(St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church is located in the St. John Community at 2085 Hwy. 1, about 4 miles north of downtown Thibodaux. The church building is across LA Hwy. 1 from the St. John bridge. The church is about half-way to Labadieville and developed in much the same way as the St. Charles Borremeo Church south of Thibodaux. As the population along the Bayou grew, the people wanted their own church closer to their home. You can view the oaks on the grounds by pulling into the parking lot behind the church building.)
There are four live oaks on the church grounds that are registered with the Live Oak Society:
• The Fr. Jules Berthault Oak – 18 ft. girth
• The Beulah Robinson Robichaux Oak – 16 ft., 2 in.
• The Fr. Cyril de la Fuente Oak – 13 ft., 4 in.
• The Monsignor Emile Fossier Oak – 15 ft, 2 in.
A combination school and mission was established in 1876 in a small building called “Ecole St. Jean” (French for “school of St. John”). The small school was staffed by two Mount Carmel nuns who were also teachers. Once a week, the school became a chapel and a visiting priest would celebrate mass. In 1919, St. John was officially recognized as a legal entity and in 1935, Father Jules Berthault became its first full-time pastor. The largest oak on the property is named in his honor.
Beulah Robinson Robichaux was a housekeeper at the church and rectory for more than 50 years. She was instrumental in getting the St. John Grotto built behind the church. In 1956, she led a fund-raising effort to purchase the old Stations of the Cross from Charity Hospital in New Orleans, after the chapel was removed from the hospital. Those same Stations can be seen today located on posts on a semi-circle walkway in front of the church offices.
Monsignor Emile Fossier was pastor of St. John from June 1980 until he retired in 1986. During his time as pastor, he is credited with a number of improvements to the church and surrounding facilities. (The title of monsignor in the Roman Catholic Church is honorary, rather than a specific position in the church hierarchy. It’s granted to a priest who has distinguished himself and has been honored by the Pope for his service to the church.)
Father Cyril De La Fuente was pastor at St. John Church from 1941 to 1962. During these years the church congregation grew enough that the church had to be enlarged. The structure was split down the middle, spread apart, and a new middle section constructed enlarging the seating capacity to 600.
The church structure you see today is the result of three renovations – one in 1930, one in 1955, and again in 1981. Behind the church, there’s the cemetery, and to the right are the church offices and the Father de la Fuente Parish Hall.
The Lafourche Live Oak Tour was created through the generous support of Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou Tourism. For more information on Lafourche Parish events and activities, visit their website at LACajunBayou.com.