St. Peter’s Parish Mission Statement
“The mission of St. Peter’s Parish is to know, love and serve God, by spreading the Gospel through liturgy, service and education, in communion with the universal Church.”
The Parish History of St. Peter's Catholic Church of New Iberia, Louisiana
Man has for thousands of years observed the timelessness of a supremely omnipotent God. The summer of 1988 marked the 150th anniversary of that observance by the people of St. Peter's Catholic Church of New Iberia, Louisiana. Today where once roamed a heathen* tribe now stand the towers of a magnificent church. That church has survived years of war, yellow fever epidemics, floods, hurricanes, economic hardship, and crop failure. The church building itself has been destroyed and rebuilt but the church, the people of God, have survived and flourished with the help of community love.
It was in 1781, that Spanish Governor Bernardo de Galvez notified Cuban officials that he had brought several groups of Canary Islanders in various parts of the southern New World. He specified that five locations had been formed; Galveztown, Barataria, Valenzuela on Bayou Lafourche (Plattenville), LaConcepcion, and Nuevo Iberia. Of these, the last named was situated on the banks of a winding stream in semi-tropical Louisiana. This settlement was an alternate selection after it was discovered that the original (Charenton) had been inundated by flood waters.
The settlers, facing frontier conditions, at the onset lacked a church and relied upon spiritual guidance from the St. Martinville church. Priests on horseback came on a once-a-month basis. Primitive as this arrangement may have been, it did introduce Christianity in a wilderness peopled mainly by Attakapas Indians. This situation was not to continue for very long. Adding to the Spanish population came French elements fleeing the French Revolution and those expelled from Nova Scotia. An influx of Americans came after the Louisiana Purchase further enhancing the growth of the area.
Coinciding with the growth of the fledgling community, an economic surge was fueled by commercial activities and a healthy agricultural output. As a result, the time was deemed favorable for the building of a house of God where the faithful could join in the offering of Mass, hear the word of God, and partake of the sacraments through the ministrations of a priest. Among the early settlers was the Frederick Duperier family whose generosity led to the donation of the necessary land upon which a church was to be constructed. There was a provision in the donation of the property that specified the church was to be visible from the home (a portion of Mt. Carmel today) the Duperiers shared with a daughter. To fulfill that provision Church Alley between Main and St. Peter Streets was left open.
The first St. Peter's Church was a wooden structure done in a colonial style with a wooden steeple added years later. It was contracted by John Johnson and painted by a man named Bonif, the father of Ben Bonif. The brick that was used came from the clay excavated to the rear of the Mt. Carmel Property.
The distinctive task as first administrator was given to Fr. Charles Boutelou de St. Aubin who had himself fled from France's unsteady political situation. At the time of his appointment, he was serving as pastor of the Plattenville church and was calling on Catholic centers in the difficult region of the Lower Teche. It was this priest who was instrumental in bringing to Louisiana in 1833 the first Sisters of Mt. Carmel. Fr. St. Aubin took up his duties as pastor in June 1838 and was given considerable assistance by Fr. Joseph Guistiniani, a Lazarist priest who conducted classes in catechism for Irish, Negro, and French-speaking people. This first baptism performed by Fr. St. Aubin was Carmelite Mendosa's on June 6, 1838. The first marriage took place July 30 when Louis Cesaire DeBlanc and Alice Decuire were married by Fr. St. Aubin. The book of the dead opens with an entry for the burial of Herpin Gonsoulin. The first sacristan of St. Peter's, Guillaume Pradere, was the next funeral on July 28.
Fr. St. Albin did not confine his ministrations to New Iberia but ranged all over the vast territory which comprised his parish. These acts dissatisfied the "commissioners" of the parish because they felt these frequent absences caused public embarrassment and was reassigned to St. Joseph's Church at Thibodaux.
Succeeding Fr. de Albin were a series of pious, energetic men who each contributed to the growth and spiritual values of the growing Catholic community. In September, 1840, Fr. Julien Pierre Priour, a man of great courage and devotion, was appointed pastor. His ten year pastorate was the most turbulent of all pastors assigned to New Iberia. The first five years of the 1840's witnessed the outbreak of trustee revolt against the Bishop and a wave of anticlericalism. Disgraceful events took place at the New Orleans Cathedral and at Lafayette. Like all other parishes, New Iberia had its clique of laymen with warped ideas about the status of the Church, her Bishops and her priests. Soon, they began to dictate to Fr. Priour and to harass him. but the pastor refused to be intimidated and continued to preach the word of God as he saw fit.
Subsequently, The Propagateur Catholique, the Catholic paper, explained the attack against Fr. Priour as, "Six bullies had bravely hidden themselves to surprise the pastor - six against one - to have recourse to a ruse to attack a single man! That was the most admirable act of bravery. Anyway, the fearless appearance of the new pastor was enough to intimidate these 'braves' who retreated while brandishing their clubs and smacking their whips." Fr. Priour was not bullied and throughout these turbulent days, he conducted himself with exemplary devotion and courage.
