A BRIEF HISTORY

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.

FROM ROOTS OF FAITH: HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE OF BATON ROUGE


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