Wednesday, August 26, 2020

St. Peter Church Gets New Brick Building - 1940

On December 22, 1940, the congregation of St. Peter Catholic Church in Covington moved into its newly-constructed $100,000 brick church on Jefferson Avenue. 

The article that appeared in the Farmer not only gave an account of the long-awaited community event, but also detailed the history of the Catholic Church in St. Tammany Parish, St. Peter's in particular. Here are the article and photographs published on December 27. 

Click on the images below to make them larger and more readable. 

St. Tammany Farmer- December 27, 1940 

Archbishop Joseph Rummell Conducts Most Solemn Dedication Services 

Sunday morning, December 22nd, 1940, was an eventful day in the history the Catholic church in Covington when the handsome new structure, built and furnished at a cost of nearly one hundred thousand dollars, was dedicated with solemn ceremonies by the Most Reverend Archbishop Rummell of New Orleans. Assisting in the solemn ceremonies were many other dignitaries of the clergy, in­cluding Reverend Abbot Columban of St. Joseph's Abbey, Reverend Father Aurelian, Reverend Father Canisius, Reverend Father Juan Mar­tinez and many others.

After the solemn dedicatory cere­monies members of the clergy and several of the members of the finance committee and a few invited guests were entertained at a most delightful luncheon prepared and served by a number of the ladies of the church at the parochial school. During this luncheon there were several speak­ers, featured among whom were the Archbishop and Abbot, the master of ceremonies being Father Canisius, who with his, very clever wit and entertaining humor, introduced the speakers. 
Also featured at the lunch­eon was Father Juan Martinez, to whom all paid tribute for his untir­ing energy and effort in raising more than fifty thousand dollars of the fund used in building the new edi­fice. He is now located at Mande­ville where he is serving as pastor and is just as popular there as he was when located here.
A Complete History

A complete history of the church is reproduced in this edition, which  was taken from Catholic Action, of­ficial church organ of the diocese, as follows:

Solemn dedication of the third St. Peter's church of Covington this Sunday recalls the interesting and colorful history of the Catholic com­munity of that section of St. Tam­many parish, the zealous and self-sacrificing labors of devoted mis­sionaries and parish priests, and the untiring services rendered in St. Pe­ter's parish by the sons of St. Bene­dict for nearly a quarter of a cen­tury.

The early French-Canadian explor­ers, Iberville and Bienville, knew of the piney lands bordering the north­ern shore of the great inland body of water they named Lake Pontchar­train after the French minister of Louis XVI. Father Paul du Rue, the intrepid Jesuit missionary who came to Louisiana on the second voyage of Iberville to the new colony at the lower end of the Mississippi valley, planned the establishment of a mis­sion among the Indians in the Flori­da parishes. 
He made an explora­tion trip from Bay St. Louis west­ward to reach the section above the lake, and suffered many hardships when he and his companions became lost in the Honey Island swamp. Just how far into the Florida parishes Father du Rue penetrated, we do not know except that he apparently crossed Pearl River.

Later in the French colonial per­iod, after New Orleans had become the capital of the vast colonial em­pire of Louisiana, we begin to hear of the section across the lake, peo­pled by Indians who periodically came to the city with their wares. Land grants were made to venture­some French settlers and permits given to traders who sought pine­wood, tar, sand and shells and other products that are still famous in the long list of items produced by St, Tammany parish and its sister par­ishes. 
Choctaw Indians coming from Mississippi had long settled in that region, but apart from 'the heroic ef­forts of Father du Rue, the early church annals and documents re­veal nothing else done in their be­half. Spanish colonial records like­wise show nothing done for these In­dians, due no doubt to the shortage of missionaries and the difficulty of obtaining more for the vast territory that Spain ruled here.

When the American migration be­gan to the west across the Alleghen­ies, many settlers from the United States began to filter into the Florida Parishes, even when that section was still under the domination of Spain. After the Florida Rebellion and when the territory was taken over by the  United States under Governor Clai­borne, a settlement had developed just about the junction of the Bogue Falaya and the Tchefuncta rivers. 
On March 19, 1813, the year after Lou­isiana was admitted into the Union as a state, John Collins, who stayed himself "a fellow-citizen of Thomas Jefferson," had the settlement incorporated under the name of Wharton. However, the name was not destined to remain, for on March 11, 1816, by an act of the Louisiana Legislature, Wharton became known as the. Town of Covington. In 1829 it became the parish seat of St. Tammany parish.