Despite the opposition that he faced and the difficulties that he met, Fr. Priour was able to make considerable progress in the parish. To Fr. Priour goes the credit for the first parish societies, the Society of the Holy Scapular and the Society of the Sacred Heart. Some 30 years later, Fr. Chassee entered in the parish records, "...on August 15, 1843, Fr. Priour pastor of St. Peter's Church of New Iberia authorized by His Lordship, Bishop Blanc of New Orleans, was authorized to receive parishioners into the Confraternity of Holy Scapular (of Mt. Carmel). I established today that pious association which I place under special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary." It is the oldest parish society on record.
At the end of 1849, Fr. Priour went to New Orleans, became ill, and died. In the latter part of June 1854, Rev. Joseph Outendrik arrived as the new pastor of St. Peter's. His name was a problem for most especially the Acadians so it wasn't long before he became Pere Joe to everyone. Few pastors have endeared themselves to the people as much as did this energetic and devoted priest, who never spared himself in his work for his parishioners. His pastorate was cast in difficult times, but by his tact, prudence, devoted service, and loyalty to the interests of his people, he emerged a beloved figure.
He arrived in New Iberia in the midst of the Know-Nothing agitation as the state seethed in political turmoil and dismal bigotry. Anti-immigration spirit was prevalent, and Catholics went along with anti-Cathlic groups. It was, however, a period of prosperity and progress, and sugar, rice, cotton and cattle production were at their peak. Fr. Outendrik took advantage of this wave of prosperity to acquire more adequate church facilities. In 1858, he enlarged the church by twenty feet. The only thorn in Pere Joe's side was the old problem of getting people to the sacraments. In 1860, he could report only 400 people making their Easter duties of some 5,000 Catholic parishioners. For eleven years and six months, Pere Joe served the people of Iberia Parish, but his health was failing and he asked to be relieved of his duties. After returning to his native France for three years, he returned to the Teche country in 1868. Two years later, he died suddenly and became the first priest to be buried in St. Peter's Catholic cemetery.
Fr. Francois J.M. Marion, a thirty-three year old French priest, arrived in March 1866 during the bitter Reconstruction era. The returned soldiers came back to ruined farms and communities hoping to rebuild their economy. It was a time when little progress could be made despite the zeal and piety of the young priest. Rev. Yves Rivoallan was sent as his young assistant in June. While in New Orleans in 1867, Fr. Marion died of the yellow fever which ravaged Louisiana. He was replaced by Rev. L. Hoste and Fr. Rivoallan continued as assistant.
Fr. Hoste concentrated on New Iberia while Fr. Rivoallan traveled all over the parochial territory. By June of 1867, yellow fever appeared on the banks of the Teche and Fathers Hoste and Rivoallan were constantly on sick calls. From all sections men came by buggy, on horseback, or in pirogue to call, "Pere, come quick, my wife, she has the fever. Her tongue is turning black. She don't want to die without the priest." The parish registers bear tragic testimony to the ravages of those days listing, "August, 35 funerals; September and October, 31." How many others in distant sections died and were buried on the plantations or in the nearby small cemeteries, will never be known.
Despite this tragedy, much was accomplished during the two years of Fr. Hoste's pastorate. He insisted upon regular catechetical instruction for children and demanded that parents send their children to be instructed. In May 1868, Fr. Hoste established the Confraternity of the Scapular of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin known as the Blue Scapular. He also promoted and urged the continuation of the Scapular of Mt. Carmel (the Brown Scapular).
In January 1869, Rev. L.A. Chasse, another French priest, was sent to take charge of St. Peter's. The most important event of Fr. Chasse's administration was the opening of the convent school by the Sisters of Mt. Carmel. He was convinced that the future of the parish as well as the church lay in the proper education of the children. In September 1870, Mt. Carmel Academy was opened to provide a religious education for girls who could not afford to attend high-priced institutions of learning or so-called Select Schools for Young Ladies. Fr. Chasse accomplished more than any previous pastor in the way of spiritual progress. He will always be remembered as the pioneer of Catholic education in new Iberia.
When Fr. Chasse left in December 1872, Fr. Charles Beaubien, the assistant, carried through February 1873. In the middle of February, the new pastor, Rev. Hyacinth N. LeCozic, arrived. He continued the persistent catechetical work among the children, but he did not neglect the adults. After two years and eight months, Fr. LeCozic was transferred. Assuming his pastoral duties in 1875 was Fr. Claude Jacquet of France who brought to St. Peter's a visionary mind that together with his zeal culminated in the realization of three outstanding projects. They included a much needed rectory, the establishment of Holy Cross school for boys, and most importantly, a new and vastly larger church to accommodate the increased number of parishioners of a growing town.
