Expansion and Service
Although the development and installation of a complete new parish plant at a new location and the liquidation of the debts consequent to such an enterprise consumed much of Monsignor Prim's time, he was always first and last the shepherd of the flock and the priest, intent upon the salvation of souls, entrusted to his care. The success of his spiritual labors is manifest in the tremendous increase in the number of Holy Communions in the parish. In 1900, these totaled 9846, but five years later, they reached the total of 10,480, and for 1914, he was able to report as many as 14,116. By 1919, there were, 20,169 Communions in one year, and for 1931, the total had reached the amazing number of 66,600.
The parish societies continued to flourish. In 1910, the Usher's Society counted 24 members and the Senior and Junior Holy Name Societies had 324 members. A new society was formed that year under the name of the Maple C.C. with 78 members. In 1911, the Holy Angels Society (for little girls) was formed with a roster of 25. The St. Vincent de Paul society counted 21 members in 1915, the Sanctuary Ladies' Society 84, the Senior Holy Name 121 and the Juniors 78, and the Young Ladies Sodality 48. The Mater Dolorosa Baseball Team was formed during that year with 18 players, and the Mater Dolorosa Rifle Club with 24 members.
The year 1916 saw the organization of the first Uniform Rank of the Holy Name Society, having 46 members, a group that continued for several years. The Sacred Heart League that year had a membership of 600. A Boy Scout Troop was organized and in 1928 it counted 14 boys. The Children of Mary that year had gone up to 130 and the Sanctuary Ladies Society listed a membership increased to 175. A Circle of St. Margaret's Daughters was formed in 1928 and it listed 12 members.
The Baptisms in 1900 reached a total of 118 whites and seven colored, but in 1911 these increased to 199, and in 1919 to 250. The number of Confirmations also mounted steadily - 86 in 1900; 91 in 1907, 117 in 1911; 161 in 1917, and nearly 200 in 1932.
The growing Catholic spirit, as well as the increase in population is reflected in the increases in the number of Catholic marriages, which in the old churches had always been comparatively small. The 1900 report showed 26 marriages and 10 mixed marriages, but in 1910 there were 44 Catholic marriages and 14 mixed. In 1925, the report showed 61 Catholic marriages and 15 mixed. The 1900 report had given the parish Catholic population as 2607, but this had almost doubled in 1914, and in 1917 it stood at 6112, while the 1931 report listed 6200 Catholics.
After Father Isenberg's transfer, Monsignor Prim had no regular assistant and he depended upon the periodic help of Benedictine priests. Father Benedict continued to help in the parish from 1910 to 1913, and again in 1916.
However, the growing population and the growing amount of work in the vast parish induced Archbishop Blenk to send Rev. George Andree as regular assistant at Mater Dolorosa Church in March 1912. He served the parish until March 1915. He was sent to Raceland, LA, then as pastor at Theriot, LA, and later founded St. Matthias Church in Broadmoor. In June, 1915, Rev. Leo Jarysch became assistant, and the following month, Rev. Joseph J. Boudreaux was sent as a second assistant. For the first time, thus, Mater Dolorosa had two assistants. Father Jarysch left in March, 1916, and Rev. L. Massebiau was sent to replace him. He was transferred in February, 1917, and Rev. Minor Chauvin became parish assistant, Father Boudreaux continuing until April, 1917. Father Jarysch became pastor of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Joseph's in Gretna, and is now retired. Father Boudreaux, now Right Reverend Monsignor, is pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church. Father Massebiau served in the Lafayette diocese, became a Domestic Prelate, and has retired.
Rev. Ralph V. Lawrence came as assistant in May, 1917, and served with Father Chauvin, but the latter was transferred in February, 1920, becoming first pastor of St. James Major Church, where he died. Father Lawrence was moved in July, 1920. From July to December, 1920, Rev. Theophile Eisler assisted in the parish. Rev. Herman Hammerstein came in February, 1921, and continued as assistant through June, 1922. Rev. F. Bosch resided temporarily at Mater Dolorosa rectory while a rectory was being built at Incarnate Word.
