St. Anthony of Padua
A chronological history of the Community of
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church
in Bayou Black, LA
by the Reverend Vicente N. DeLa Cruz, MCL, JCL
7th Pastor (2013 – 0000) Version June 2017
1876 – existed as a Catholic community (mission chapel)
1922 – official canonical establishment as a church parish
1876 – Early church records indicate that the chapel community in Bayou Black was already in existence. Priests from St. Eloi in Bayou Dularge and St. Patrick Church in Gibson, priests from Morgan City and Thibodaux ministered to the new emerging community in Bayou Black.
1892 August 4th – In a handwritten letter, Archbishop Francis Janssens, Archbishop of New Orleans (1888-1897) , authorized the Rev. Jean Marius Laval, Pastor of St. Francis de Sales in Houma, to accept from Mr. Peter Verger and John Berger of Houma, a tract of land located in the Flora Plantation in Bayou Black, for erecting a Catholic Chapel.
1892 August 15th – The sale and transfer of the land was completed in the amount of one hundred ($100.00) dollars.
1896 – The First Church was built in the new land, made of cypress wood from the local area.
1922 February 16 – Archbishop John William Shaw (1918- 1934) of New Orleans canonically established St. Anthony of Padua Chapel in Bayou Black as “a church parish” with the Rev. Charles Gescher, a priest from Germany, as the first pastor.
1931 – The Rev. Cyprien Foret became the second pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church (1931-1953) while still living at St. Patrick’s Church in Gibson.
1940 – The first church/chapel in Bayou Black made of timber burned down to the ground and all records were destroyed.
1940 (or 1941) – The Church of St. Agnes in Donner was donated to the Bayou Black community. Donner, once a flourishing sawmill town closed its mill after so many years due to bad economy. The Church of St. Agnes was hoisted on a barge and floated down the bayou to Bayou Black where it became the Church of St. Anthony of Padua Church.
1941 – St. Patrick Church in Gibson also burned down destroying all its records and those belonging to St. Anthony of Padua Church in Bayou Black
1969 – Mr. Bannon Bonvillain bought two bells in New Orleans, one was for his antebellum home (Boykin Plantation) on the banks of Bayou Black, and the other bell was given to St. Anthony of Padua Church, a pioneer church on Bayou Black. He also made a monetary donation for the community center. M/M Bannon and Delilah Bonvillain were one of the early benefactors of the church and their daughter Ms. Lelia Bonvillain at one-time, was the church organist.
1972 – Rev. Dennis Begley, became the first “resident pastor” (third pastor) and died six weeks later. During this year, walls were extended on both sides to increase the size of the church. Mr. Harrison Gill was instrumental in making the necessary electrical upgrades to the renovated church.
1972 – Rev. Gerard Hayes became the fourth Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Bayou Black (1972-2005).
1973 January 10th – Rev. Albert Bergeron, a friend of Fr. Hayes, donated the relics of the martyrs St. Rogatii and St. Alexander (Sanctorum Martyrum Rogatii et Alexandris) which was installed on the main altar built by Mr. Nelson Trahan (who also built the matching Ambo and Lectern).
1973 – A multi-purpose building behind the church and next to the church office was built by local parishioners and volunteers
1973 – Mr. Henry Brién donated the present Rectory to St. Anthony Church which was eventually renovated to accommodate the needs of the pastor.
1977 August 30th – The Congregation of St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Bayou Black, Louisiana became a separate legal corporation with the establishment of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux on 05 June 1977
1995 – During the term of Fr. Hayes, an old utility shed located behind the church was renovated to become the Adoration Chapel and was opened to the public. Fr. Hayes built the church office which was blessed by Bishop Boudreaux. He also installed the electronic carillion bell system in the church.
1980 – December 20th Mr. Nick Messina was ordained as a Permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and assigned at St. Anthony of Padua Church.
2005 – Rev. Michael Bergeron became the fifth pastor (2005-2006). Fr. Mike was instrumental in upgrading the sound system in the church, purchasing a refurbished baptismal font, and the upholstering of the pews.
2006 – June 8th Mr. Jesse LeCompte was ordained was ordained as a Permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and assigned at St. Anthony of Padua Church.
2006 – Rev. Joshua Rodrigue became the sixth pastor (2006-2013). Fr. Josh commissioned the building of a new wooden confessional to Mr. Joey Yesso and supervised the repairs and renovations of the church (below) after it was damaged by Hurricane Gustav.
2008 – The (1996) old steeple of the church was destroyed by Hurricane Gustav and was replaced with a porte cochere in front of the building where the old church bell was installed. During this year, the interior of the church was completely renovated (ceilings and floors) which was also damaged by the same hurricane.
2009 – Mrs. Frances Lajaunie Bergeron Lirette Cox made a donatio inter-vivos of a track of land behind the hall and rectory (and Bayou Black Cemetery) that is now used as church parking lot and fairgrounds.
2010 – December 11th Mr. Brent Bergeron was ordained as a Permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and assigned at St. Anthony of Padua Church.
2012 – Deacon Joseph Tregre was ordained a Priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, a life-long resident, active member of the church parish.
2013 July 1st – Very Rev. Vicente N. DeLa Cruz, J.V. became the seventh pastor of St. Anthony Church. During his tenure various improvements were made on all the properties, i.e. limestone parking lot behind the church hall/center, replacements of some AC units, new ice-machine, repainting of the Adoration Chapel, improvements on the church sound system & the wooden confessional, improvement & relocation of the religious statues in the sanctuary, installation of drainage around the church building, clean-up of the batture, upgrading the internet system.
2015 – May 23rd Mr. Lee Crochet was ordained as a Permanent Deacon of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. Deacon Lee was a long-time member of the church parish, former choir director, and dedicated volunteer.
2016 – May 28th Deacon Cody Chatagnier was ordained a Priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. Father Cody was adopted by the church parish as a seminarian.