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In memory of Father Albert McKnight on the anniversary of his passing

By April 20, 2022No Comments


Contributing Writer

Father Albert McKnight
Father Albert McKnight

Father Albert McKnight was remembered Monday by those he evidently continues to influence as a priest who was willing to challenge existing social and political power structures in order to manufacture change for those he determined were in need of assistance.

Several among the small crowd who gathered at Holy Ghost Catholic Church on North Union Street to remember McKnight, who died on April 17, 2016, discussed during a noon church service how his ministry during the 1980’s which in various ways affected their lives.

The memorial mass conducted by Father Richard Andrus, SVD, included testimonies from those who once worked alongside McKnight and others who were congregants during the decade McKnight was in Opelousas.

Andrus, a member of the Society of the Divine Word priests whose main role according to the order’s website is “helping the most disadvantaged of God’s children,” said McKnight exemplified the Christian belief that it is “the least likely who are called to do the greatest work.”

One of the tenants of McKnight’s tenure at Holy Ghost Andrus added, was an emphasis on using “love to defeat hate and systemic racism. As people of faith, we need to remember that and keep pressing.”

McKnight, who later left his role as pastor of Holy Ghost during the 1990’s in order to develop a presence among the Haitian people, said McKnight was dedicated to using “love in order to defeat hate and racism.”

After returning for nearly 15 years in Haiti, McKnight retired from the priesthood in 2005.

LeMar Clifford, who spoke at the event, reminded those in attendance that McKnight saw a need to assist the poor in Haiti, a decision that he said has continued to inspire others.

“You can still sense his presence there. It is still felt. (McKnight) had a grand vision and now it is up to us to keep his vision and mission alive, spreading his message. I know I follow his teachings because he is a hero to us,” Clifford added.

Ronnie Moore, who edited McKnight’s autobiography “Whistling In the Wind,” completed eight years before his death, describes McKnight as a “combination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X.”

Opelousas resident Eva Iford said that McKnight’s intention to teach the Haitian people how to develop a sustainable agriculture has been an important admonition for her.

Iford said she has been to Haiti several times in order to help the people there.

“Father McKnight may not be here now, but we are holding fundraisers to help the Haitian people. They are truly the heartbeat of our people and we will not give up,” Iford said.

Chris Williams who was in one of McKnight’s youth groups, said McKnight taught him a valuable lesson that he continues to remember.

“Father McKnight taught me the intrinsic instincts that allowed you to deal with what like would throw at you,” said Williams.

While McKnight was in Opelousas, his message of economic inequality for Blacks cut dagger sharp through St. Landry and surrounding parishes.

McKnight was also instrumental in helping start the original Labor Day weekend Zydeco Festival, which has continued as one of the main social gatherings in St. Landry, in addition to securing funding and land for agricultural cooperatives that assisted Black farmers with information and economic resonance.

Later accounts of McKnight’s life show that he was interested in Blacks obtaining financial independence by having them move away from consumerism to ownership of their own businesses.