The healthfuness of the whole area across the lake had come to be recognized in New Orleans, when a century and more ago the city was periodically ravaged by devastating and tragic epidemics. The more well-to-do of the city began to es­tablish summer homes in the piney woods of the Covington area  while others came to spend some there there. 
Traffic grew to such an ex­tent that in the 1840's we find regular steamboat service to the resorts of the Florida Parishes along the lake, from Milneburg, then the lake port of New Orleans.

Covington grew in importance and in population and this fact, coupled with the many visiting Catholics from the city, made it apparent to Bishop Antoine Glance of the Dio­cese of New Orleans, that spiritual ministrations had to be provided for these people. Covington seems to have been the first town of that sec­tion to be given the services of a priest. At infrequent intervals prior to this, priests came from New Or­leans to visit the various settlements of the territory, usually priests sta­tioned at the Bishop's church, "EIveche," now  St. Mary's Italian church.

The first mention of a church at Covington is found in "Le Prmagateur Catholique" of New Orleans, first Catholic paper of Louisiana, in its issue of January 21, 1843: "We learn with pleasure that a new church is under construction at Cov­ington. The Catholics of that section have had only at distant intervals the visits of priests to help them in their religion. Abbe Jounanneau, who is building the Covington church, will be able to serve the chapel already built at Madisonville and exercise his ministry at Mandeville. The new church is to open next March."

In the "Propagateur" of February 11, 1843, we read: "We learn with pleasure that the Academy established at Covington, parish of St. Tammany, is now in the hands of Abbe Jounanneau, who has already  begun to build a church in that lo­cality. The country is healthful, the locale is vast and excellent. Chris­tian parents who inhabit that region and who wish to give a Catholic edu­cation to their children will find now a favorable opportunity."

We hear nothing further of the good Abbe's academy, but we know that the little St. Peter's church survived, in fact, continued in service for five decades. It was a small frame structure, located on the west bank of the Bogue Falaya river. Abbee Jounanneau was a French priest who had come to Louisiana at ;he invitation of Bishop Blanc to un­dertake missionary labors in his vast diocese which then comprised the whole state of Louisiana.

Records of 1842 and 1843 indicate that Abbe Jounneau might have been preceded by a Father V. Plunkett, who is listed as visiting Madisonville and Covington, but confirmation of this fact has not been established. It is possible that he was a New Or­leans priest appointed by the Bishop to make occasional visits to these points. Nevertheless, Father Jouan-neau seems to be the first priest sent to reside across the lake. He re­mained at Covington until 1844, then was transferred for a time to St. Jo­seph's church at Thibodaux, where we find him in 1845.

From 1846 to 1848, Covington had no resident priest and once more the Catholics had to depend upon visit­ing priest. Father Brunet is listed as serving Covington in 1849, also Madisonville, Father Alyard in 1852, Father Fahy in 1853, and Father Pat­rick Canavan in 1854. Father Cana­van had come from the New Orleans diocese in the early 1850's and had been assigned to the parish of Mon­roe, La., but he became disgusted and left. He was then assigned to the Florida Parishes. He and his three predecessors served both Covington and Madisonville ,while Father Can­avan also served Mandeville. In 1857 we find Father George Lemy ministering to the Catholic commun­ities across the lake. He signed him­self, "Missionary in the Parish of St. Tammany."

In a letter written from Covington in 1857 he asks for a supply of wine for Mass to be sent to him in care of Mr. Roche at Covington. Among other things he says: "Cov­ington is starting out of its sleep and talks about repairing the roof of its church and presbytery which is se­riously damaged." Father Lamy vis­ited all three parishes, Covington, Madisonville and Mandeville, like-,wise Bayou Bonfouca.  He traveled on horseback. Later he was transferred and became pastor of Holy Name of Mary church in Algiers, just before the Marist Fathers were placed in charge.

Father Adrien Rouquette, famous apostle of the Choctaw Indians of the Florida Parishes, took up his heroic work in their midst in1859. This de­voted priest visited Mandeville often, and he must have ministered to the Catholics of Covington, especially during the time that there was no resident priest.