In 1881, Fr. Jacquet undertook the erection of a new rectory, the first since the one built in 1839 by the "commissioners of the parish." By 1880, the "veritable four-room shack," as one comment put it, became a reality. Fr. Jacquet in a note added to his report to Archbishop Francis Janssens, "The presbytery was built in 1881-82. I never asked nor received one cent towards its cost. The yearly church revenue surplus has paid part of it." The rest, which Fr. Jacquet modestly did not mention was paid out of his own pocket. There was, however, a great popular support for the erection of a new parish church. Parishioners were eager to have a more spacious church in keeping with the growing community.
To obtain funds for the new building, Fr. Jacquet solicited donations and subscriptions and directed the enthusiastic parishioners in their benefit affairs. Fr. Jacquet gave one-fifth of the cost of the church which was set at $25,000. Citizens contributed the remainder. Plans for the 1888 church were drafted by a widely noted New Orleans Architect, James G. Freret. The contract for the brick work was awarded to William Southwell on the basis of $5.50 per thousand in the wall. The carpenter and joiner work was given to George Francis and Bertrand Langla.
The old church was demolished during the final ten days of 1888, by the 14th of May 1889, the first bricks were laid for the new foundation on the same site as the first church. When the cornerstone was laid, Fr. Jacquet decided that the new church was to continue under the patronage of St. Peter. This second church was Victorian Gothic in design and was acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful churches of the time. Its facade featured decorative brick work devoid of plaster or cement ornamentation. A great many Iberians today fondly recall the church since it served as the scene for their baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage, and many years of Mass attendance.
Jr. Jacquet died shortly after the dedication ceremonies and was replaced in November of 1890 by Very Rev. P.M. Jouan, a native of Brittany, France. He arrived, however, under unfortunate circumstances which threatened to wreck his administration. According to an active parishioner, Mr. Eugene Guillot, Fr. Jouan arrived at dusk and without any ceremony went to the rectory, retiring early. At ten o'clock the door bell rang. Thinking it was a sick call he answered promptly but found there a delegation of about a dozen ladies of the parish who told him they had come to welcome him. The Breton pastor reproved them for calling at such an hour and bluntly told them they should be home with their husbands and children, rather than at a priest's house giving occasion for scandal. Furthermore, if they wanted to see him, he said, they should meet him the next day at the church. The ladies became indignant, returned home, and told their husbands how they had been insulted.
Anger swept the congregation, a meeting was held, and a committee was appointed to call on Fr. Jouan to notify him to leave at once, or he would be driven from town. Some of the calmer men of the congregation learned all the circumstances and opposed this action, calling on Fr. Jouan and apologizing for the action of the committee. Soon the disturbance died down, and before long, Fr. Jouan had won the respect of the congregation.
According to Mr. Guillot, the primary contribution of Fr. Jouan's administration was the legal incorporation of St. Peter's parish. The Act was passed on August 7, 1894, by the notary W. Morgan Gurley of New Orleans. The official title adopted was "The congregation of St. Peter Roman Catholic Church Inc." On June 8, 1896, all church property was officially transferred from the archdiocese to the parish corporation.
One of the priests who served under his administration was Fr. Cornelius Van de Ven from Holland. Fr. Van de Ven was later to become the first Bishop of Alexandria and the fourth Bishop of the Natchitoches Diocese.
Fr. Jouan's health failed and he officiated for the last time on May 12, 1907. He died at age 63 and the entire community requested that the funeral cortege be allowed to proceed down main Street. According to Mr. Guillot, "Everyone had a kind word...He wished to be buried in the cemetery with the poor. It was a day of mourning for whites and blacks, for they felt they had lost a loving father."
A man who was born in Lyon, France became the next pastor at St. Peter's. Fr. Jean Marie Langlois was a priest whose dedication never fell short in seeking to bring his flock closer to their religion and in binding them to their faith. He was installed on Sunday, September 6, 1908, and he served a 39 year tenure, the longest in history of St. Peter's to date.
No sooner did Fr. Langlois arrive than he began to awaken parishioners to a sense of duty to support the parish and its forthcoming projects. The effects by both priest and parishioner to their obligations became evident in the outstanding accomplishments through those years. Among them were the founding of St. Peter's College, the forerunner of Catholic High School; the Rynella Chapel; St. Edward's Parish; the Knights of Columbus Council 1208; the erection of a new rectory (the present one); the building of Mt. Carmel Convent; and the furtherance of many Catholic societies including a strong Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
One of the bells heard pealing today sends its familiar and sonorous notes from the time Fr. Langlois served. It was a 2100 pounder and was blessed at 3 p.m. on Sunday, February 7, 1909 in the presence of six priests. It was not until 1966, during alterations in a restoration project, that a 1100 pound "F" sharp bell was added with automatic ringing equipment to improve the sound system to the original bell.
