Immaculate Conception Church - Lebeau, LA

Immaculate Conception Church

Lebeau, LA

 
Sacred Heart Mission - Rideau, LA
 

Sacred Heart Mission

Rideau, LA

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Father Oscar Pierre Lebeau, SSJ

Fr. Oscar Pierre Lebeau, SSJ

The location was originally called the Petite Prairie after the bayou that flows  through it. From 1874-1897 the Catholic community in the area was served by a priest who came from Washington, LA. In 1897 the Josephite Fathers assumed responsibility for ministry in the area and henceforth the place was named Lebeau after its first pastor, Father Oscar Pierre Lebeau, SSJ .

By 1909 a rectory and school had been built. Originally the school was staffed by lay teachers, but Fr. Lebeau secured the services of two Holy Family sisters from New Orleans, who staffed the school until their convent burned in 1912.

In 1919, when Fr. Pacifique Roy was pastor, a new school was built, but it was not until 1927 that Fr. John Mulkeen, SSJ. persuaded the Sisters of the Holy Spirit to send four sisters to staff the school. The parish had just completed building the school in Rideau and had done major repairs on the school and rectory after the flood of 1927.

From the outset the school had an elementary and secondary program. By 1923 the enrollment had reached 235. Originally the children walked long distances for the Josephites had been extended: Rideau, Morrow, Bayou Current, Rosa, Big Cane, Palmetto, and as far away as Melville. Because so many of them worked on the farms their school year was shorter than normal. Most were unable to begin until November when the cotton picking was completed and by mid March they had to begin helping with the plowing and seeding.

In addition to regular schooling, the sisters also taught religion to the public school children of these communities. Responsibility for some of the communities was transferred to St. John Evangelist Parish in Melville. The parish was established in 1931. However, the religious education of students who could not attend Immaculate Conception School continued for many years, especially in Rideau which developed into a mission of the parish. Meanwhile, Immaculate Conception Church and School had become the center of spiritual nurturance, education and social life for the black community of Lebeau and surrounding area.

In 1946 the school was destroyed by fire. It was replaced by the present concrete block structure which serves a classroom-parish hall facility (presently called “Fr. Pierre Community Center”). A new church replaced the original in 1954. During its peak years, in the 50's and early 60's the school boasted an enrollment of about 400 students. The achievements of many of its alumni were recognized in colleges such as the University of Southwest Louisiana, Grambling College, Xavier University, and others. Sadly, however the majority have had to leave the area to find satisfactory careers and the basin grain took and enormous toll on the locality. This Parish contributed many young men and women to religious life and the priesthood over the years. Among them are our own Sr. Martha Readore and Fr. Charles Andrus, SSJ.

In 1964 the high school was discontinued and the students transferred elsewhere. After several years of struggle with decreased enrollment and lack of financial resources, the elementary school was also closed in 1980. To continue the ministry of the sisters to the black community of Lebeau, one sister began teaching at Palmetto High School and another assumed responsibility for religious education and pastoral ministry in the parish. With the closing of Palmetto High 1990, Sister was assigned to the faculty of the new regional School in Lebeau which is named “North Central High School.“

Sister Martha Readore is currently assigned to Palmetto Elementary School in Palmetto, LA. In 2003 Father Ambrose Udeze, M.S.P. established the Fr. Oscar Pierre Lebeau Community Center.

Fr. Walter Cerbin, S.S.J. became pastor in 2005

 

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