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.
The church was relocated to the East Bank in 1740, this time standing as a log cabin church, said Ronald Rodrigue, the church’s administrative assistant. When it burned down 66 years later, it was replaced with a new wood-framed church painted red (the Little Red Church). In 1877, an arsonist set fire to the church rectory destroying most of the records dating back to colonial times.
By 1921, a new St. Charles Borromeo Church was built and dedicated a year later.
The Little Red Church remained on the church grounds for years and was torn down.
“I am convinced that the key to the long existence of our Catholic church parish is a well-balanced diversity of families who have taken ownership in our spiritual home,” said Rodrigue. “We are not afraid of getting our hands dirty and are willing to work hard to protect the many blessings our gracious Lord has provided in this ‘Parish of Plenty.”
The parish’s longevity is based on a “culmination of many generations of Catholic families,” Rodrigue said. “As we live together as a faith community strengthened by the Sacraments, we begin to understand the importance of God’s existence in our lives from birth to death. Consequently, we have a very strong Catholic school and cemetery nestled in this tranquil, peaceful environment we call home.”
“I am convinced that the key to the long existence of our Catholic church parish is a well-balanced diversity of families who have taken ownership in our spiritual home.” — Ronald Rodrigue
St. Charles Borromeo church, with its Spanish style architecture, also represents “strength and stability in both the construction and faith of the people that have worshipped inside its protective walls for many generations,” he said. “These buildings have survived many hurricanes and a few explosions from nearby industries. It does present maintenance and new construction challenges because costs have increased greatly in recent decades and the skills available to reproduce these structures are difficult to find.”
From the ashes of Little Red Church
- 1921: A new church, St. Charles Borromeo Church, was built from the sale of church lands.
- 1929: The church rectory was remodeled and a two-story elementary school and convent built. This same year, the Sisters of the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception were solicited to operate the elementary school.
- 1939: A combination auditorium – classroom was erected.
- 1942: Two lots in Norco were acquired and the St. Mathias Church of New Orleans was rebuilt as the Sacred Heart Mission Chapel.
- 1948: St. Charles Borromeo High School was built and opened, also under the direction of the sisters. A year later, contacts were put in place for a new convent.