Since 1785, the priests of St. Bernard Catholic Church had served
Catholics living below New Orleans. The boundaries of St. Bernard
Church parish were exceedingly far-flung, extending from Parish
Road, along the Mississippi River to the Poydras Plantation. The
communities along Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs, including Delacroix
Island and Shell Beach also formed part of the church parish.
Before this time and up until the early 1900's much of St. Bernard
parish was divided into large plantation estates used for the
cultivation of cash crops such as indigo, sugar cane and rice.
Falling demands for these goods brought about the demise of large
plantations. Large estates were subdivided into smaller tracts of
land and vegetable and citrus cultivation replaced sugar cane and
rice as major cash crops. Soon New Orleans began to offer a
convenient and lucrative market for the produce grown.
in the latter half of the 19th century, St. Bernard experienced a
huge influx of Italian immigrants from Sicily. Families with names
such as Mumphrey, Allo, Ingargiola, Licciardi, Randazzo, Gebbia,
Livaccari, Caserta, Bilogna, Nicosia, Bonomo and Saltalmacchia
purchased the divided farms. The Sicilians made creole tomatoes
famous and enhanced the economy of St. Bernard.
of Canary Island families from the easternmost sections of St.
Bernard began settling in the Borgnemouth Development, an area
situated at the mouth of the Violet Canal and the Mississippi
River which was developed in the early 1900's as Borgnemouth North
and South and also at the site of Dupre' Plantation. Members of
the Perez, Serpas, Estopinal, Nunez, Melerine and Assevedo
families were among Canarian or Isleno descendants who settled in
the population shifted from Bayou Terre-aux-Boeufs to the newly
available land, it became obvious to the priests of St. Bernard
Church that a chapel should be built to accommodate the
parishioners in the area between Paris Road and Poydras
Mission Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernard Catholic
to 1785, priests from the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans
celebrated the baptisms, marriages and funerals of residents of
St. Bernard. It was not until the advent of the Spaniards and the
creation of the Canary Islander settlement of San Bernardo that
action was taken to erect the church parish of St. Bernard, the
first Catholic church parish below the city.
1785, a Spanish Capuchin, Father Mariauo de Brunete, was assigned
to San Bernardo as the founding pastor by Governor Esteban Miro.
Father Brunete was succeeded by Father Agustin Lamar in 1787.
During his pastorate the first St. Bernard Church was built
somewhere between 1787 and 1791. The building stood until a
second, larger St. Bernard Church was completed in 1851 under the
pastorate of Father Jean Caretta.
Laurent Borredon was assigned to the pastorate in 1906. A native
of France, his earnest sermons in French soon won him the respect
of his French-speaking congregation.
Livaudais Sr., a polished young attorney and businessman, was
impressed by the French priest and soon befriended him. Livaudais
was destined to play a significant role in the establishment of
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Born
in Plaquemines Parish, Oliver was the son of Albert Enonl de
Livaudais, a planter who studied law and became judge of St.
Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. Livaudais
and a group of entrepreneurs from New Orleans and St. Bernard had
organized the Borgnemouth Realty Company and purchased the former
Dupre' Guichard Plantation on May 6, 1904.
Borredon approached Livaudais and asked the realty company for
permission to establish a mission chapel on their property in what
is now the town of Violet. On September 15, 1908, the Board of
Directors of Borgnemouth Realty Company authorized their
president, Sylvester P. Walmsley, and their secretary Oliver S.
Livaudais Sr., to sign an act of sale for the transfer of lots
three, four, five, six and seven in square one, town of
Borgnemouth for the sum of one
dollar, subject to the restriction that the property could
"only be used for church and school purposes." A small chapel under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes was constructed
in 1916 shortly thereafter.
son, Gatien, recalled that J. C. Bourg was the contractor who
built the original Lourdes Chapel. He was the same contractor who
constructed the old Violet School in 1913 on land offered by
Borgnemouth Realty. "When they broke up the school, the
ownership of the property had to be determined." Gatien
Livaudais said. "Judge Leander Perez decided that the school
board owned the building and the realty company owned the land.
The Livaudais family donated the land to the church and Manuel Molero bought the
building for $50 and gave it to Lourdes." This building
became the community center for Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, the
site of many church activities.
Borredon remained in residence at St. Bernard Church until it was
destroyed by fire on February 13, 1916. The adjoining rectory,
which was occupied by Father Borredon and his sister, was also
destroyed. Masses in St. Bernard Parish were celebrated thereafter
in Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel. Our Lady of Lourdes became the
mother church of St. Bernard civil parish.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
Borredon then lived in homes of parishioners as he made
preparations to direct St. Bernard Church Parish from Violet.
Apparently, parish resources were insufficient to undertake the
construction of a new church at the site of the old one.