Under the administration of Fr. Langlois, highly capable guidance gave to St. Peter's recognition as one of the very best organized parishes in Southwest Louisiana. It was generally accepted that his religious spirit coupled with the cooperation of his parishioners made St. Peter's a model parish church. Fr. Langlois was bestowed such titles as Monsignor, Domestic Prelate, and Apostolic Prothonotary, all well-earned titles. His years as a priest are fondly recalled and occupy a place in the annals of church history principally for his diligence during his years at St. Peter's. Upon his retirement, Msgr. Langlois was made pastor emeritus. He died shortly thereafter in 1947.
Msgr. Albert J. Bacque succeeded Fr. Langlois. He was the first priest to have previously served as an assistant at St. Peter's to return to duties as a pastor. At a social gathering of parishioners to welcome Fr. Bacque, a local attorney C. Arthur Provost said of him, "This is an age of young men and the Bishop has chosen one who has distinguished himself as a builder, an organizer, and a civic leader, and who is at the same time one of our own, a native Louisianian, an Acadian farm boy of great promise..."
Fr. Bacque responded by saying, "In another month, I hope to start the machinery to realize a dream, a dream which I was told 14 years ago, when I was an assistant here; that dream is the new church." His statement was received with an outburst of ringing applause. He plunged into the tedious task of organizing parishioners for a fund campaign and planning for the new church.
The new pastor came at a time when the existing church and school buildings were deemed obsolete. Deciding on new facilities, Msgr. Bacque placed before architect Owen J. Southwell plans for a church seating 1200 parishioners. Fr. Bacque, at the same time, started a building fund to purchase property for a school to replace St. Peter's College. Construction of the new church, the present one, covered a two year period with Masses conducted in the old church until its completion.
During the next year, Fr. Bacque was elevated to Monsignor, made a pilgrimage to Rome and during an audience with the Holy Father, obtained the Apostolic Blessing for his parishioners. The new St. Peter's however, was the object of much thought, study and observation during his travels. He made careful note of the architectural methods, designs, and effects which he transmitted to the architect. The contract for erecting the new church was awarded on April 28, 1951, to Robert Angelle of Breaux Bridge and ground-breaking ceremonies were held on May 30, 1951. Construction of the new church, the present one, covered a two-year period. Final work was completed during the first months of 1953. From February 1940 to 1953, the goal of paying cash for the new church, approximately a half-million dollars, had been accomplished. This feat was a great tribute to an energetic pastor and its faithful parishioners.
It was an imposing structure whose soaring red brick facade recalled the French Renaissance in design. Its bulk was set solidly with the underpinnings planted 24 feet below the level of the street. One hundred thirty-three bell bottom concrete pilings of 5-6 feet on the base supported the structure. Some 218 tons of structure and reinforcing steel and 3800 tons of concrete were in the fabric. The twin towers rose 90 feet above the main floor.
The massive towers permitted twin windows, French doors, and balconies while rosaries suspended from the stark white consoles. A circular driveway before the church led past a sheltered main entrance which was flanked by two smaller side doorways.
Upon entry, the worshipper faced a broad expanse of pews in four segments, the whole vast vista dominated by an altar of Botticino marble depicting pelicans feeding their brood of young, and the Alpha and the Omega carved delicately against a backdrop of gold mosaic supported by a ratable of Porto Sancta marble. The tabernacle of finely wrought bronze was housed in mahogany. A well proportioned baldachine of mahogany supported by fluted columns soared above the altar with carved scrolls rich with the symbolism of sea waves and sunburst surrounding the hand of God as defined by the architect. The floor was of green terrazzo studded with large geometric designs of circles and points. An area of six broad steps led to the altar while the area to the rear was an apse of white classic columns in an arch which featured an overhead symbol of the Holy Trinity, non-existent if one of the three members is removed, a representation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Two side altars respectively featured statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Joseph. The stations of the cross flanked the sides of the church in stained glass tableau. Above the choir loft and organ was depicted a tableau, also in stained glass, of Christ directing Peter to "Feed My Sheep." This description remains basically true today. Although renovations have been done throughout the years, they have been faithful to the original design.
The single most elaborate event ever in the history of St. Peter's Church occurred on the morning of Monday, June 29, 1953. The occasion was the dedication of the present church witnessed by 1200 parishioners. The late Jules B. Jeanmard, Bishop of Lafayette, officiated along with then Auxiliary Bishop Maurice Schexnayder, who presented the homily noting the ceremony was particularly significant as it coincided with the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Assisting Bishop Jeanmard in the Solemn Pontifical Mass were Rt. Rev. Msgr. John A. Vigliero, P.A. Chancellor, and New Iberia native sons Rt. Rev. Irving DeBlanc, Very Rev. Msgr. Ignatius Martin, Rev. John Schwing, S.J., and Rev. John H. Disch. Master of ceremonies was the Very Rev. Msgr. Warren L. Boudreaux. In the sanctuary were the Rt. Rev. Msgr. W.J. Teurlings, P.A. Vicar General, and Rt. Rev. Msgr. Albert Bacque. In addition were eight priests bearing the title of Monsignor as well as a large group of priests from the Archdiocese of New Orleans and Lafayette. A musical climax to the dedication featured a concert on the new $25,000 organ donated by Cecile B. Loffland and played by Dr. Marlo Salvador, director of the music program at St. Louis, Missouri Cathedral, the foremost organ virtuoso in the nation.
