Archbishop announces merger of two St. Charles Parish area churches

Archbishop of New Orleans Archdiocese Gregory Aymond announced in an open letter to clergy and parishioners on Oct. 29 two St. Charles Parish area Catholic churches -St. Gertrude in Des Allemands and St. John the Baptist in Paradis – would be merging in mid 2024, the pair of churches part of over a dozen New Orleans area churches that will soon undergo similar mergers.

The result of the local church merger will create a new church at the site of the current St. John the Baptist church in Paradis, which will later be renamed in March of next year, while St. Gertrude will be closed. The newly merged Paradis church formed from the two churches is expected to part with each of its current two pastors in favor of a new pastor, further emphasizing the creation of a new church. The changes are expected to begin on July 1, 2024.

“These are difficult and painful decisions for everyone involved,” Aymond said in his recent letter. “When I returned home to New Orleans in 2009, I never imagined I would be in the situation of having to merge parishes. This is something we must do for the good of the local church, and something that is being done in Catholic dioceses around the country.”

The coming 2024 closure of St. Gertrude Catholic Church will mark the end of a St. Charles Parish area church that was officially recognized by the diocese as a parish in June 1955. St. Gertrude’s grounds have served as the home of the Catfish Festival since 1975, an event originally conceived as the church’s primary annual fundraiser. The church can trace its local roots in Des Allemands to as far back as 1901, when a small Des Allemands-area chapel was first established at the site of the church’s present-day cemetery.

The archbishop cited numerous financial reasons for the merger announcement, including damages from hurricanes and flooding many local area churches have faced, inflation, property insurance costs and the COVID pandemic.

The two churches were among 16 Catholic church parishes throughout the region that will undergo mergers or significant geographical changes or moves. The announcement comes following a planning and review process that first began over a year ago within the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

Archbishop Aymond, in another letter released in early September, alluded to the Archdiocese administration’s growing desire to reduce its local footprint and sell off some of its real estate assets in the face of increasing financial challenges.

“Soaring insurance rates and costly maintenance have impacted our ability to maintain appropriately the over 1,400 pieces of property and remain good stewards of our resources,” Aymond said.

While not directly addressing its ongoing legal struggles in the October letter, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has experienced additional financial difficulties as of late, most notably filing for reorganization under Chapter 11 in May of 2020 as a result of sexual abuse allegations. Aymond disclosed in September sexual abuse allegations that initially numbered only 30 filed against the Archdiocese in court now number over 500 claims.

“This has been a much longer, complicated, and costly process than anyone could have predicted,” Aymond said of the Archdiocese’s current legal circumstances.


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