Excerpted from St Rose de Lima: An Adaptive Use Review by Lisa Lynde
In 1855, Fanny Labatut, donated a plot of land near Mystery and Maurepas Street “for the greater good of the Catholics residing between the city and Bayou St John.” At the same time, Madame Blanc promised to supply 300,000 bricks for the construction of a church, presbytery and residence upon the same plot of land. Archbishop Blanc in turn promised to begin construction within three years. The house on the lot was converted into a church in April 1857 but was soon abandoned for a more favorable lot on Bayou Road. This land was donated in July 1857 by Madeleine Gueno Buss. Soon after a small wooden church was constructed on the spot in November and it was named after St. Rose de Lima who was known for her extreme asceticism and tending the poor and needy.
Shortly after the construction of the first church, Father Paschal Maistre, a French-born priest, arrived at St. Rose de Lima. The Archdiocese in New Orleans was staunchly in support of the Confederacy but Father Maistre was vocal about his support of the Union and abolition. In 1863, Maistre began to integrate the St. Rose de Lima registers against Archbishop Odin’s directives to return to normal practice. This made Maistre an extremely popular religious leader for the city’s black population. In April 1963, Maistre went so far as to offer a high mass in celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation. This caused Archbishop Odin to revoke Maistre’s clerical authority and he shut the parish down in May that same year. Maistre continued to celebrate at the parish while building a new rogue parish nearby called Holy Name of Jesus.
One of the first actions Maistre took was to perform the funeral mass for Captain Andre’ Cailloux, and Afro-Creole Union Soldier. Cailloux died a heroic death on May 27, 1963, leading Company E of the 1st Louisiana Native Guards on a doomed charge against Confederates defending Port Hudson. On July 29, 1863, Maistre, against the wishes of the Archbishop, lead the massive funeral with full military honors.
During his first year at Holy Name of Jesus, Maistre conducted over 150 baptisms – all black. This tripled his numbers from the previous year at St. Rose. In this new church Maistre continued his activism. “By alienating Southern social convention and his religious superior through his radical political and social positions, Maistre and his African Creole congregants were part of a conflict that meshed religion and politics.” In December 1867, Father Maistre also presided over a funeral in honor of abolitionist John Brown on the anniversary of Brown’s death. In 1870 Maistre wrote an apology for his disobedience, but not for political and social views. Archbishop Odin also passed away in 1870 and Maistre was allowed back into the Catholic church, though he did not return to St. Rose de Lima. Instead he was assigned to a rural Louisiana parish where he served as priest until his death in 1874.
Look for information and updates on our future home of St. Rose on the last Monday of each month. For questions email us.