The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Mass returning to oldest Catholic church in the state

Published January 12, 2022

Regular Mass is returning to the oldest Catholic church in the state. Father Joseph Marconi, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Pine Bluff, began a monthly Mass at St. Mary Church in Plum Bayou (Jefferson County).

Father Marconi will celebrate Mass at 6 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month. He celebrated Mass on All Souls Day with a dozen local Catholics. Before Mass began, Trace Palazzi told the pastor that he was married in St. Mary’s 60 years ago. Angelique Ford shared she had memories when her class from the former Annunciation Academy would have field trips to St. Mary’s to clean the church and grounds. They would have a picnic lunch before going back to school. 

Father Marconi celebrated Mass Dec. 30 with 14 people present.

St. Mary Church, the first Catholic church, was established at Arkansas Post in 1782. St. Mary Church moved to Jefferson County in 1832 and was located permanently in Plum Bayou in 1869. It sits 11 miles northeast of Pine Bluff near St. Mary’s Landing on the Arkansas River. The church hasn’t been used regularly since the 1950s.

It also was the site of the first Catholic school in the state, opening in 1838. St. Joseph Church in Pine Bluff is responsible for the upkeep of St. Mary’s building and grounds. 

The next Mass is scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 27.