ST. FRANCIS OF POINTE COUP√ČE

In the autumn of 1894, work was underway on the construction of this third

St. Francis Church of Pointe Coupée.  Built on land donated by the Labatut family, its dedication in May,1895, marked “an event forming a connection link between the future and the glorious past history” of the Catholic Church on the coast of Pointe Coupée.

In the early 1700's, European settlers and African slaves came to live along this stretch of the Mississippi River already inhabited by native Indians.  The recording of a baptism by French Capuchin missionaries in 1728 at this place marks the beginning of the Christian community in Pointe Coupée.  In 1738, the first church was built and dedicated under the invocation of St. Francis of Assisi.

On the Feast of St. Frances in 1760, the second church named for him was dedicated.  It stood next to the Fort of Pointe Coupée, about four miles down river from this church.  This landmark structure, which stood for 130 years opposite Bayou Sara, not only served the local community, but countless others who passed on the great river.  The history of this church is well documented.  Located in the territory of France, Spain, France again and, then, the United States, it was once part of the Diocese of Quebec, Santiago, Havana, Louisiana and the Floridas, Baltimore, and New Orleans.

As the community grew and settled the interior of this region, it was from this church that the missions of St. Mary of False River, Immaculate Conception at Chenal, and Our Lady of Seven Sorrows at Raccourci were created.  Its zealous French and Spanish missionaries also ministered to the faithful up and down and across the Mississippi River.  It was the mother church in this area.

During the Civil War, it suffered desecration.  Afterwards, it came to be less used as the community relocated away from this part of the river due to the series of devastating floods.  The ever-eroding river bank was to be the cause of its abandonment, and it was dismantled in 1891.  Its location and the surrounding cemetery have been lost to the river.

The records of this church and many of its furnishings and fixtures were saved to be reused.  Soon, plans were underway to erect the third church of St. Francis of Assisi of Pointe Coupée.  This new church was built and placed under the care of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, later St. Ann, Morganza.  It was a mission church.  Upon creation of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, it was joined to St. Mary of False River Parish.  It remains a mission church.

Today, if we are asked the significance of this simple wood country church, we should say, without hesitation, that it is where the sons and daughters of native Americans, Africans and Europeans can come to worship our God and give Him thanks and praise for all that He has done for us here.  For here, many years ago, He saw to it that the seeds of faith were deposited along the banks of the Mississippi River.  By this grace, our faith grew and was spread throughout this land by those who came before us.  It has been passed on to us for our care and nurturing.  Today, God reminds us to pray in this holy place, that we, too, must be like our beloved St. Francis – a missionary – building God’s Church and spreading His gift of faith.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Through him, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise –May the God of Peace – furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will.  Through Jesus Christ, may he carry out in you all that is pleasing to him.  To Christ be glory forever!”  Amen.  Hebrews 13

ARTIFACTS IN ST. FRANCIS CHAPEL

Model of the 1760 Church: Mr. James Stonaker, a parishioner of  St. Francis, who had knowledge of the this church, constructed this model using wood from the building.  The church was demolished in 1892.

Confessional: It is thought to be  one of the oldest pieces of church furniture in Louisiana, and came from the 1760 church.  It was displayed at the New Orleans Museum of Art on the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of New Orleans.

Crucifix and Candlesticks: The large crucifix and the candlesticks on the altar appear in an 1880 Times Picayune interior drawing of the 1760 church building, and are believed to be a gift of European aristocracy.

Paintings: On the right side of the altar is the painting of the Holy Family.  The artist is unknown.  On the left is the painting of the Madonna and Child.  It is a copy of Estaban Murillo’s original, which hangs in the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy.  The Madonna and Child was also displayed in New Orleans.

1719 Bell: Believed to be one of the first bells to be blessed and dedicated for the first church in 1738.  Local oral history has it that it is a ship’s bell from the first colonists of Pointe Coupée.

Statue of St. Francis: According to legend, this statue was hand carved by the Tunica Indians and given to the Pointe Coupée church.  On occasion, it has been borrowed for Tunica celebrations and also displayed for diocesan celebrations.

Pews: The smaller panel-backed pews in the rear and sides of the church come from the 1760 church of St. Francis.

 
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