The years under Msgr. Langlois produced a momentum whose fervor carried into the ensuing decades beginning with his successor, Fr. Albert J. Bacque, under whose direction the church was to flourish with renewed vigor. Religious organizations began to thrive with substantial increase noted in each function. It became necessary to promote an extension which eventually became the formation of a new church parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
In June of 1954, a native of Berwick who made the decision to become a priest three years after his confirmation, succeeded Msgr. Bacque. He was Fr. Warren J. Boudreaux. Most Iberians recall Bishop Boudreaux as a man of varied talents. His was a green thumb when it came to roses and portulacas. His pleasing voice was quick to oblige in song or in poetry. Whether in counseling or in conversation, he was attentive, considerate and sympathetic. At all times and in all things he was a leader That he was highly regarded is exemplified through as assessment underlined by a former seminary classmate, "Though younger than most of his classmates and physically frail, he already possessed those qualities that make men...great men."
That he merited the outpouring of recognition that led to his episcopacy was borne out by a 17 year period of progress at St. Peter's. His accomplishments included the establishment of two new church parishes, Sacred Heart and Nativity of Our Lady; the construction and activation of three catechetical halls, Pius X, Loffland, and Langlois; a new Catholic High School; the conversion of the Knights of Columbus Hall to an administrative and social facility; an extension of the burial grounds by adding Holy Family Cemetery; the introduction of a church bulletin, "The Voice;" the addition of parking space; and the installation of an annual animated Christmas manger peopled by biblical characters and live animals staged in front of the rectory. Fr. Warren L. Boudreaux's wistful charm coupled with a respectable legalistic acumen caught the attention of both church leaders and parishioners alike. This combination resulted in rapid elevation to key positions. Two qualities define this most remarkable servant of God, that of scholar and that of a leader. To both categories he gave a new dimension. He rose from Vicar General, Vice Chancellor of the Diocese, a chaplain, chief judge of the tribunal, papal chamberlain, domestic prelate, Prothonotary Apostolic to Auxiliary Bishop and to the eventual status of Bishop of Beaumont all within the limits of two decades.
Under his guidance, St. Peter's was always updated with the latest changes in the Church. He introduced such changes at the Mass as "facing the people;" the use of English in parts of the Mass; the new marriage, funeral, and baptism rites; offertory procession, men altar servers; and adult readers.
Many parishioners recalled his love for poetry, gardening, music, and his beautiful singing voice. Every Christmas Eve before midnight Mass, he sang "O Holy Night,' both in French and in English, accompanied by Aimee Morrell, organist. Bishop Boudreaux recorded the hymn for a local radio station and every year "O Holy Night" may be heard throughout the New Iberia area. As one parishioner expressed it, "Beautiful memories of a truly holy night and a truly holy priest."
In describing his stay in New Iberia Bishop Boudreaux said, "In 1954, I had the great fortune of being appointed pastor of St. Peter's Church in New Iberia. I hope I did a good job. All I know is that I had great assistant pastors and lay leaders. It was there that I learned that the strength of the church lies in its lay people." "Stranger in Paradise," a popular song of the time was often used by Bishop Boudreaux to express his joy in being appointed pastor of St. Peter's. When he left, he was a "stranger no more."
St. Peter's during these 17 years enjoyed a spiritual strength provided by assistant pastors Fathers Roger Moag, Floyd Calais, Buell Aycock, Charles Soileau, Philip Brault, Guy Lemoine, Frederick Webert, James Conlon, Richard Greene, Lloyd Herbert, Angelo Cremaldi, Louis Deshotel, and Gary Schexnayder.
With the departure of Bishop Boudreaux to the Beaumont Diocese in 1971, came Msgr. Michael Benedict. He was a very capable and talented priest, a very able administrator, and a strong Catholic man. It was under Msgr. Benedict's leadership that the corporation for Catholic High was formed. The three local parishes, Nativity of Our Lady, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and St. Peter's, formed a legal corporation and shared the assets and liabilities of the school on a basis proportionate to the enrollment from each parish.
Msgr. Benedict was also responsible for the present envelope system used for Sunday collections. His tenure lasted only two years. Leaving, he said, "I am grateful for having been given the privilege of being here if only for two years...I take comfort in the belief that the schools enjoy a degree of community and stability that they did not have before. It is and shall always be my hope that Catholic education will flourish in the community..."
On September 29, 1973, when Bishop Gerard Frey appointed Rt. Rev. Msgr. John Henry Disch, a native of New Iberia, pastor of St. Peter's, little did he realize that history was being made. The appointment marked the first time a native son had become pastor of his hometown in the 150 year history of the church. In assuming the pastorate of St. Peter's Parish, Msgr. Disch returned to the church that was one block from his place of birth, the church where he had served as an altar boy, where he had received the sacraments of Baptism, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, and Holy Orders. "As an altar boy, playing in the rectory of St. Peter's, I never dreamed one day I would be pastor of this church," he recalls. He decided as a young boy to become a priest, "for my own people because so many of the Catholic priests were from France, Holland, and Canada.
