History of St. Bernadette Soubirous Parish
Prior to 1958, the Archdiocese of New Orleans established a presence in the Bayou Cane area. Priests from St. Francis Church celebrated Sunday Mass in the Bayou Cane School. Later the parish celebrated the Mass at the Broadmoor School Cafeteria. On February 11, 1958, Archbishop Rummel called a committee meeting in New Orleans and presented Fr. George Herbert as the new pastor of the Bayou Cane area.
Archbishop Rummel further suggested that the name of the new parish be St. Bernadette Soubirous, because it was on the morning of February 11, 1858, exactly one hundred years earlier, that the Blessed Mother appeared to Marie Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France. St. Bernadette Parish was officially founded on June 29, 1958. Mass continued to be celebrated in the Broadmoor School Cafeteria until they built the new church. The parish celebrated the first Mass in the new church on July 5, 1959.
In August 1961, Fr. Herbert signed a contract to begin construction of a rectory, school and convent. Fr. Herbert secured the services of the Dominican Sisters. The school opened in August 1962 with grades one through three. The enrollment was 128 students. Each year a grade was added until the 7th grade. Sr. Mary Antoinette Millet, O.P. was the first principal.
The church constructed eight more classrooms in 1966 but a decline in enrollment, lack of funds and the need for qualified teachers prompted the Dominican Sisters to recommend the closing of the school in 1968. The St. Bernadette School Board and parents were determined to keep the school open. They inaugurated fund-raising projects to support the school. A kindergarten class was added. In 1970, the school obtained state approval, and the student enrollment reached 300. Sr. Edmund Gibson, O.P. was principal at that time.
In 1975, a parish center (Herbert Hall) was built to provide a place to serve the spiritual and recreational needs of the parish better. It has been important in the development of the unity and community spirit of the parish family.
On January 19, 1979, work began on the new wing of the school that included the library, resource room and the band room. The Dominican Sisters withdrew from the school in May 1987. Mrs. Patricia Domingue was the first lay principal.
In 1979 St. Bernadette Church was renovated to hold its growing congregation. These renovations included the addition of two wings, a vestibule, a cry room, stained glass windows, carpeting and the restructuring and moving of the altar to a more central focal point.
Economic hardships in the 80's caused a reduction of the school enrollment. In 1987 the school went from two classes of each grade to one. Pre-kindergarten classes were added and in 1990 the process of adding two classes a year began with two kindergarten classes. In 1997 all grades had two classes. Because of this new expansion, the church offices and school were expanded to house new classrooms, a science lab, a faculty lounge, additional office space, a larger cafeteria area and resource room for students with special needs. This was completed in 1995.
St. Bernadette is blessed with active organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters, K.C. Ladies Auxiliary, scouts, St. Vincent de Paul, Men’s Club, etc. All parishioners are encouraged to take responsibility for the life and growth of the Parish Family. This is evident in the involvement of the laity in every aspect of parish life - youth ministry, religious education, liturgical ministries, and school. St. Bernadette has many choirs leading liturgical celebrations at all Masses.
Opportunities for adult learning and spiritual growth include educational courses, two parish missions a year, parish retreat, faith sharing and Scripture Study groups.
Since the parish is so large and so diverse, St. Bernadette tries to reach out to as many families as possible and offer various programs and opportunities for growth. For example we have a variety of children’s ministries. Besides religious education classes we also offer Children’s school choir, Children’s Liturgy of the Word, Children’s Missions, Mother/Daughter Tea, Art Attack, Summer Fun Ministry (Vacation Bible School), Children and Youth Masses.
One principle of the Second Vatican Council was collegiality (sharing responsibility for the life of the church). St. Bernadette Parish was one of the first parishes to use the Pastoral Council model of involving parishioners in the spiritual wellbeing of the parish. Our Pastoral Council takes a central role in parish planning. Each year the administration and council hold a one day retreat. The council actively follows up on the goals and objectives at its subsequent meetings. It can be truly said that we are a planning parish that dreams, examines, reviews, prays over and finally enacts a mission of growth in line with our mission statement. Our mission is to evangelize in the spirit of the mind of Christ.
An Evangelization outreach project began in the year 2000. A Neighborhood blitz was held to help connect neighbors with each other and the Church parish. All families living within the parish boundaries were visited. Different activities were planned for children, teens and adults living in the various neighborhoods.
In 2002 a beautiful prayer garden was created. The garden is used for outdoor prayer services as well as a special place to just sit and meditate.
As St. Bernadette continued to expand, a multi-purpose gymnasium, additional classrooms, meeting rooms and a youth center were built. Rebecca’s Walk and Meditation Garden along with Glenn’s Tower were added. Funds from St. Bernadette School’s Panda Meander Race built the Patricia Domingue walking track. We realized our dreams for the parish in the completion of our gymnasium/multi-purpose building with its many different aspects.
As we approached the jubilee year of the founding of St. Bernadette Parish, we saw that our Church had many needs. The electrical wiring, flooring, and pews were 50 years old and needed to be replaced. The Pastoral Council, Parish Staff, Finance Council and through the input from a parish feasibility study, all agree that it is an appropriate time to give our Church fresh painting, detailing, and other renovations to bring us into the next fifty years.
We began our "Renewing the House of the Lord" project, after paying off our debt and collecting half the money needed for the renovation. On January 8, 2011 our newly renovated Church was rededicated.
Following the directives of Vatican II, the parishioners of St. Bernadette are very involved in the mission of the church especially in spiritual growth, evangelization, religious education and the liturgical life of the parish. There are over 100 ministries within St. Bernadette parish. Ministries are facilitated by laity as well as clergy.
We are very conscious of “being church” for 2500 families. It is a tough challenge and we are forever seeking ways to make each family feel important and feel they have ownership of the parish. A special effort has been made to those who are not presently active church goers. Our next project is to form a family ministry in the parish.
St. Bernadette has grown from 435 Catholic families in 1958 to approximately 2500 registered families making it one of the largest parish in the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese. May God who has blessed our parish so greatly over the past 50+ years continue to bless us now and in the years to come.