1924, Father Louis Balechou succeeded Father Borredon as pastor,
taking over a parish of 600 people. A native of France, he was a
veteran of World War I. He was noted for his sternness an was a
strict fiscal administrator. Father Balechou was the essence of
discipline and commanded respect from all who knew him. Despite
his proper facade, he was capable of great warmth. Under Father
Balechou, the present St. Bernard Church was constructed in 1925.
He also widened Lourdes Church to its present size the same year.
In 1927 the rectory was built and the sanctuary was added on to
parishioners experienced great hardships. The devastating
Mississippi River floods of 1922 and 1927 had ruined crops and
destroyed homes of many and the financial crash of 1919 and the
"Great Depression" only compounded their living
problems. For the 13 years he served as pastor, Father Balechou
never collected a salary because offertory collections were only
sufficient to keep the church running. Father Balechou lived
mostly off money acquired from his family inheritance.
was during this time (1934) that the church parish came to be
served by Mrs. Helen Selle, a full-time church organist who would
devote the next 50 years of her life to the music ministry. Mrs.
Selle was responsible for getting the church its first electric
organ and organized the first Lourdes Carnival Ball in 1947.
Eucharist Missionaries of St. Dominic were invited in 1935 to help
with Lourdes parish and the mission chapels. Two or three sisters
would travel to and from Violet by street car or bus from their
motherhouse in New Orleans. Eventually they drove a school bus to
bring children to a site for religious instruction, then delivered
them home along the Mississippi River and the bayous.
missionaries, sometimes living and working with candidates and
novices of their community, lay volunteers or other sisters have
resided in Lourdes between 1957-1982 and 1990 until 1999, when the
Eucharistic Missionaries had fulfilled their mission to our parish
and withdrew. The sisters have been primarily involved in
catechists, helping to form lay catechists, sharing the faith with
adults and youth, assisting in the Rite of Christian Initiation of
as well as pastoral ministry. Their primary mission goal has been
the enablement of lay ministry and the support of lay leadership
in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.
1939, German immigrant Father Clemens Schneider was appointed as
pastor of Lourdes with attached mission of St. Bernard, Yscloskey,
Reggio, Delacroix Island and smaller mission stations located in
Plaquemines Parish. He would hold the position for the next 24
years, assisted by Fathers James Finnegan, William Bekema,
Athanasius Brugger, O.S.B., Godfrey Velden, Morris Dummet, Carmel
Grech, John Barrios, Allen Roy, Clinton Doskey and Henry Naquin.
1941 to 1946, Father Schneider served as chaplain in the United
States Army. Father Joseph Janssen organized the first Catholic
Youth Organization for the parish.
Schneider, always interested in preservation, took it upon himself
to restore many of the historic tombs in St. Bernard Cemetery.
Through years of neglect, the tombs became dilapidated with many
of the tombstones shattered into hundred of pieces. Piece by piece
Father Schneider glued many of the broken pieces together and
preserved the burial grounds.
September 9, 1964, Our Lady of Lourdes Church was spared by
Hurricane Betsy, but the mission chapels and their parishioners
were not as fortunate. All three chapels in lower St. Bernard were
destroyed and many lives turned upside down because people had no
homes to return to, no clothing to wear or food to eat.
Michael Finnegan, James' younger brother, was appointed as pastor
the following year and stayed until 1971. In 1968, Father Finnegan
approached Achbishop Philip M. Hannan about having a Saturday
Vigil Mass at the church. Archbishop Hannan authorized his plea
and on September 4, 1968 the first vigil mass in the archdiocese
was held at Lourdes.
of a shortage of priests in the archdiocese in 1971, Archbishop
Philip M. Hannan invited the La Sallette Fathers Fernand Langevin
and Roland Vandal to serve in the parish. Father Richard Theodule
followed Father Vandal in 1974.
Rudolph Schmidt was named pastor in 1975 and Father Kenneth
Hedrick assisted him. These two young priests stirred the spirit
of a "new" congregation. Lay people became more involved
in parish activities and the youthful appeal of the two men drew
young people to church in great numbers. Father
Hedrick initiated a very active liturgy committee that still
exists in the parish today.
1980, Father Kenneth Ryan became pastor. Father Ryan had
experience with youth programs and reactivated the CYO. Aware of
the lack of unity within the church, Father Ryan instituted the
Violet Oyster Festival to build fellowship among the parishioners.
Today, the festival is still going strong and gets better and
better each year. It is a major source of revenue for the church.
1986, our parish has been led by Father Frank Lipps. Father Frank
has served as pastor longer than any pastor has in our recent
history. In fact, Father Frank's tenure is equaled to that of our
founding pastor Father Borredon and his successor, Father Balechou.