In his early years, he attended St. Peter's College until January of 1927. When his family moved to New Orleans, he attended Holy Name of Jesus School. His high school education was completed at Jesuit High, where he graduated as an honor student in June, 1932. When he advised his teachers that he planned to study for the priesthood, they assumed that he wished to become a member of the Society of Jesus. He immediately informed them he wanted to become a priest to work in a parish like Rt. Rev. Msgr. J.M. Langlois his pastor in New Iberia. Msgr. Langlois had been the priest he had served as an altar boy and from whom he had been baptized, received his first communion, and been confirmed.
He studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph's Seminary in St. Benedict, Louisiana, and completed his training at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. On March 25, 1939, he was ordained by the late Bishop Jules B. Jeanmard of the Diocese of Lafayette in the old St. Peter's Church.
His first appointment was as assistant to Rt. Rev. Msgr. Alphonse Martel, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Eunice where he remained for three years. While in Eunice, he also taught Latin and physical education to high school students and coached the school's six-man football team. His next appointment was as assistant to Rt. Rev. Msgr. Louis H. Boudreaux, pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church, Lake Charles where he remained for eleven years until 1953. During these years he was in charge of the Catholic Youth Organization and was instrumental in its development as one of the finest in the diocese. He was also Chaplain for the Newman Club at McNeese State College from 1949-53.
On July 19, 1953, Msgr. Disch was appointed pastor of the Church of the Assumption in Franklin replacing the late Msgr. J.J. Rousseau. There he spent twenty years of his priesthood providing spiritual leadership. He was very active in a building and renovation program for the church and the Catholic schools, St. John's Academy and Hanson Memorial High School. The record of accomplishments in the parish under his leadership was most impressive.
In 1960, with the redivision of deaneries in the diocese, he was named first Dean of the new Franklin Deanery. In October of 1961, Fr. Disch was elevated to the rank of Honorary Prelate with the title of Rt. Rev. Msgr. by Pope John XXIII. On a diocesan level, Msgr. Disch was appointed consultor, served as a member of the school board, served on the clergy personnel advisory board and the boundaries commission, and was Vicar I of the New Iberia area from 1973-76.
At the farewell reception before his departure from Franklin a parishioner referred to his pastorate, "as a most progressive era...a man with a natural flare for business, possessing great administrative ability." A former assistant pastor recalled his stay, "as a time of spiritual growth under his guidance and example...who gave of himself to his people and who came to bring people to God, not to stay."
As Msgr. Disch recalled, he had mixed emotions about leaving a parish he dearly loved to come to another, even if it were his hometown. After twenty years in Franklin, he hated to leave his parish and felt, "if Jesus couldn't make it in Nazareth how could I make it in my hometown?" But because Msgr. Disch is a flexible individual, he was able to adapt to almost any circumstance and group of people. He has also always lived his convictions. He had defined his priesthood in terms of his bishop. The bishop had spoken and as painful as it was to change, he was ready to live up to his commitment.
Soon upon his arrival at St. Peter's, he was confronted with the problem of a leaking roof. As in Franklin, renovations had to be done to the interior and the exterior of the church. Of his construction experiences he recalled the bishop jokingly saying he was going to make him "Vicar of Roofs."
During his pastorate, one of the most difficult tasks he encountered was the painting of the interior of the church. At that time the church was in need of painting and some parishioners were not in favor of the plan. Oppositions were soon settled and work began. The parishioners were pleased with the final outcome and praised the pastor for his efforts in restoring the beauty of the interior of the church.
Msgr. Disch also recognized the need for a "cry room" to accommodate parents with young children attending mass. This room was built in the rear of the church. Additionally, he acquired parking space in the rear of the church from the Davenport and Holbrook families. Bishop Boudreaux had purchased the Gajan property on Washington and Julia Streets, and Msgr. Disch had the building sold and the space used for parking. Today the church property comprises one square block, fronting on St. Peter, Julia, Washington, and Iberia Streets.
Recognizing the need for an additional catechetical building, Msgr. Disch initiated the building of Loffland Hall II behind Loffland Hall I in 1982. Two additional properties were purchased adjacent to the halls for parking space. Langlois Hall was in need of repair. The building was renovated and three additional classrooms were added for future increases in enrollment.
Throughout his fifteen years at St. Peter's, Msgr. Disch had experienced many construction and maintenance projects. Whether it entailed planning or building a new catechetical hall, removing trees and shrubs for parking, or landscaping the church grounds, Fr. Disch had enjoyed the final outcome. One parishioner commented, "If the Bishop thought he should be made 'Vicar of Roofs,' today Msgr. Disch should be appointed 'Vicar of Architects.'"
