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Parish History

St. Francis of Assisi 1898 - 1962
St. Alphonsus Liguori 1962 - Present

A vibrant Catholic community, celebrating over 100 years of existence, lies between the Comite and Amite rivers in the central area of East Baton Rouge Parish. St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana began in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. A local teacher of the time, Mrs. Amelia Landry conducted classes at the Vicknair Place on Frenchtown Road. Students came from miles around and from nearby parishes to be instructed in typical scholastic subjects as well as art, music and religion. Mrs. Landry’s school came to be known as St. Joseph’s and every Sunday, weather and river levels permitting, a resident would drive a horse and buggy to St. Joseph Church in Baton Rouge to bring a priest out to say Mass at the school.

Recognizing the need for an actual church, Mrs. Landry began to raise funds for construction. Mr. Talbot Richard donated land, and the necessary funds were quickly accumulated. Once monies were raised, Alphonse Burke, Edward Thibodeaux, and other men traveled several days up Greenwell Springs Road to obtain St. Helena yellow pine from which the new church was constructed. The new church was completed and dedicated on October 4, 1898, being named St. Francis of Assisi. In the beginning, the church was a mission of St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge, becoming a mission of St. George Parish after the turn of the century. Initially, Masses were said four times a year and then, once a month. In 1920, St. Francis became a mission of St. Anthony of Padua Parish. This arrangement continued until 1944, when St. Gerard Majella Parish was carved from St. Anthony’s.

St. Francis of Assisi became a mission of the new parish and was staffed by Redemptorist priests, an association that would last until 1986. The number of area faithful continued to grow, and in 1953, a brick church and meeting hall were constructed. On September 29, 1962, the longtime mission church of St. Francis of Assisi became one of the first parishes established within the newly formed Diocese of Baton Rouge under its new bishop, Most Reverend Robert E. Tracy. The new parish was named St. Alphonsus Liguori after the founder of the Redemptorists. Ironically, the Catholic community of Greenwell Springs’ first pastor was the Reverend Joseph M. Greenwell, CSsR. In typical American Redemptorist fashion, the new parish set to work, and, one year after its inception, opened a parish school with 131 students in grades one to four led by a School Sister of Notre Dame, Sr. Janet Marie Abbachi, as administrator. These sisters served the school until 1971. Lay principals, Mrs. Genevieve Stockstill and Mr. Harold Copes, served from 1969 to 1984, at which time, Sr. Esther Hulin, a Sister of St. Joseph became principal of the school.

Sr. Esther retired in July 2005, and Mrs. Shirley Bougere served the school from August 2006 through July 2009. The current school prinicpal is Dr. Cynthia Ryals.

The 1970’s saw phenomenal growth in the area that demanded the construction of a new church. On May 20, 1978, our present church was dedicated with then pastor, Reverend Stephen Plei, CSsR, presiding. The new church was designed to seat 650 with standing room for an additional 300. By 1995, the parish’s physical plant had grown to include an Administration Building with Perpetual Adoration Chapel, Family Center, Grades K-8 school and cafeteria, St. Francis of Assisi Meeting Rooms and Rectory.

In 1986, the Redemptorist priests departed, and St. Alphonsus became a diocesan parish led by diocesan priests.

On October 4, 1998, our centennial celebration began with the ringing of the original church bell, which has called the faithful to this location for one hundred years. Since the celebration of our centennial, the parish continues to grow both in numbers of parishioners and ministries to God’s people within the parish and the greater community.

Following a year of “home” meetings in which parishioners were able to identify their vision for the future of St. Alphonsus, Fr. Tom Duhe’ established an Advisory Council to develop a Parish Mission Statement and to structure a Pastoral Council. The Parish Mission Statement was completed in 1998, and the Pastoral Council was established the following year. Through the hard work of the council and many parishioners, new ministries have been started and existing ministries have been expanded. The council continues to provide vision and leadership for the parish.

The changes to the existing church and the construction of our meeting facility, Administration Building and Adoration Chapel have provided an appropriate environment for worship and ministry. We look forward to continued growth within the St. Alphonsus faith community and the City of Central.

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