Environmental justice advocate Sharon Lavigne, founder of the group Rise St. James, inside St. James Catholic Church in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Lavigne is a lifelong member of the church. Credit: James Bruggers
By James Bruggers, Inside Climate News, February 20, 2023
The brown brick Roman Catholic church that sits here near the Mississippi River, next to dozens of large oil storage tanks, rose in 1930 amid the sugar cane fields of a former plantation. Twenty-two years later, Sharon Lavigne was born and baptized within its pale blue plaster walls pierced by the light from bright stained glass windows.
Now 70, Lavigne steps into St. James Church on a late January morning, dipping her fingers into a vessel of holy water. She makes the sign of the cross, takes a seat in a pew and pauses for a silent prayer.
It’s in this church, in the industrial corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known as Cancer Alley, that Lavigne found the strength and inspiration to take on multiple chemical plants, including a Taiwanese-based global plastics manufacturing company.