Hail Mary: The Madonna Chapel hosts Annual Mass in honor of Assumption of the Blessed Mother
BAYOU GOULA – The Madonna Chapel, the smallest church in the world, hosted its Annual Mass Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. in celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother.
It marked the first Mass since the passing of one of the church's long-time caretakers, A.J. Roppolo, in February.
"The first year is kind of hard," said widow Mitzie Roppolo. "He was really devoted. I get a lot of help every year. Now, I moved away and live Port Allen, so that kind of makes it a little hard on me but I can't do enough for the Blessed Mother."
Roppolo said they have cared for the church for about 25 years.
"As long as we can go," Roppolo said.
A cake sale and Italian cookies by Virginia Guercio always accompanies the Mass conducted by Our Lady of Prompt Succor pastor Rev. Joey F. Angeles.
The original chapel was built with lumber donated by area residents on land donated by Anthony Gullo in 1903. The church was built as a tribute to the Blessed Mother, and is only eight feet square.
It is said that when the eldest son of Anthony Gullo, a poor, local Italian sugar farmer, became seriously ill, the father pledged a chapel to the Madonna if the boy recovered. He did recover, and he kept his promise.
Robert Ripley brought the chapel additional fame when he featured it in "Believe It or Not."
The church only has room inside during services for a Priest and two altar boys. Many people throughout the world visit the chapel and are amazed at its size.
Peter Solito recalls painting the church with his father Joseph Solito in the 1960s.
"We used 10 gallons of paint the first time we painted," Solito said. "That is how dry it was."
A steeple was later added by Charles Fontana.
The family of Anthony Gullo now reside in Rockfort, Ill.
Other caretakers of the church have been Ostino Cashio and Rita Zito.
The church is open every day.
"It is locked but there is a key in the little box outside and anybody can go in at anytime," Roppolo said.