Not only had Fr. Disch concerned himself with the physical plant and growth of the parish, he had also concentrated on its spiritual growth. There have been many devoted pastors and assistants who worked untiringly to promote religious education throughout the history of the parish. Msgr. Disch, too, has had strong convictions about Catholic education and persisted in his efforts to continue and to expand programs established by other pastors. He cooperated with and supported the two parochial schools and had worked closely with the religious programs for the public school students. Under his leadership, the very best in Catholic education had been provided for all children.
Adult faith growth had also been a concern of Fr. Disch. He guided and encouraged Deacon Kenneth Waguespack's efforts to organize a program for adults to study and deepen their faith. This small seed grew and reached the spiritual lives of many adults. Today, St. Peter's is the sponsor of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adult Catechesis (R.C.I.A.) program designed for adults interested in joining the Catholic Church or in increasing their knowledge of their faith.
The Social Service Center (now known today as the Disch-DeClouet Social Service Center) is another outgrowth of Fr. Disch's compassionate and understanding nature. He saw the needs of families who were unemployed and hungry and when properties on Pershing and Bank Streets were willed to the Church, he took advantage of the opportunity to establish a permanent location for social services. The center is today capably supervised by its Executive Director, Shirley DeClouet.
In one of his spiritual messages to the parishioners, Msgr. Disch said, "The good of souls is the measure of our goals and planning. St. Peter's has a glorious heritage but must not rest on its laurels but will develop and advance with God's help and his people to meet the challenge of renewal according to the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council." His overall 49 years with the Church had been years of change and had been an exciting challenge. He felt, "All of the changes since Vatican II have been wholesome. They have made religion more meaningful to the people, internalized some of the external practices. I'm a very happy priest. My favorite saying is, 'I'd rather fight than switch.'"
In spite of his busy schedule Msgr. Disch was an avid tennis player and played an excellent game. His other interests included landscaping and decorating the church for special occasions. A parishioner described him as, "a pious, active...energetic priest...always on the run but willing to be of service for others..."
After spending the past fifteen years at St. Peter's, Fr. Disch declared that it would be even more difficult to leave New Iberia than it was to leave Franklin, "It was a rather wet event as I left Franklin in the rain and arrived in New Iberia in the rain, but the 'sun' has shined ever since." Due to the growth and status of St. Peter's Parish, it was the judgment of Bishop Gerard Frey to appoint a Co-Pastor. This decision resulted in the assignment of Co-Pastor duties to Msgr. Joseph Guy Lemoine.
When Msgr. Lemoine, a native of Opelousas, was assigned Co-Pastor in 1983, he was no stranger to many parishioners. He referred to his assignment as "returning home." He and his family had lived in New Iberia for awhile, and he had attended school at the old St. Peter's College, had served as an assistant pastor for five years, and had acquired many devoted friends. Msgr. Disch was one of those beloved friends and he had assisted and guided Fr. Lemoine during his seminary years. At the offering of Fr. Lemoine's first Mass, Msgr. Disch presented the homily and did so again when Honorary Prelate was bestowed upon him on the occasion of his twenty-fifth anniversary.
Msgr. Lemoine studied twelve years for the priesthood, in Covington, Montreal, and New Orleans. On May 26, 1956, he was ordained. His first assignment was to St. Genevieve's Church in Lafayette. In 1961, during Bishop Boudreaux's pastorate, he was appointed assistant to St. Peter's and remained for five years.
With the reorganization of the structure of the Diocese of Lafayette in 1975, Bishop Frey appointed him one of the six Deanery Episcopal Vicars. When the Diocese of Lafayette was reduced in size with the creation of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Fr. Lemoine remained Vicar of the Northwest Acadiana Deanery, as well as pastor of St. Leo the Great Parish in Leonville.
During Msgr. Lemoine's first years at St. Peter's, he displayed great interest in all forms of religious education. He served as spiritual director for the Schools of Religion and chaplain for the Junior and Senior Catholic Daughters. Bishop Boudreaux characterized Fr. Lemoine as, "a devoted assistant pastor...who was forced to assume unusual responsibilities during frequent absences at the Second Vatican Council, but measured up to them. He has always proved himself, not only a dedicated priest, but a cultured gentleman whose pleasant manners and ready smile have made him a pleasant companion and friend."
Msgr. Lemoine continued to be totally involved with the religious educational programs in the parish and the spiritual development of all parishioners. He was truly devoted in endeavors for all youth and adults to grow in knowledge of their faith by deepening personal and family spiritual life. With the assistance of Msgr. Disch and many capable lay leaders, he directed and supervised all schools of religion programs which included the preparations for the sacraments of Baptism, Penance, First Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation. He was also the chaplain of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
One of his special interests was his love of music. This love goes back to his early days at a Montreal theological college where he joined the choir which consisted of 150 members. This experience later helped him in choir work throughout his pastorate. With or without an organist, Msgr. Lemoine is ready and eager to lead the congregation in singing hymns. He thoroughly enjoys his involvement with the Cantors and Adult, Youth and Children's Choirs.