Monsignor Prim was alone in January and part of February, 1921, until Father Hammerstein came, but he was transferred in June, 1922. Rev. Joseph Pyzikiewicz was appointed also an assistant on July 4, 1921, and he served in that capacity for nearly four years - until March, 1925. Rev. William Himmrich replaced Father Hammerstein, coming to Mater Dolorosa's Church in June 1922, but his stay was brief, as he was transferred in August of that year. Father Hammerstein recently died as pastor of St. Maurice Church, New Orleans, and Father Himmrich is now pastor of St. Henry's Church, New Orleans, after having served at Golden Meadow and St. Theresa's Church.
Monsignor Prim and Father Joseph served the parish alone for the rest of 1922 and all of 1923, except February, to May, when Rev. Bernard J. O'Donnell, a visitor to the archdiocese, served temporarily. At the close of December, 1923, Rev. M. J. Habeb was designated as assistant, but he was moved in June, 1924, and in that month the Archbishop sent Rev. Felix Miller as assistant. Father Joseph left in March, 1925, serving later as pastor at Bayou Goula and at the Little Flower of Jesus Church, and destined within eight years to return to Mater Dolorosa as pastor.
In July, 1925, Rev. Jules S. Toups (now pastor at Morgan City) became assistant, serving together with Father Miller, but the latter moved at the end of June, 1927, becoming pastor at Theriot, LA, and now pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church, Metairie Road. From July, 1927, to September of that year, Rev. Hermann Joseph Schuessler assisted temporarily. Then on September 1, 1927, Rev. Clemens Schneider became assistant. Father Toups went to Pierre Part, LA, in May, 1930, and in June of that year, Rev. Arthur Brue was designated as assistant at Mater Dolorosa, his stay extending until June, 1932. He is now pastor at Theriot, LA. On March 1, 1932, Rev. Paul Landsmann joined Father Schneider at Mater Dolorosa as assistant and both continued until after the death of Monsignor Prim.
As already noted, the Mater Dolorosa parish territory was quite extensive, and Monsignor Prim made every effort to provide spiritual ministrations to all members of his flock, scattered over such a wide area. For a time he visited the lake shore in a motor boat to contact parishioners who lived along that part of the parish. In 1908, he arranged for a chapel to be built in the Metairie area to serve the people who could not conveniently reach the parish church. A piece of property was donated by Robert Bensburg near the intersection of Labarre Road and the Louisiana Railway and Navigation Co. tracks, and Monsignor Prim was authorized to accept the land.
Right after the completion of the new parish church, Monsignor Prim built a small chapel at this site and it was dedicated on November 7, 1909, as St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, intended for the Catholics of Metairie. In 1913, Monsignor Prim reported to the Archbishop: "St. Catherine's Mission is attended regularly every Sunday, although the revenues are scarcely able to pay the expenses. Up the river, on the Labarre Road, there should be a new chapel built. The same is to be said of the territory along the, New Basin between Carrollton Avenue and Metairie Ridge; I hope to build these chapels during the coming year."
During the next year (1914), St. Catherine was reported as attended every Sunday in summer, but only once each month in winter, but in 1915, services were held weekly. Monsignor Prim at the time suggested to the Archbishop this part of the parish, together with the section from Labarre Road to Harahan should become an independent parish. In 1916, he notified the Archbishop that he had opened the mission at Harahan City, where there were quite a few Catholic families, and if possible, he would erect a chapel there during the coming year.
The Dominican Fathers who had been given charge of St. Dominic's parish in Lakeview, built a chapel under the invocation of St. Louis at East End for the Catholics of that vicinity, but they did not realize that they had entered into Mater Dolorosa Parish territory. This chapel was taken in charge by Monsignor Prim, and served regularly.
When Father Jarysch was assistant at Mater Dolorosa, he was one of the priests who offered Sunday Mass at St. Catherine's Mission.
