The development of 366 acres of land on the northshore – 227 of which the archdiocese has owned since 1902 – began Nov. 15 with the blessing and dedication of the Judge Tanner Road extension and Holy Trinity Drive in Covington. Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Father Rodney Bourg and St. Tammany Parish officials officially opened the road with a prayer and blessing. This road will allow construction to start in coming months on a new church and parish center for Most Holy Trinity Catholic Parish; St. Anthony’s Gardens, a senior retirement residence; and a funeral home and cemetery in the future.
“This is an important day for us,” said Father Bourg, Most Holy Trinity’s founding pastor. “It’s a day that we as a faith community have been looking forward to for a very long time. It is finally coming to fruition. This road is a first step. In the next couple of months, you’re going to see the beginning for the development of the other projects on this site. The church will hopefully be breaking ground, sometime, mid to late February.“
Archbishop Aymond said a collaboration between the archdiocese and St. Tammany Parish made the project possible.
“We don’t take for granted that we can come in and do these things,” Archbishop Aymond said. “We want to work with the community and for the community.”
He acknowledged that the project has, at times, been challenging and complicated. Most Holy Trinity opened in 2006 to ease the overcrowded Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Mandeville. But he said, when completed, it will be a little bit of a village on its own.
“We are delighted that we are able to work toward that goal with you here in St. Tammany Parish,” Archbishop Aymond said. “St. Tammany Parish is growing tremendously, and so is our faith community growing tremendously. Our partnership in this is extremely important to me and to all of us as we look toward the future of what we are as a church and as the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”
Long time coming
The archdiocese has worked with St. Tammany Parish on this project since 2001 and finally reached a cooperative agreement this year, said St. Tammany Councilman Marty Gould. Compromise and willingness to work together was spurred in 2010-11 after the Corps of Engineers denied the parish’s plan to extend Judge Tanner Road to Hwy. 59.
“The archdiocese was willing do so some things in development that other developers wouldn’t do, such as create green space,” Gould said. He also added how the archdiocese exceeded required buffer zones around neighboring subdivisions and donated 80 acres to put into parish conservancy.
“They are going to try to keep as many natural trees on this project as they can,” Gould said. “That shows sensitivity to the land.”
Gould expects to see immediate impact from the new road by taking 2,800 cars off residential streets in Westwood each day. He considers the project a positive one for St. Tammany.
“If you are going to develop this property, I don’t know a better use than giving a home to the elderly, who don’t put pressure on your schools, crime and who don’t drive a lot. The impact is very little … and is respectful to the wetlands. … I think the overall design will have a positive impact.”
Parish President Pat Brister talked about the faith that got the project moving.
“It’s taken a lot of faith to get through the trials sometimes, but we knew what a great project it was,” she said. “We see the vision, and you can see it now when you look at these pictures (architectural drawings of the development). I think it really does describe who we are in St. Tammany and who we want to be in St. Tammany. I could not be prouder, and I thank (archdiocesan officials) for bringing it to us.”
Symbols of road blessing
A Gospel passage was read about Jesus walking with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus after his death and resurrection where he revealed who he really was. It created the perfect analogy for the new road blessing, as Catholics in the archdiocese travel on their earthly journey on a road they hope leads to the “kingdom of God in heaven.”
“That as we walk this road with the Lord Jesus, he continues to explain to us who we are as a people; what he calls us to be,” Archbishop Aymond said. “As we walk this road with him, he leads us to what will be his church named after the Trinity; he will lead us to a parish center where people will gather as a community of faith; he will lead us to caring for our senior citizens; and he will lead us toward helping people in time of grief. He is on this road with us; he’s on the road to life with us; and we’re very grateful that we have an opportunity to participate in that.”
Most Holy Trinity parishioners were jubilant at the road blessing and walked the Judge Tanner extension at the intersection of Holy Trinity Drive where their new church will be built.
“Now we actually have something for parishioners to see,” said Ray Ferro, administrative assistant at Most Holy Trinity. “Everyone’s talking about it. Once construction starts, they will see the big picture. It will help Most Holy Trinity with our capital campaign.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.