Through Msgr. Lemoine's spiritual leadership, interest, and support, new things have happened in the parish. More parishioners have participated in the works of the church and have understood its needs more fully. New programs and activities have been initiated. Renewal programs of "Weekends with the Word" have helped many parishioners grow spiritually in their relationship with God and neighbor. As an outgrowth of the Renewal Weekends, a Men's Vigil Society was established to allow parishioners and visitors to spend time in church for private prayer during the week. A new awareness of the importance of evangelization resulted in the development of a specific ministry. The Ministry of Evangelization was comprised of spiritually formed and informed parishioners trained to share the Gospel message of Jesus in ways that helped others come into a relationship with Christ and the Church.
To enhance God's Word in daily life, Adult Bible Study Groups, patterned after the Little Rock Scripture Study, were organized. St. Peter's Middle Agers (S.P.M.A.) was formed to bring about closer Christian community fellowship by fostering the "feeling of family" among its members. S.P.M.A. held activities of a social nature in the setting of the parish church atmosphere. The parish bulletin, "The Voice," had been enlarged, updated, and expanded to include scripture; references to daily mass readings; a brief thought on Sunday readings; information about events in the parish, neighboring parishes, and the Diocese; listings of all parish activities and meetings; and the instructional article, "Dear Padre."
Msgr. Lemoine's pleasant smile is an expression of his love for God and his fellow parishioners. As one parishioner aptly put it, "he is congenial, soft-spoken, and readily available for discussions on religious matters, local happenings, or explaining the game of golf." The amicable collaboration between Msgrs. Disch and Lemoine in the duties and responsibilities of St. Peter's is approached daily on an equal basis. Though the path they take may appear to be separate it is in fact a dual communication in an unswerving purpose to obey God and to serve his people.
Fr. Charles Langlois (no relation to Fr. Jean Marie Langlois) was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on May 15, 1939. He was raised Baptist and converted to the Catholic faith. His conversion to Catholicism came about through his late wife, June Rivette Langlois. They were married before Fr. Langlois was confirmed, as he was still a member of the faith of his mother, Helen Easley Langlois (his father was a Catholic; therefore, Fr. Langlois was baptized a Catholic).
Fr. Charles Langlois was received into the Catholic Church in 1967 and received first Communion and confirmation at the age of 28. His wife, June, never insisted on his conversion. She simply invited him to attend Mass with her and he soon learned of the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith. He attributes his faith and conversion to his wife.
Fr. Langlois and his wife, June, were married on September 4, 1965. They had one child, Christopher, born on September 26, 1970. Fr. Langlois has two grandchildren, Alex and Allison. His wife, June, died of cancer on July 11, 1981. His son Christopher was 10 years old at that time and Fr. Langlois never remarried.
Fr. Langlois had thoughts of a vocation and serving the Church since about the age of 15. He was still a Southern Baptist. This yearning did not mature until after his wife's death. He studied for the permanent diaconate beginning in 1983 and was ordained a deacon in 1988.
He entered Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut in 1992 when he retired from the State of Louisiana as a social worker. Bishop Harry Flynn accepted Fr. Langlois for study to the priesthood as a late vocation at the age of 53. He was ordained at St. John's Cathedral on June 8, 1996. He finally, since early in his life, was able to satisfy his great longing to serve God in a direct way and to serve his people through ordination. According to Fr. Charles Langlois, "It has been a great joy to me ever since."
Fr. Langlois said his first Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Jeanerette, Louisiana, on June 9, 1996. Jeanerette is the home of Fr. Charles Langlois and St. John's his home parish.
In 1996-97, he became Associate Pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Iberia, Louisiana. From 1997 to 2001, Fr. Charles Langlois became Pastor of St. John's Catholic Church in Henry, Louisiana (about 12 miles South of Abbeville).
In 2001, Fr. Langlois was appointed to St. Peter's Catholic Church in New Iberia, Louisiana. During his administration here, he took the initiative to call upon all of the parishioners of St. Peter's to donate monies to purchase a new organ for the parish, replace the windows throughout the exterior of the church and had the Msgr. Disch Perpetual Adoration Chapel built.
In 2015, Fr. William Blanda became the new priest of St. Peter's Catholic Church.
St. Peter's is proud too, of its parishioners who work closely with its priests to carry out the functions of the parish. God has given intelligence and will, His Truth to guide, and His Grace. St. Peter's is a successful parish where priests and people work together for God. The parish has grown significantly in size since the first settlers reached the banks of the Teche in 1781. One hundred and fifty years of hard work, struggle, changing leadership, and a changing Church have culminated in a strong, prosperous, and faithful church.
*Heathen - an unconverted individual of a people that do not acknowledge the God of the Bible; a person who is neither a Jew, Christian, nor Muslim; pagan.