St. John community members react to St. Hubert merger
Published 11:24 am Tuesday, November 7, 2023
Garyville – Since Archbishop Gregory Aymond’s letter announcing the impending Catholic church consolidations, including the merging of St. Hubert in Garyville into St. Peter in Reserve, longtime parishioners of St. Hubert have expressed their confusion and disapproval toward the merger.
On Nov. 2, a post was made on the St. Hubert Catholic Church Facebook page, clearing up some confusion in regard to the future of St. Hubert.
The post announced that St. Hubert would not be closing, saying “We are merging with St. Peter. It is NOT the normal merging where we lose our identities and have a new name, as others are doing. We will still be St. Hubert and still have our church, if only for one mass.”
The post, which garnered 92 comments as of Nov. 7, received mixed reactions from parishioners of St. Hubert.
Some commenters extended and requested prayers to and from the church and their fellow parishioners. “Good post. We ALL need to step up,” said commenter Wade Trosclair. “St. Hubert, pray for us.”
Others expressed concern that St. Hubert was bound for closure in the future following the merger.
“When the word “merge” is used for parishes, one no longer exists,” commented Harriet Duhe’ Melancon. “Two independent parishes cannot each remain ‘parishes’ if they merge.”
“Allowing one mass a weekend instead of closing is just to appease the parishioners for the time being,” commented Coy St. Pierre. “This will set up a situation where it fails to bring in people thus less money. This time next year, we will get notice of full closure.”
The changes within the eight parishes are occurring as the archdiocese grapples with the logistics of compensating victims involved in its decades-long sexual abuse scandal. This scandal involved clergy members molesting children, and the question of who will bear the financial responsibility for these settlements is at the forefront.
Aymond also cited other factors that led to the church consolidations in his letter.
“There is no doubt that our parishes, in fact our entire area, have been affected by many factors out of our control,” Aymond wrote. “Natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes over the past decade, the COVID pandemic, the challenges of Hurricane Ida recovery, inflation, and sky-rocketing property insurance rates impact our church communities just as they impact our families and our businesses. These are not issues we can ignore in prudent pastoral planning.”
The merging of St. Hubert into St. Peter in Reserve gives Garyville residents a five-mile difference (roughly eight minutes by car) between the two locations, but parishioners have made it clear that the concern does not only lie in distance, but in identity.
Jaycee Bennett, a 20-year-old Garyville resident and active parishioner posted on Facebook on Nov. 1 expressing her thoughts on the matter.
According to Bennett, she became involved in St. Hubert as a lector, a eucharistic minister and most recently, by starting a teen girls bible study.
“With these new decisions, I believe the archbishop is selling our parish short and not giving us the respect, time, or consideration this parish of St. Hubert deserves,” Bennett said. “For the Garyville parishioners, the older folks can physically not travel that far for mass, and for 95% or more of the parishioners from Garyville, this church parish has deep family ties and meaning.”
Addy Johnson, a parishioner of St. Hubert church finds the merger disheartening and disappointing.
“Members of our parish met with Catholic Leadership Institute approximately 9 months ago regarding ways to improve our church,” said Johnson. “Volunteers have been hard at work raising funds and creating fellowship among our community.”
According to Johnson, these fellowship and fundraising events include a trunk or treat, a Fourth of July celebration, Breakfast with Santa, monthly bingo games and an active ladies’ altar society.
“We have met all and exceeded some of the goals set forth for us by the Catholic leadership institute. Despite our efforts, we were chosen to merge with a neighboring parish,” Johnson said. “We feel cheated and lied to. Although we are small, our parish is vibrant and self-sufficient. Shame on the archdiocese for this decision to close a church parish that means so much to our community, but shame on them even more for giving the parishioners hope that we would remain open despite our best efforts. We should not be punished for the decisions and actions of others. It seems as though we are being used as a means to pay off debt of the archdiocese.”
According to Aymond’s letter, the consolidations will take effect on July 1, 2024. The full list of mergers and closures can be found at nolacatholic.org/parishpastoralplanning.