St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church, in Bertrandville, and St. Augustine Catholic Church, in Klotzville, are celebrating a centennial together this weekend.
Founded Oct. 1, 1911, St. Benedict the Moor is the oldest African-American congregation in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Mass will be celebrated at St. Benedict, 5479 La. 1, Napoleonville. A banquet will follow.
Guests will include Bishop Anthony Adaji, of the Diocese of Idah in Nigeria; Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry, of Chicago; and Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre, of New Orleans.
At 10 a.m. Sunday, Mass will be at St. Augustine, 174 La. 1003, Belle Rose, with Bishop Robert Muench, of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, confirming 32 candidates from the two churches.
Festivities will continue Sunday afternoon with food and games in the Bertrandville Community Park behind the church.
The roots for these two congregations date to 1888, when the Rev. Francis Janssens became the fifth archbishop of New Orleans.
Janssens was born in the Netherlands, so he was European as were most of the other priests serving in south Louisiana. He envisioned future priests coming from the ranks of native Louisianians and also felt a need to serve the immigrant and African-American populations.
As part of that vision, he invited the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart to minister in Louisiana. The society formed to minister to the African-American population after the Civil War.
It worked in many areas of the country and was instrumental in founding many congregations in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and the area in between.
In 1896, French Augustinian monks established mission chapels at Bertrandville and Klotzville, but they left in 1899.
After 10 years without a priest, the Bertrandville residents asked for one, promising to build a church in exchange. The Josephite Fathers took charge of the black missions along Bayou Lafourche.
On Oct. 11, 1911, the Rev. Benoit Favard, of the Josephites, became the first pastor of St. Benedict and served the mission parish of St. Augustine.
From this start, more Catholic communities were established along the bayou.
In 1998, the Josephites invited the Missionary Society of St. Paul to work with them in Bertrandville and Klotzville, and in 2005, they gave administration of the parish to the Missionary Society of St. Paul.
Sources: News release,
“Roots of Faith,” Emilie G. Leumas and Renée B. Richard,