Preparations for St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church’s Tri-Centennial Celebration this fall are underway, and this month Destrehan Plantation is hosting a tri-centennial dinner and lecture night in honor of the 300th year of the church.
Joan Becnel, a SCB parishioner, explained that different events will be held all year long and will lead up to the November anniversary.
“Everyone is very excited,” she said. “We have four committees – spiritual, publicity, social, and historical – that are working on all these events.”
Destrehan Plantation will host their event, Father Paret in His Own Words, on Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. The evening will begin with a cocktail hour followed by dinner and the story of Father Joseph Paret as narrated and reenacted by Daniel Castoriano. Music will be provided by Opera Creole. Tickets for the event are $60 and available online at www.destrehanplantation.org or at the Destrehan Plantation Gift Shop.
Paret was the pastor of the Little Red Church for 21 years before, during, and after the Civil War. He captured life at the time through journaling and painting watercolor landscapes. Becnel said the night’s presentation will provide a rare opportunity to hear remarkable stories about the mid-1800s from Paret’s own words.
In 1987, 53 of Paret’s watercolors were discovered — still bound in their original sketchbook — among his personal effects. The book, Plantations by the River published by LSU Press, contains 28 of those watercolors.
Mary Schmidt, a SCB historical committee member, said it is difficult to overstate the historical significance of Paret’s sketchbook of landscape watercolors to the history of St. Charles Red Church. Built on the West Bank by the Capuchin priests in 1723, the Little Red Church was long ago claimed by fire but evolved into the symbol of strength and faith that now stands as St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Destrehan.
“Visual sources are rare prior to the mid-19th century,” she said. “Photography was in its infancy and artwork was usually commissioned and posed. Paret, pastor of the Little Red Church from 1847-1869, used a bird’s eye view technique for his landscapes … restored and published, they have become historians’ most valuable source for documenting plantation life in the lower Mississippi region prior to the Civil War. They provide a fresh view of social activities, plantation layouts, build types, fence and garden types, interiors, and the costumes for the entire parish during the years before the Civil War.”
Becnel said several of Paret’s original watercolors will be on permanent display at the church starting later this year.
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