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