This is not just the history of St. Dominic parish. This is the history of the people who have dreamed, planned, worked and prayed in order to build this parish from the foundation up. It is a story of people who have made it the hub of the great wheel of God 's family and a place to call home where you know your Father will always be there to listen. In His mercy and love He will guide us on into the future with confidence. He will watch us greet many new brothers and sisters with the love He has taught us. And He will be with us always...
In a certain sense, the history of St. Dominic parish began in 1900 when Archbishop P.L. Chapelle of New Orleans went to the Philippine Islands on business for the Holy See. While there he came to know a number of the Spanish Dominican Fathers in their missions and schools, and was so impressed by Father Thomas Lorente, O.P., that he asked him to return with him to New Orleans as his secretary. This bond of friendship between the Archbishop and the Dominicans led to their taking over the administration of the St. Anthony of Padua Chapel on North Rampart Street (now Our Lady of Guadalupe Church) for the spiritual care of the Italians of the city. It was from that site that Father Lorente undertook the care of those Catholics who had settled near Lake Pontchartrain, north of the city as it then existed. On May 12, 1912, he celebrated the first Mass in what is now the Lakeview area in Mannessier's Pavilion, a large, two-story dance hall located in the section today known as West End.
On October 21, 1912, the first formal place of Catholic worship was dedicated in Lakeview. It was a small wooden chapel at 209 Chapelle Street, and it bore the name "Ave Maria." Father Lorente continued to be in charge of the religious activities of the area. In 1913, a second chapel was built at 575 Polk Avenue. Two years later, in 1915, both chapels were destroyed - one by fire, the other by storm. In that same year, St. Anthony of Padua parish moved from North Rampart Street to its present location on Canal Street, and Father Lorente died. Father B.A. Enis took over Father Lorente's work and Mass was celebrated in the home of Philip J. Derbes, 6327 West End Boulevard, and in the Lakeview Public School.
In 1917 a new chapel was dedicated. It was located on the north side of Harrison Avenue at Milne Boulevard. In 1921, Father Paul Perretta assumed the spiritual care of the Lakeview Catholics. At the time of his coming, there were 82 families in the area.
A new brick two-story building was erected on the southeast corner of Harrison Avenue and Catina Street in 1925. The lower floor housed the church and the upper story was divided into classrooms. A rectory stood beside it, facing the east. The chapel built in 1917 was moved across Harrison Avenue and, as the "little gray hall," it served as a center for a variety of religious and social functions. It was under these circumstances that the Lakeview Mission of St. Anthony of Padua parish was elevated to the status of an independent parish in 1924, under the name and patronage of St. Dominic.
Archbishop John Shaw declared the Mission to be forever known as St. Dominic parish on May 31. 1924. By September, St. Dominic Parochial School started fall classes under the guidance and instruction of the Sisters of Mount Carmel. Classes were held on the second floor of the church and in the basement of the rectory. Mother Seraphine was the first principal to the 133 students.
Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel replaced Archbishop Shaw in 1935. Until 1938, the Spanish Fathers were responsible for the religious guidance of the Lakeview Catholic Community. It was during that year that they were recalled to their own province and the American Dominicans took over St. Dominic parish. Father J.B. Walsh replaced Father Perretta and was assisted by Fathers A. B. Sauro and E. A. Vittie. At the same time, Mother Gabriel replaced Mother Seraphine as principal of the school.
In 1939, Father Dominic Barthelemy replaced Father Walsh as pastor, assisted by Fathers J. J. Madrick and W. J. Bresnahan. By 1942 the parish outgrew the church and Mass was then celebrated in the Lakeview Theater, in addition to the church.
The year 1942 brought Father Stephen Redmond to St. Dominic, replacing Father Bresnahan on the parish staff. In 1944 Father Harry Hall joined the staff, replacing Father Madrick. A new brick church (the present gymnasium) was built and became the sole place of worship for the growing parish.
Father Hall became pastor in 1945, succeeding Father Barthelemy. He was joined by Fathers E.J. Dolehide and Louis Hinnebusch in 1949. The principal of St. Dominic Parochial School at the time was Mother Marie de Lourdes.
