 
 
The Gothic style of architecture and interior design came to be the norm in Europe in the thirteenth century. The basic elements include a flood of sunlight illuminated through windows, and abundance of decoration, the use of arches, buttresses, and vaulted. Verticality was symbolic of the ethereal or heavenly.