Welcome to Catholic Hill and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. You are some of the visitors who come to this sacred place from all over the world. People come here to pray, to celebrate with us the sacred Liturgy, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Catholic Hill in this beautiful town of St. Francisville.
In 1871 Archbishop Perche of New Orleans made an official visit to the community and told the people to build a church. Land had been purchased earlier that year. The Catholic community dates back into the mid-eighteenth century. Missionaries stationed on the west bank of the Mississippi River would come to these shores to bury their dead, minister to the Tunica Indians and celebrate Mass in the market place or in private homes for the Catholics.
Spanish Capuchin Fathers established a church in 1730 in the civil parish of Pointe Coupee, across the River. It was St. Francis Church. It remains today as a mission chapel. The settlement which grew around the burial grounds on the east bank of the River, established by the Capuchins, took its name from the 'old church' and was called St. Francisville.
Prior to 1871, the Catholic community was served by priests who came once a month from Jackson and Clinton. Mass was said on these occasions in private homes or in the court house.
The present church was built exclusively of native woods, with cypress doors, windows and frames. The beams and columns are solid longleaf pine.
The semi-circular window above the main entrance dates from 1871 when construction began on the church. Tradition has it that the original plan was designed by General P.G.T. Beauregard, a general in the Confederate Army.
Other church appointments:
-The focal points in the sanctuary are: The Altar is made of mahogany and was made by a woodcraftsman in Mississippi.
-the Pulpit dates from 1860, and was purchased from a dealer on Royal St. in New Orleans. It is said to be from a church in Pennsylvania.
- The Chair is gothic design.
- The tabernacle, situated in the cove in the sanctuary, was built in Smoke Bend, LA in 1930.
- The Stations of the Cross were donated by the Sisters of Christian Charity, being too large for their convent chapel in New Orleans. They are delicately detailed in oil. Brought over from Germany for their New Orleans chapel, they are said to be over 200 years old.
- The two angels in the loft are from the chapel of the former Mother House of the Sisters of St. Joseph on Ursuline Ave. in New Orleans. In the early 1960's the convent was sold and moved to modern buildings on Mirabeau Ave. No one seems to know how these angels got here. A plaque notes they were the gift of Fr. Myles Kearney, pastor from 1955-1973.
- Although the church has an electronic carillon system that strikes on the hour, a hand rung bell is in the tower, which called parishioners to worship for over 100 years. It is still intact and useable.
Other buildings on Catholic Hill:
Catholic Hall, built in the 1950's, Rectory, constructed in mid-1920's, Parish Office, (one time convent for Sisters) built in 1950's, and a Religious Education Center, which was once a private residence, and when purchased by the parish, it served as Rectory for the pastor. In the 1996 remodeling program, it was made into an education center. It now has seven classrooms, a kitchen and rest rooms.
As mentioned, early missionaries visited the Felicianas to bury the dead from Pointe Coupe. They established burial grounds on the high hills. Headstones have been found which date back as early as 1820 and have been enshrined in the present cemetery. The property has been owned by the Catholic Church since 1840. After the Capuchins abandoned their establishment in the Felicianas, the burial grounds fell into disuse. During the course of years, the land was used as grazing land for cattle and a dairy farm. In 1969, effort was made to reclaim the land and return it to its former use. This was done. It is now Mount Carmel Cemetery, located on Ferdinand Street, just a block from Catholic Hill.
Copyright ©1999 Feliciana Guide Post. All rights reserved.