The year following, in 1950, Father Dolehide left, as did Father Redmond. They were replaced by Fathers Charles Hayes and Gregory Going. It was during that year that the new school building was completed. The school children marched down Harrison Avenue from Catina Street to Memphis Street in an historical procession on the first day of classes.
Father E.M. Cuddy succeeded Father Hayes as pastor in 1951. In 1952 Mother Gabriel was the school's principal. Father Going was replaced by Father A. M. Kavanaugh in 1953. By 1954, Father Cuddy had left St. Dominic and Father F. J. McMullen was his successor as pastor.
In 1955, Fathers Kavanaugh, Hinnebusch. and Hayes were replaced by Fathers Jerome Becker, Lawrence Kearney and Ferrer Pieper. Fund raising and building planning were underway before Father M. J. Scannell came to replace Father Pieper in 1956. These plans proved successful, as did the Sisters' convent and school building that housed the primary grades. Mother Loretta was the school's principal. During this same year, two young men named Brown and Mangiaracina left New Orleans to begin their studies for the Dominican priesthood. By 1957, Father Lawrence Mueller had replaced Father Kearney on the parish staff.
In 1958 Pope Plus XII died and Guiseppe Cardinal Roncalli of Venice was elected as John XXIII. Father Joachim Miller joined the parish staff. During the next year, Pope John announced his intention to convoke an Ecumenical Council. Father John Roch replaced Father Becher.
By 1961 St. Dominic parish had its present church and rectory. They were completed and in operation under the direction of Father Jerry McMullen. Father Edward Hughes came as pastor in 1962. Father Kenneth Hodgson replaced Father Mueller on the staff and was joined by Brother Paschal Hunt. Mother Mary Thomas became school principal.
In 1964, Father MacLeay was transferred and Fathers Wilfred Leuer, A.C. Carosella, and Victor Wrobleski joined the staff. Archbishop Rummel died that same year and Archbishop Cody, who had been administering the Archdiocese for several years, became the Ordinary. He served for only one year and was transferred to Chicago to become Cardinal Archbishop.
Archbishop Philip M. Hannan arrived in New Orleans in 1965. Vatican Council II ended after giving the Church new directions for the years ahead. On October 4, Pope Paul came to New York City to plead for peace before the United Nations. Father Sebastian Angers, fondly referred to as "Zeb," joined the St. Dominic staff, as did Brother Andrew Winters.
Father Hughes was replaced as pastor by Father James Irwin in 1966. That same year; Father Leuer was replaced by Father Richard Patrick and Father Harry Hall returned to the staff.
In 1967 Father Redmond returned to the staff, joined by Father Philip Lamberty. Fathers Angers, Kilroy and McAndrew were transferred. The next year brought Father E.J. O'Connor to the staff and Father Carosella, replacing Father Wrobleski. Sister Jonathan became the principal of St. Dominic School.
In 1969, Father Cayet Mangiaracina, a New Orleans native, joined the St. Dominic parish staff. By 1971 faces were changing once more and Father Victor Brown succeeded Father Irwin as pastor. Father Hall retired and Sister Mary Martin became principal of the school that same year. Fathers Patrick and Mangiaracina were replaced by Fathers Albert Glade and Edward Conley in 1973.
St. Dominic parish celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1974. The final stained glass windows were installed, completing the church building. Father Reginald R. Masterson was appointed assistant pastor on June 1, 1974. Father Richard Thomas Aquinas Murphy was appointed to the parish staff on July 25, 1974.
In August of 1977, Father Stephen Smithers was appointed associate pastor. His assignment was made as a replacement for Father Masterson. Father Smithers joined the large St. Dominic parish staff which consisted of: Father Brown (Pastor), Father Conley, Father Glade, Father Murphy, and Father Redmond.
