A Brief History

St. Joseph

The History of St. Joseph Parish began in the last days of the Civil War, when a mission was established on Grosse Tete Ridge in 1864. The first chapel building, used for his slaves and their children, was donated by Michael Schlatre. This chapel was destroyed by a storm in 1879, but the original site still serves as St. Joseph Cemetery.

Following the devastating storm, the association of wardens who administered the chapel decided to acquire land in the village of Grosse Tete. A chapel was soon erected, and in 1889 the association was forced to relinquish control of the chapel to the Archbishop of New Orleans.

In the early years, the church at Grosse Tete was served by the priests from Plaquemine, and occasionally by priests from Brusly and Lobdell. In 1906, Archbishop Blenk erected Grosse Tete into a parish named St. Joseph. Father Francis Badeaux was named the first pastor of the new parish. The first year was an active one for the founding pastor and his parishioners; a rectory was constructed and the chapel was enlarged. In addition, Father Badeaux had responsibility for missions developed at Maringouin, Livonia, and Fordoche.

Sadly, the following year the parishioners of St. Joseph once again lost their chapel, this time to a fire. Father Badeaux quickly rallied his flock and a new building of cement blocks was dedicated on Septuagesima Sunday, 1908. This was not the only challenge the people of Grosse Tete would need to overcome in the first half of the 20th century. Repeated flooding, the impact of boll weevils on the cotton, and a decline in the lumber industry all contributed to  the decline of the Grosse Tete area economy.

In recent years, the mother church at Grosse Tete has seen its daughter missions, Immaculate Heart of Mary at Maringouin and St. Frances Xavier Cabrini at Livonia, become thriving parishes in their own right. In 2004, St. Joseph was clustered with its former missions in Maringouin and Livonia. Today, the effort continues to maintain and improve the parish, and since the end of Vatican Council II there has been a new emphasis on enabling the full and active participation of the people in the life of St. Joseph Parish. Everyone is encouraged to become a good steward of God's gifts.


from Roots of Faith: History of the Diocese of Baton Rouge


A Brief History

Immaculate Heart of Mary

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish traces its roots back to 1870 when St. Mary Mission Chapel was built on West Oak in the Musson-Maringouin area. The mission was served by Sts. Peter and Paul in Lobdell, St. John the Baptist in Brusly, and St. John the Evangelist in Plaquemine.

The original St. Mary Mission Chapel was soon destroyed by a storm, and a new chapel was constructed where the current church cemetery is located. The new chapel was dedicated on May 23, 1893, and it served as the parish church until 1972.

During the early part of the 20th century, the mission would be placed under the pastoral care of two parishes, Sts. Peter and Paul in 1900 and St. Joseph in Grosse Tete in 1906. In 1964, the mission chapel became a parish under the title of Immaculate Heart of Mary, with Father James Kinkead as its first pastor. As the parish grew, the need for a new church became clear. This growth led to the purchase of five acres of land in 1969, on which was located an antebellum plantation. The plantation house was converted into a parish center and work began on a new church. The current church was dedicated on June 23, 1974 by Archbishop Philip Hannan of New Orleans.

In 1996, the parish was clustered with St. Joseph in Grosse Tete and placed under the pastoral care of a single pastor, Father (now Bishop) Shelton Fabre. In 2004, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Livonia joined the cluster.


Learn More About: St. Joseph & St. Frances Xavier Cabrini 



St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish

In the area known as Grosse Tete Ridge, an area of mixed cultural backgrounds and a history of strong Catholic faith, several small settlements existed prior to the Civil War.

The inhabitants of this ridge, extending from Bayou Plaquemine to Fordoche between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers, were ministered to by missionary priests from Grosse Tete and Maringouin. In 1920, a chapel dedicated to St. Joan of Arc was built in Livonia, a town named in 1846 after Livonia, Pennsylvania. Services were held at St. Joan of Arc until it burned in 1945. Mass was then held at the Livonia High School gymnasium until a new worship facility could be built.

A new church was constructed in 1954 and dedicated to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, in memory of her missionary journeys to the area. Mother Cabrini made visits to the Italian communities along Bayou Grosse Tete and Bayou Maringouin. The beautiful cypress paneling in the church was furnished from several large local cypress trees by Max Henry of Frisco. In 1955, ten months after the dedication of the chapel, the mission was established as a parish. Father Francis S. Lamendola, who had arrived in 1948 to serve the mission, became the first pastor.

The first Mass was said in Fordoche on John Marks' plantation around 1910. Shortly thereafter, regular services were established for the people of Fordoche, with the Sunday Mass in the public school building, then in the Woodmen of the World Hall. The new chapel was dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena in 1953. It remains today a mission of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. Archbishop Rummel sent the Dominican Rural Missionaries to serve in Fordoche. The sisters arrived on July 29, 1953, shortly before the dedication of the chapel, and remained until January 16, 1955. In a tragic accident, three of the sisters were killed instantly when they car they in which they were riding collided with a freight train in Slidell. The two remaining sisters were transferred to Abbeville, Louisiana, where the order had previously founded a community.

Today's chapel in Forcoche stands directly in front of the old "Boxcar Chapel" which pioneered some of the early missionary efforts. The parish community of St. Frances Cabrini and St. Catherine of Siena remains dedicated, reflecting the efforts of the faithful people and priests who guided it through the years. The community works daily to preserve its heritage, keeping the faith foundation strong to pass along to future generations.

In 2004, the community was clustered with St. Joseph Parish in Grosse Tete and Immaculate Heart of Mary in Maringouin.


Learn More About:  St. Joseph & Immaculate Heart of Mary

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