Historical Notes on St. Charles Borromeo:

Little Red Church, 1918

T he Little Red The Little Red Church Church, built in 1806, has been standing now on the 1770 Spanish land grant for 112 years as a landmark for travelers on the Mississippi River. The church was without a pastor for forty-two years due to the 1877 fire, which destroyed the rectory, and the 1890 interdiction brought about by charter and warden conflicts with the archdiocese. But all of that would soon change with the appointment of a new pastor and lifting of the interdiction. Mr. Pat Kelly of the Mexican Petroleum Company and other church parishioners negotiated with the archdiocese to reopen the Red Church. In 1917, a parochial charter was adopted and St. Charles Borromeo Church Parish was reinstated to the diocese. The new pastor would accept the assignment without a place to live, but Mexican Petroleum offered a temporary residence at its refinery. Red Church was dilapidated from years of neglect, so it needed repairs and to be enlarged.

     There have Father John F. Basty. been many priests in residence since the establishment of St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan. One of the best known is Father John Francis Basty, who arrived on March 10, 1918, and remained until July 1949. He was a visionary who helped restore the spiritual and physical life of the church parish. Father Basty immediately saw the need to improve conditions in his new pastorate and to finance the construction of the new church. He immediately built a new rectory, made repairs, and enlarged the Little Red Church. Under his leadership, the following accomplishments occurred:

1920 — Of the 617.68 acres of church property, six hundred acres were sold

and seventeen acres were reserved for church, school, and
cemetery use.

1921 — A new church was built from the sale of church lands.

1924 — St. Isidore the Farmer’s Chapel at Montz was erected.

1929 — The rectory of the Red Church was remodeled by elevating the existing

building and closing in the ground level. The two-story building and other original buildings remain in place today.

1929 — A two-story combination elementary school and convent was built,

opening the first parochial school between New Orleans and Baton Rouge on the east bank.

1929 — The Sisters of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception were

solicited to operate the elementary school. Sister Margaret Mary, C.I.C., was the first principal.

1939 — A combination auditorium-classroom unit was erected.

1942 — Two lots in Norco were acquired and the old St. Matthias Church of

New Orleans was rebuilt as the Sacred Heart Mission Chapel.

1947 — The Christian Brothers religious order was sought to operate a

projected high school.

1948 — A private, parochial high school, St. Charles Borromeo High School,

opened under the direction of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

1949 — Contracts were put in place for the building of a new convent.

 

The new St. Charles Borromeo Church was dedicated on January 25, 1922. In the 1978
restoration and expansion of the church, the old Stations of the Cross were restored and the solid
cypress pews were used as paneling and the balcony railing. St. Charles Borromeo Church
continues to serve Catholic parishioners in the twenty-first century and is the second oldest
church parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Support of clergy and laity over the years has
contributed to the preservation of the integrity of this historic landmark.

 

The new St. Charles Borromeo Church was dedicated on January 25, 1922. In the 1978 restoration and expansion of the church, the old Stations of the Cross were restored and the solid cypress pews were used as paneling and the balcony railing. St. Charles Borromeo Church continues to serve Catholic parishioners in the twenty-first century and is the second oldest church parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Support of clergy and laity over the years has contributed to the preservation of the integrity of this historic landmark.

 

 

     The Little Red Church facility remained on the grounds of St. Charles Borromeo for years after
the new church was constructed. It was later torn down. Parishioners recall attending plays and other events in the building. A replica is on display on the church grounds.

Little Red Church

 

     Father Basty’s legendary flock of sheep roamed the
grounds of the church and schoolyard. Wool from the
sheep was bundled and sold to the parishioners for quilt
making. Despite speculation or the belief that Father
Basty was the first pastor of St. Charles Borromeo to
have sheep, 1747 records reveal a partnership:
“Jean Rommel and the Reverend Father Pierre form an
act of partnership whereby Rommel agrees to look after
twenty-five sheep and five rams belonging to the
Reverend Father for one-half the profits.”

 

 

     Following the departure of the Immaculate Conception order in May of 1960, the Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament came to the school to continue the education program. In 1979, St. Charles Borromeo High School closed. The archdiocese opened a new Catholic high school in LaPlace. In the twenty-first century, St. Charles Borromeo Elementary is the largest private parochial school in the parish.

One of St. Charles Borromeo Elementary School’s graduating
classes. (Photo courtesy of Ralph A. Richoux, Sr.)

St. Charles Borromeo Church, School and convent combined–1929.

Sister M. Valerie, C.I.C., first principal of St. Charles Borromeo High School.

Top: School and convent combined-1929. Below: School auditorium. The expansion of the educational program reaches its conclusion with the opening of the high school (2nd below) in 1948. Sister M. Valerie, C.I.C. (right) was its first principal and guided it with a strong sense of purpose, exceptional educational credentials, and a firm religious faith. Her presence contributed to the success of the high school. (Photos from the 250th Anniversary Celebration of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Destrehan, Louisiana, 1723-1973 booklet. Copyright 1973.)

St. Charles Borromeo High School,  Auditorium.

 

St. Charles Borromeo High School

 

 

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Copyright © This text is copyright material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.