Welcome to the Historic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Visitors from all over the world come within these walls, not only because of the attractions of tourism, but to pray. People likewise have come to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of Catholic Hill in this beautiful town of St. Francisville.
It is our hope that you will spend a few moments in prayer. Above all, you are invited to return and participate in one of our liturgies. Take time to examine some of the outstanding features of the church, many dating back to the original building, begun in 1871. In 1979, the interior was remodeled to correspond with the directives of Vatican Council II.
Although the church building dates back to 1871 when the parish was established, origins of Catholic life can be traced back to the early 1700s when missionaries came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Quebec, Canada.
Spanish Capuchins, a branch of the Franciscan Order, established a church in 1730 in the civil parish of Pointe Coupee across the Mississippi River. It was known as St. Francis Church. It remains today as a chapel. Because of the floodwater which occurred every year, and there were no levies, burial of the dead was impossible. So they brought the dead to be buried on the higher bluffs, above Bayou Sara, a thriving port town. They established a graveyard just beyond the hill. The settlement that grew around the graveyard took its name from the ‘church’ and was called St. Francisville.
It was on a visit to St. Francisville that the Archbishop of New Orleans, the Most Reverend N.J. Perche urged the people of the community to build a church. He established the parish in 1871.
Prior to this time, a priest who came once a month from Jackson and Clinton served the Catholic community. Mass was said on these occasions in different homes and sometimes in the courthouse.
Mount Carmel church was built exclusively of native woods, with cypress doors, window and doorframes, while the beams and columns are solid longleaf pine. It is said that General P. T. G. Beauregard designed the plans. A local family donated the semi-circular window with the church’s title over the main entrance in 1951.
Other church appointments and dates are:
Tabernacle, resting in the cove in the sanctuary was built in Smoke Bend in 1930.
The Sisters of Christian Charity donated the Stations of the Cross, as they were too large for their convent chapel in New Orleans. They are delicately detailed in oil. Brought over from Germany for their chapel, these are said to be over 200 years old.
The oak pews replaced the original pews in 1950. Some of the original pews can be seen in the front of the church in the choir area.
The two angels in the loft are from the chapel in the former motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph on Ursuline Avenue in New Orleans. In the early 1960s the convent was sold and moved to modern buildings. No one seems to know how they got here, but a plaque notes they were the gift of Fr. Myles Kearney, pastor from 1955-1973.
Although the church has an electronic carillon system that strikes the hour, the hand rung bell that called parishioners to worship for over 100 years is still intact and usable in the bell tower.
Credence table and pulpit were acquired in 1979 when the church was remodeled. The pulpit dates from 1860. It came from a church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Another stand with the lectionary was made from a small table taken from a very early church in Bayou Sara that washed away in a flood.
The wood altar, made of mahogany, came from a craftsman in Mississippi.
Other Buildings on the Hill
It once served as a convent for the Sisters of Christian Charity, and later housed a Sister of St. Joseph who served the parish.
Religious Education Center
Purchased in the 1975 and used as the rectory, it was renovated in 1997 and turned into classroom space.
The rectory was built in 1921 when Fr. Beauvais was pastor. It was used for classrooms from 1975 until renovated in 1997 and again houses the pastor.
Built in 1950, serves as a center for receptions, dinners, catechism classes, wakes and meetings.
Built around 1913, purchased by us in December, 2006; is currently utilized for meetings, classrooms and youth group activities.
It is our hope that your visit to Catholic Hill was pleasurable and that you will come again.