And of course, our beloved Father Clemens
Schneider who served two separate tenures at Lourdes between 1939
and 1963. It goes without saying that Father Frank found a home at
Lourdes and the people of Lourdes found a pastor that became a
lifetime friend of the community. Father Frank was
named a monsignor on January 9, 2000. He is the only priest in the
St. Bernard Deanery with this distinction. In his humble way,
Father Frank credits the parish for his elevation within the
1986, Deacon Bill Chiappetta assisted the pastoral team with
Baptisms, First Eucharist, special liturgies and Funeral Rites as
well as many other committees and tasks of the parish.
June of 1987, after Father Frank experienced some health concerns,
we were blessed to receive Father Adrian Figuerola as
co-pastor. Leading the parish as it celebrated its 75th
anniversary, in 1991 were Father Frank Lipps, Father Adrian
Figuerola and Sister Jeanne Moore, O.P. Their unity, deep faith in
God and love for our community have made our parish family grow
stronger. We have made great progress in strengthening
communication between the parishioners and the clergy through the
various ministries that were formed. Father Frank and Father
Adrian combined for a perfect pastoral team. Father Frank's
common-sense approaches to our challenges kept us on track. Father
Adrian's deep spiritual side ignited a fire of deeper
understanding of the scriptures. His gentle ways and traditions endeared him to
us, but soon we were faced with his departure. We bid Father
Adrian farewell on June 27, 1992 at a retirement party in his
honor, held at the community center.
John Nhan Tran, newly ordained priest, arrived in July, 1992. He
was eager to learn about parish life as a priest and we were just
as eager to indoctrinate him. Father John soon became like a son,
a brother, and a friend to the community. His youthfulness sparked
interest from the youth of the parish. Father John stayed with us
until June, 1995.
Nguyen Bach served a one year internship at Our Lady of Lourdes.
Our parish family proudly shared in his ordination into the
Priesthood in 1994.
July, 1995, Father Mauro Raul Lobo joined the Lourdes family. He
was born in India and was ordained to the priesthood in 1962, a
late vocation in life. He introduced the parish to his deep
spirituality that was rooted in his native Indian customs.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church - Our New Church Building
July 13, 1997, groundbreaking ceremonies were held on the new site
at the corner of Colonial and Judge Perez Drive. Archbishop
Francis B. Schulte dedicated our new church on August 29, 1998.
Following the dedication, a celebration was held on the church
were then blessed to have Father Raymond Guillot, another newly
ordained priest to assist Father Frank. Father Raymond became part of our family on July
1, 2000. He served as chaplain for Archbishop Hannan High and guided many
youth in our church parish throughout his stay at Lourdes. Father
Raymond was then moved to a neighboring church parish, but still
remained chaplain for Hannan High.
In July of 2003, the Archdiocese of New Orleans assigned Father
Kyle Dave to our church parish to assist Father Frank. His
reputation precede him, but none of us were prepared for the
dynamo of energy and spirituality we came to know and love as
Father Kyle. He brought with him a way of getting people more
involved in church life by fanning their flames of faith.
The pairing of the traditions instilled by Father Frank and the
passion of Father Kyle made for a church family that was growing
in faith and numbers.
The Catholic Church is full of traditions, but since the mid
1980's, Our Lady of Lourdes has added new ones to many of our
older traditions. Kneeling after Mass for one final private
prayer, holding hands during the "Our Father", the
entire congregation washing each others feet on Holy Thursday, the
levee "Way of the Cross" and the bare footed reverencing
of the cross on Good Friday are naming only a few.
Seven years to the day of dedicating our new church on August 29,
2005, everything came to an abrupt halt. Hurricane Katrina changed
our lives forever. Our beautiful church building was heavily
damaged. Our dynamic duo of Father Frank and Father Kyle were
transferred and we were left to find a new way of doing things.
Many thanks go out to Father Raymond, Father Frank and Father Kyle
for tending to us as much as they could during a troubled time.
They helped bury many of our parishioners in the months following
Katrina, along with giving us hope and words of encouragement.
They were there when we needed them most. We will never forget
them and they will always be a part of the Lourdes family.
Six months after the hurricane, as people moved back to our area,
a movement was started to have our church reopened. At a time when
the Archdiocese was downsizing and many churches were being closed or
combined, the task of reopening our church seemed monumental.
Never the less, we prayed for a miracle, because that is what it
would take. With the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and the
faith of a resilient people, we were granted our miracle in April
We could do nothing until we were assigned a priest. Father John
Arnone readily accepted the challenge of shepherding two churches
in November of 2008. In the short time he has been here, he seems
to be settling into his role as pastor to Our Lady of Lourdes and
St. Bernard churches. He has endeared himself to the people and
brought stability to us through strong leadership and a big heart.
As we move forward we invite all who pass through our doors to be
a part of our family, be a part of our miracle, be a part of Our
Lady of Lourdes.