HISTORY OF ANNUNCIATION CATHOLIC CHURCH. New Orleans, LA.

The history of Annunciation Parish began when Bernard de Marigny acquired the Marigny Plantation, a large tract of land along the river and below the French Quarter. From the French Quarter boundary down to Almonaster Avenue became the Fabourg Marigny, an area of great development in the 1830’s. Many of the families who flocked to this new vista of the City’s development were Catholic.

On the Marigny Plantation was a chapel that had been constructed some years earlier.It’s location, according to Archdiocese records, was somewhere in the area of Marais and Mandeville streets. A relative of Marigny, Noel Destrahan, acquired several lots in the area of the present Annunciation Church and resold a portion of the land to Mrs. Marie Labretonierre, who was the Baronness of Brouner, with the stipulation that the land would be used for the public good. The baroness found a willing market with Bishop Antoine Blanc. People of the area utilized the chapel, and there was also an institution for widows constructed on the property. The priests from the Cathedral came to the chapel, called the Chapel of Morales Street, and celebrated Mass for the people of the area. An organization called “the women of providence” was established to operate the home for widows.

With this, a widow’s chapel was established, and people from the area began attending church there. There was a movement to establish a regular parish there. This was granted, and since the area was predominantly Creole, a French priest named Father Joesph Morisot was assigned to the new parish.

Population increased quickly and the chapel soon became inadequate. Father Morisot began to acquire bricks for the construction of a new church. In 1846, construction was underway, however, it was delayed because of a flood in May of that year. In October, construction was substantially complete and the new church was dedicated. In 1848, the population of the area included a number of Irish who were English speaking. Father Cornelius Moynihan was brought in as assistant pastor to minister to the English- speaking portion of the congregation. After some three years working at Annunciation, Father Moynihan founded St. Peter and Paul Church in the immediate area. Also in 1848, Father Charles Boutelou de St. Aubin, the founder of the Sisters of Mount Carmel, also served Annunciation Parish.

Father Morisot continued as pastor until 1859 when, amid complaints, he was recalled to France where he died a few years later. Bishop Blanc called another priest from St. Louis Cathedral to act as pastor of Annunciation. Father Antoine Durier became pastor in 1859 and served for some 26 years until he was appointed bishop of Natchez, Mississippi. Durier was considered a good and compassionate pastor and his experiences took his parish through the Civil War, a yellow fever epidemic, floods and many trying situations of the time.

One of Father Durier’s greatest contributions was the establishment of schools in Annunciation’s parish. He brought in several religious orders as teachers. The Order of the Sisters Of The Most Holy Sacrement remained. At one point during the Civil War, the Sacred Heart Brothers closed St. Stanislaus and came to Anniunciation to run the school for boys. Father Durier also opened the first school for African-American children in the area in 1867. The school was poorly funded, however, and the Oblate Sisters gave it up in 1873.

Father Durier extended his ministry to the area of Milneburg, which was a resort town located at the end of Elysian Fields. Making use of the Pontchartrain Railroad’s Smokey Mary train, he began offering Mass in the over-water resort community.

Upon Father Durier’s consecration as Bishop of Natchez, he was succeeded at Annunciation by Father Gustave Rouxel Rouxel was later elevated to Bishop and enjoyed a productive ministry at Annunciation. His liturgy and music programs became a standard for the diocese. Rouxel died in the parish rectory in 1908. He was succeeded by Rev. Jules Rousseau, an administrator who held the post for some eighteen months.

In 1908, a permanent pastor was again appointed. This time it was Rev. Francis Leon Gasser who was chosen to guide the parish. In 1915, the great hurricane did major damage to the Annunciation Parish church and parish buildings. There was also a bout of bubonic plague which resulted in the need either rat-proof the rectory or tear it down. Father Gasser worked with the parish to construct a new building pending funds to build a new church. The parish had, over time, become smaller with the creation of the parishes of Our Lady Star of the Sea, St. Rose of Lima and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. In 1921, Father Gasser became dean of St. John’s Cathedral in Baton Rouge, and Father Joseph Gardes became pastor of Annunciation. It was Father Gardes who scaled back the elaborate plans of Father Gasser, for a new church. Father Gardes worked to have the present church constructed and completed by 1922. Father Gardes set a time limit of ten-years to pay off the debt, which most people at the time thought was impossible. He did, however, manage to accomplish this by the year 1927. He also undertook the construction of a parish hall, which was completed in 1933. On August 19, 1937, Father Gardes suffered a fatal heart attack while visiting a camp at Little Woods.

After Father Gardes’ death, Msgr. J Carroll Badeaux, chancellor of the Archdiocese, was named as administrator pending the appointment of Father Joseph Pierre as pastor. Soon after, Father Peter White was appointed assistant pastor. Father Pierre made many physical improvements to the church, but his service ended with his death in 1942.

In 1942, Father Francis Jan became pastor. Under his pastorate, additional physical improvements were made to the church. His most notable improvement was the construction of a gymnasium that had been funded entirely by small contributions of the parishioners. Father Jan died in 1950 and was succeeded by Msgr. Joseph Jacobi.

Father Jacobi guided Annunciation Parish the 1950’s. During his administration, a shrine was built honoring the Annunciation, and money was raised to air condition the church. Records from the 110th. Anniversary celebration of the parish indicate that Annunciation had a viable congregation and a physical plant that even included a girls’ high school.
Research is now underway to complete the parish history between the mid-1950’s and the closing of Annunciation Parish in 2001. This history will be updated as information is obtained.