The Chiappapiela records refer to a Father Dupuy who came from Cov­ington at this time, but little else is known of his work.

In 1803, Father J. M. Giraud was assigned as resident pastor of St. Peter's church, but his stay was short, and he was followed by Father J. M. Lelozie. The following year (1864), Father Joachim A. Manoritta began his pastorate of eight years at Cov­ington and during that time served devotedly the Catholic's of both Cov­ington and Mandeville. He was re­called to New Orleans in 1872 to serve at the diocesan seminary of Rrchbishop Porche, and Father C. Denoyel was named pastor of St. Pe­ter's. 
Columbia Landing with steeple of the first St. Peter Church in background
All of thee pastors used the same little frame church that Abbe Jounanneau had erected near the boat landing. Most of the early mis­sionaries, these mentioned and some of the subsequent priests, also visited" neighboring communities, including, in addition to Mandeville and Madi­sonville, Abita Springs and Bedico.

When Father Denoyel was trans­ferred to Arnaudville as pastor, two Benedictines undertook work in the Florida Parishes, the forerunners of the monks from St. Meinrad who destined, to take full charge of the whole section and establish an abbey near Covington.
 These two pioneer Benedictines of St. Tammany parish were Father Bernardinus Dohmeck and Father Severinus Laufeuberg. From 1878 until 1885, they minis­tered to the Catholics of Madison­ville and Covington. Their successor was Father M. Kelly, who served the parish until 1890.

In 1890, Father Joseph Koegerl, a devout and zealous priest, had asked Archbishop Janssens to be relieved of his pastorate of St. Boniface church, a German parish he had or­ganized and served for several dec­ades. The Archbishop granted the request and Father Koegerl, in shat­tered health, retired to Covington, but he was not to get the well-mer­ited rest that he expected and an op­portunity to regain his health. He assumed charge of St. Peter's church at Covington and resumed his active labors which eventually view with his fine work accomplished at St. Bonifce.

He found the little pioneer church still standing and still in use, but badly dilapidated from the effects of half a century of time. At once he undertook the task of giving Coving­ton a worthy house of worship, and in 1892, the second St. Peter's church was completed and dedicated. 
The new church was built on the present site, which was more centrally lo­cated. He noted also the need for a Catholic school in the parish and zealously took up this task after the debt on the church had been re­duced. In 1902, he brought his dream to a reality, erecting a paroch­ial school building, 85 by 28 feet. he placed in charge of the Benedic­tine Sisters from St. Scholastica's academy. 
Father Koegerl was wide­ly known and universally beloved, and everyone knew the kindly old priest who devoted his retirement to active duty and serving among the Catholics of Covington. In 1916 he asked to be relieved of his pastoral duties, and this time he retired to St. Joseph's Abbey near Covington, where he spent several years of well-earned rest before his death.

After his retirement, Archbishop Blenk placed Covington in charge of the Benedictine Fathers, who already had charge of all other parishes and missions in St. Tammany parish and Washington parish. Father John N. Burger, O.S.B., became pastor in September, 1916, and after pastor­ate of six years, he was succeeded as administrator for five weeks by Rev. Aemiion Egler, O.S.B. 
Then Rev. Father M. Mauer, O.S.B., was placed in charge of St. Peter's. The new $17,000 modern parochial school stands as a monument to the zeal and service of Father Maur in the par­ish, besides his faithful ministrations to the community for many years.. Father Juan Martinez, O.S.B., was the next to assume the pastorate of St. Peter's church. Devotedly he served the parish until August 15, 1937, when the present incumbent, Father Aemilian, took charge.

Three years hence ( in 1943) Covington will mark the centennial of the erection of its pioneer little church on the banks of the Bogue Falaya. Parishioners who have stood so loyally by their pastor and so generously helped to make possible the present beautiful church, a worthy house of God and an asset to the community, can point with pride on that occasion to the strides that the Faith has made in Covington since the pioneer days of Abbee Jouanneau.


The wood building for St. Peter Catholic Church that was replaced by the brick structure. It was relocated to the corner of Columbia and West 32nd Avenue and became the home to the Our Lady of Holy Family Catholic Church.


The new (in 1940) brick church on Jefferson Ave.

The church today 



See also:

History of St. Tammany Churches

 Indian Village Adventure