Photography by John and Kathleen DeMajo
MATER DOLOROSA CATHOLIC CHURCH
THE HISTORY OF MATER DOLOROSA PARISH
Mater Dolorosa Parish began in 1848 with the establishment
of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. The original territory
comprised what is now the parishes of Saint Theresa of the Little Flower, Saint
Rita of Cascia, Incarnate Word, Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Catherine of Siena,
St. Agnes, St. Louis King of France, St Christopher and Our Lady of Prompt
Succor in Westwego, was based in the town of Carrollton, which is now
incorporated into New Orleans. The Church
of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was to serve the French speaking people
of the area. In 1871, the German people of that area also demanded their own
church and the parish of Mater Dolorosa German Church was established. In 1899,
the two parishes were combined into the present Mater Dolorosa parish.
Begun at the height of the yellow-fever epidemic, Mater Dolorosa Church is an historical perspective of the endurance of the people of New Orleans. It has seen its people through the Civil War, the Depression, many other wars, and many other discords that have faced our city.
After the American domination of 1803, there was a movement to subdivide the many plantations upstream from the city. The Fabourg Saint Marie, Saulet-Faucher, Bouligny, Greenville, and the town of Lafayette all developed during that era. On the old McCarty plantation, which was in a great curve of the river, the town of Carrollton was established in 1933. Transportation was established through the Carrollton Railway (now part of the St. Charles Street Car Line) which enabled the development of Carrollton. At the other end of the McCarty plantation, a new canal, dug by the German immigrants, provided a direct route to the waterways which brought in settlers.
Since the nearest church was St. Patrick’s, Father Augustin DeAngelis, a priest from the DesAllemands area came to Carrollton to minister to the people. His assistant, Father Rossi became the first official part-time pastor of the area. In 1847, Archbishop Blanc called upon Father Ferdinand Zeller to become permanent pastor of the new Carrollton parish church. Operating from a house used previously by Fr. DeAngelis, Fr. Zeller set up a temporary church and began services for the French, Germans and Irish of the area.
In 1848, Father Zeller began construction of a wood frame church with a seating capacity of 200. The project was deterred by the outbreak of a Cholera epidemic and it was completed in September of 1848. In 1849, the parish was incorporated, under State laws, as the Congregation of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church of Carrollton.
As the parish developed, the Sisters of Charity set up an orphan asylum in the area. This institution was heavily dependent on the church. Around 1866, The Franco-Prussian War had caused a great deal of conflict in the parish. The plans of the German parishioners, to form a German church, now came to a head and a separate German church was established. In the school that had been established, the nuns taught only girls while the boys were taught by the Christian Brothers. After a German church and school was set up, a storm destroyed the German school in 1882. By 1897, the German church population had fallen so severely that thought was given to merging the two parishes again. In that era, the German church was taken over by the Josephite priests renamed St. Dominic Church. In 1897, Archbishop Chapelle appointed Rev. John Francis Prim to be pastor of a new church to again unite the French and German parishes into one. The new church was to be called Mater Dolorosa.
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