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Thursday, April 21

Obituary :Rev. Albert J. McKnight, Former Holy Ghost pastor dies at 88

The Rev. Albert J. McKnight, 88, who organized and led a peaceful economic revolution among low-income families in the rural South and was a pastor at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas, died Sunday night in Pennsylvania, according to long-time friend Kerstan Major.
McKnight died at a retirement facility in Greentree, Pennsylvania, that had been his home for the last several months, Major said.
"He was more of a father figure to me," Major said. "He was special to all of us."
McKnight helped establish a national system of credit unions and cooperatives, including the Southern Cooperative Development Program and the Southern Cooperative Development Fund. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the first board of directors of the National Cooperative Bank, according to heroes.coop.
McKnight was born in Brooklyn, New York, but he spent most of his time in the South, working as a civil rights activist among other things. He was ordained to priesthood in 1952, according to his obituary, and he served as the pastor of Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas for about 10 years.
McKnight was first appointed to St. Paul Church in Lafayette.
"I first saw him (McKnight) as a TV personality on KLFY," said Paul Scott. "He had a show called 'A visit with Father McKnight.' That was back in the '70s."
Scott said McKnight's impact on the church extended beyond his sermons. He said some of the current artwork in the church was commissioned by McKnight. Scott said he grew up in the church under McKnight's tutelage.
"He was not about gaining gaining wealth," Scott recalled. "He was about gaining knowledge. He was ahead of his time. He brought fresh thoughts and urged everyone to think. He had those dynamite sermons. He would preach long, but you never got tired."
McKnight and Scott began working together during the Southwest Louisiana Zydeco Music Festival in Plaisance in the early '80s. Scott said McKnight enjoyed Zydeco music and bicycle riding. McKnight developed the Southern Development Foundation, which started the zydeco festival.
Major said he was a teenager when McKnight became the head of Holy Ghost Church. He said McKnight developed several programs and retreats to help the youth in the area.
"I ask myself where would I be today if it wasn't for father McKnight," Major said Wednesday. "He gave us jobs and showed us how to spend money. I tribute a lot of my success to him."
Major and Scott said McKnight seemed like a mean or strict person, but was one of the nicest people around.
"During church, when it was time to greet others, he would go all the way to the back of the church and even outside to shake hands with people," Scott said. "He would do this every mass."
"He shaped our lives," Major added. "The message he had was way before his time. This guy was the truth."
A memorial mass will be held in Pennsylvania Thursday, with another service to be held in Opelousas at a later date. Burial will also take place in Opelousas.

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