During the First World War, Monsignor Prim joined the Knights of Columbus in providing a chapel at Camp Nelson, the U. S. Marine training camp. This became known as Our Lady of the Lake Chapel and was served from Mater Dolorosa.
In 1919, Monsignor Prim built a chapel of convenience for the Catholics in the rear part of Carrollton. This was located on Carrollton Avenue between Pritchard Place and Fig Street. It was dedicated as the Incarnate Word Chapel. The chapel in 1921 was moved to Apricot Street, where the parish plant is now located. Two Masses were offered there on Sundays. This became a parish church in 1922, under the name of Incarnate Word Church and a new parish erected, which took in Mater Dolorosa parish territory as far as South Claiborne Avenue. Rev. F. Bosch was appointed the first pastor.
Monsignor Prim informed Archbishop Shaw that a church was badly needed at Suburban Acres and Metairie Terrace, and a parish should be established there with a resident pastor. He sent Father Felix Miller, the assistant to offer Mass in that area, and this was done at the home of John Dolan on Villere Street (now the Airline Highway) at a point where St. Christopher's Church is now located, Father Miller offered one Mass at Mater Dolorosa on Sunday, then went to the Dolan House and offered his second Mass.
The proposed mission was given the name of St. Mary Magdalene by Monsignor Prim, because Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the Gross together with the Sorrowful Mother (Mater Dolorosa). Funds were collected for the erection of a chapel, but the Dolan home burned together with the money. It was then proposed to call the new mission St. Francis Borgia. Father Miller and Father Toups taught catechism every Sunday in this section. After the fire, Mass was offered in the basement of the Eighth Ward School, now the Ella Dolhonde School. Peter Buchler then offered property for a church in that section, if it would be designated as St. Peter's Church. The whole area was then incorporated into St. Agnes Parish, with Father Beauvais as pastor. Under Father Habeh's pastorate the project was abandoned. With the establishment of St. Agnes Parish at Suburban Acres, territory above the Jefferson Parish line was cut off from Mater Dolorosa parish and given to the new parish.
Besides all of his parochial activities, Monsignor Prim also gave time to all civic improvements and interested himself deeply in the betterment of the area in which the church was located. In 1909, he headed a delegation to the City Hall to petition for the paving of Carrollton Avenue. Later, he was one of the prime movers for the paving of Oak Street. In 1906, he had been a prime, mover in having a bank established in Carrollton to promote thrift among his people.
Monsignor Prim had failed in health and a few years before his death, he had been seriously ill, necessitating long treatment for a stomach disorder. Early in 1933, he was stricken again. In February, he was removed to Hotel Dieu. The end came on February 22, 1933. He was 66 years old at the time. The body of the energetic, devoted pastor lay in state at the church that he had built, from Thursday until the funeral on Friday morning.
Archbishop Shaw presided at the obsequies in Mater Dolorosa Church. Rev. John B. Prim, brother of the deceased pastor, chanted the Solemn Mass of Requiem, and the Archbishop gave absolution. Interment was in St. Roch Cemetery. A throng of mourning parishioners crowded the large edifice to pay their respects to their pastor who had directed them nearly 35 years. Present were many notables and officials, including the mayor of the city and members of the commission council, state officials and members of the Legislature. Members of the Catholic Knights of America and the Fourth Degree of the Knights of Columbus also attended, as he was a member of both organizations.
Monsignor Prim's pastorate was the longest of any priest in Carrollton, and up to that time, the most amazing and fruitful. He transformed the divided parish, equipped with two churches in poor condition, and two schools that were in their decline, into a large, substantial and impressive parish plant, among the finest in the archdiocese, and raised the parish to one that was outstanding in Southeast Louisiana. The spirit of the parish was likewise transformed, welded into a unified, enthusiastic group, and inspired to a Catholic way of life and loyalty to the teachings of Christ. Parishioners co-operated with him in exemplary fashion, and became a byword in the archdiocese for unity, co-operation and devotion.
Next: END OF A CENTURY