During 1978, the world saw three Popes. Pope Paul VI died early in the year and was replaced by Pope John Paul I. Pope John Paul I served a brief pontificate, but is remembered as a teacher and spiritual father. It is said that on his last day of life he received a group of Filipino bishops and told them that we must do more to help the poor and speak to them of heaven. Following the Pope's death and during the conclave of 1978, the cardinals elected Karol Wojtyla the new pope. He took the name of Pope John Paul II and has been a messenger of peace throughout the world.
In March of 1978, St. Dominic parish welcomed back Father Reginald Masterson. The following year, Father Masterson initiated a parish-wide evangelization program. The program officially began on Ash Wednesday, February 28, 1979. Its goal was to contact every resident of the parish to invite inactive Catholics and the unchurched to become members of the parish community. Over 1,000 parishioners volunteered their time to the project in different capacities, including worshipers, workers, and walkers. The walkers covered each of the 198 blocks of Lakeview. Although no numbers are available to document the rewards of these efforts, it is said that at the 11 o'clock Mass on Easter Sunday that year, St. Dominic Church saw the largest crowd ever with people standing in the aisles and against the walls.
Father Thomas M. Cumiskey was appointed pastor of the parish on September 9, 1980. Sister Ursula Diasselliss became the principal of the school in the same year. In 1982, Father Cumiskey was joined by Fathers Justin Kauchak and Daniel Davies.
On September 9, 1984, Father Mark Geary was appointed pastor. Father Donald Dvorak joined him in January of 1985 and Father Joseph Tat Thang in August of 1986 as associate pastors
April 26, 1986 was a special day for our parish. Mark Wedig, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Wedig, was ordained a Dominican priest by the Archbishop of Louisville, Thomas Cajetan Kelly, another Dominican. Father Mark celebrated his first Mass the next day at St. Dominic.
Pope John Paul II visited the city of New Orleans during September of 1987 and shared his message of world peace with the citizens of our city. St. Dominic School welcomed its first lay principal, Miss Adrianne M. LeBlanc. Archbishop Francis B. Schulte was appointed to the Archdiocese of New Orleans in 1988. Father Philip Lamberty joined the ranks of Associate Pastor on August 1, 1989.
On June 14, 1990, Father Damian Fandal came to St. Dominic as parochial vicar. He was delighted to live and serve in Mew Orleans - his home! Father Fandal was joined by Father Neal W. McDermott as pastor in July of that same year. For Father Neal, as he is fondly referred to, this is his first assignment as a parish priest. Father Neal's contributions to both the parish and school have been many. Numerous parish programs have begun under his leadership and much has been done to enhance our school children' s religious and academic education. Father Neal also serves as Dean of City Park - Gentilly Deanery and as a representative of the religious orders on the Priests' Council for the Archdiocese.
The year 1994 brought Father Edward Conley's reappointment to St. Dominic. The St. Dominic parish and school community mourned the death of their dear friend, Father Damian Fandal who died on April 22 of that year. Father Fandal's contributions were many and his loss of life left a void in our hearts. Father Joseph Konkel came to assist us July 24, 1994.
Renovations began on the Religious Education Center, formerly the Carmelite Convent, in May of this year. Its new name, "Aquinas Hall," is quite fitting because of the building's predominant use as a middle grade complex for the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. It will serve as a means to accommodate the school's growing student body and to accommodate the St. Dominic CCD after-school program. Occupation and use of the new classrooms began with the 1994-95 school year.
Throughout the past 70 years St. Dominic parish has grown from a small, sparsely populated community into one of the largest Catholic parishes in the city and state with over 7,500 parishioners. The priests of our parish have baptized 8,687 new parishioners, performed 3,349 marriages, and buried 4,871 members. Our parish has witnessed the growth of its school as well. When St. Dominic School first opened its doors in September, 1924, there were 133 students. Today there are 640 children registered for the 1994-95 school year. St. Dominic School has graduated a total of 4,327 students. As we celebrate St. Dominic's seventieth anniversary, we thank the Lord for His abundant blessings and the continued dedication and commitment of the clergy and laity. St. Dominic parish will continue its mission to serve God and the spiritual needs of His people for many years to come.
"Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them."