History of St. Philomena Church

A Community of Faith Since 1847

In April of 1842, the first mission was held at Brule Labadie, (currently Labadieville) by Father Charles Menard, who kept a journal written in French, of his missionary journeys down Bayou Lafourche from Labadieville to the Gulf of Mexico. Father Menard became known as "The Apostle of Bayou Lafourche". Father Menard began to solicit pledges to build a chapel in Labadie in 1847. Work on the chapel began on September 18, 1847. The chapel, blessed on March 28, 1848, was then served three times a month... first Thursday, first and third Sunday of the month. By 1853 a parish rectory had been completed. Father Cyprian Vennisat became the first Pastor of St. Philomena. St. Philomena parish was established in 1855. Father Vennisat then built the first brick church in 1860. Father Vennisat also sought to obtain religious sisters to take charge of a parochial school for St. Philomena Parish. This was impossible. Encouraged by Archbishop Perche, he decided to form a religious community of native daughters. The Religious Community of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception was founded. The parish was marked with the disaster of the Civil War and the yellow fever epidemic. These tragedies helped to open the eyes of many who then sought more frequent communion and religious education instruction. The present church building dates from 1888. The side transcepts of the church were added in 1908 by Father A. F. Ravoire. The cemetery is a present reminder of days gone by... the founder of "Labadie" is buried there and a monument to those who died of yellow fever during the epidemic still exists. As the cemetery reached capacity, mausoleums were built to accommodate the need of the parishioners. Nestled along Bayou Lafourche on Highway One, St. Philomena Church is currently under going restoration. The present day parishioners, as did the very first parishioners of St. Philomena, cherish their Catholic faith.

Restored and Revitalized

In June of 2013, our parish decided to embark on a renovation to restore St. Philomena to her historic splendor. The changes enhanced the original architecture of our church and preserved her for many years to come.

St. Philomena conducted a Revitalization & Renovation campaign reaching out to all with an invitation to participate. Our campaign sought gifts and pledges allowing us to succeed with these ambitious dreams while remaining debt free, increasing participation at mass, and engaging more young families.

With God’s Grace and our community support, we have achieved this long held dream.

Saint Philomena, Powerful with God

On May 25, 1802, excavators in the ancient Catacomb of St. Priscilla in Rome came upon a well-intact shelf tomb sealed with terra-cotta slabs in the manner usually reserved for nobility or great martyrs. The tomb was marked with three tiles, inscribed with the following confusing words: LUMENA / PAZTE / CUMFI. However, if one place places the first tile last and separates the words properly, the very intelligible sentence emerges: Pax tecum, Filumena, which is, "Peace be with you, Philomena." Also inscribed on the tiles were symbols: a lily, arrows, and anchor and a lance, which would appear to indicate virginity and martyrdom. Inside the coffin there were discovered the remains of a girl of about twelve or thirteen years of age, along with a vial or ampulla of her dried blood. Transferred to the Treasury of the Rare Collection of Christian Antiquity in the Vatican, the remains were soon forgotten by the general public, especially since no record existed of a virgin martyr named Philomena. But in 1805 a Neapolitan priest, Don Francesco di Lucia, traveling to Rome with his newly appointed bishop, requested and, after a brief delay, received the relics of this martyr "Philomena" to enshrine in his village church at Mugnano, near Naples. Immediately upon the official donation of St. Philomena's sacred remains, signal favors began to be granted through her intercession and unusual events to occur. The favors, graces and even miracles started to increase, even before her enshrinement at Mugnano, and they steadily grew in number thereafter - such that this virgin martyr soon earned the title, "Philomena, Powerful with God." In 1837, only some 35 years after her exhumation, Pope Gregory XVI elevated this "Wonder-Worker of the Nineteenth Century" to sainthood.