Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who celebrated the anniversary Mass July 9, recounted the history of Catholicism in St. Charles Parish, dating to 1719 when missionaries first came to serve Germans who had settled in the area.
“We are here … first of all to say thanks to God … who will raise up churches where we can know God through parish community,” he said. “We also give thanks to the founding mothers and fathers in this parish community (many of whom stood to be acknowledged during Mass) for all you have done and given, your stewardship … and thank all the priests who have formed a solid foundation of faith we have today.”
Yielding a great harvest
He paralleled the Gospel passage of the seed sower yielding much harvest when seeds were planted on rich soil to the strong foundation laid by early parishioners and pastors at St. Anthony of Padua.
“We are invited to be that good soil to receive the seeds of God’s love, a place where seeds can grow,” he said. “This friend we call St. Anthony of Padua has been fertile and productive soil for 50 years. … This fertile soil that has reaped and will continue to reap 30- and 50-fold.”
Archbishop Aymond said the church was more than its current edifice made of bricks, mortar and wood dedicated in 1969. It was a gathering place, a sign of the parishioners’ community of faith celebrated through marriage vows, first Holy Communion, funerals and how they had worshipped, prayed and supported each other as a people of God for 50 years.
“You have called this home. This is indeed a sacred place … a place that tells the history of faith of St. Anthony of Padua in Luling,” he said.
He asked them to remember and give thanks for the past, but to recognize the gifts of the parish today and to ponder several questions as they continue on the second half-century as a parish.
“What more do you expect of us; what more can we do?” Archbishop Aymond asked. “Lord, what is it we can do to reach out to those away from the church or hurt by the church or are away from you? How do we welcome them back in this jubilee year? And, what can we do to foster vocations in the church? What can we do to awaken that call to vocations?”
Many founding parishioners
Deacon Paul Donnaud, a parishioner who had lived near St. Anthony’s Spanish-style church, said he was an early lector and his wife was a sacristan when the parish was founded in 1961 under the leadership of Father Gerald Barrett. He thinks his fellow parishioners and pastors are what have made the parish so close-knit and faithful, holding regular rosaries and novenas, conducting a strong CCD program and caring for the less fortunate through the Knights of Columbus.
“The pastors we’ve had were very spiritual people and kept our faith up very well,” Deacon Donnaud said.
“It’s a good place to find God,” said usher and Knights of Columbus Council 2409 member Bob Voros. St. Anthony’s Knights of Columbus was named the top council in the state of Louisiana.
Church parish always close
Cassie Johnson Kaplan, who brought up the offertory at the anniversary Mass, was among the first holy Communion class at St. Anthony in May 1962. She has been part of the Catholic faithful in the area since her parents moved to the area in 1954 and has volunteered in the CYO program. Her daughter, Bailee Kaplan, 14, is an altar server.
“We’re a close-knit parish,” she said. “Many of the older founders are still here.”
The first Mass in the present church was celebrated by Father Robert Guste, St. Anthony’s second pastor, on Christmas 1968. Archbishop Philip Hannan dedicated the church in January 1969. Vestiges of the Spanish Mission church are visible on the grounds in the bell and statue of the Blessed Mother.
Celebrating in fellowship around food symbolizes the family atmosphere of this parish. This was exemplified in a reception following the anniversary Mass. Gerald and Susi Zeringue, who headed the anniversary celebration committee, contributed items to a memorabilia room where many shared parish experiences. The Zeringues recalled parishioners such as Lena Lacroix, who played the organ for 75 years in the parish, Marie “Kit” Aucoin, Dot St. Amant, Norma Hymel, Sister of Mercy of the Holy Cross Linda Songy and the religious and clergy who served them well for so many years.
“I’m so glad for this wonderful turn out,” said Gerald Zeringue, 63, a lifelong parishioner of St. Anthony who has worked for the church since age 13. “Reminisce about our St. Anthony family because this is what we are all about.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org.