St. Jude the Apostle Church Parish and School History
St. Jude the Apostle Parish was established by decree of the Diocese of Baton Rouge on September 9, 1966. The care of the new parish was assigned to the Southern Province of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. There were 600 families at the time and for the first two years, Mass was celebrated in the auditorium of Magnolia Woods Elementary School on Maxine Drive. The rectory was located at 145 Highland Park Drive.
The Parish Hall was constructed first and served as the church and general meeting area for the entire parish for the next six years. The new and permanent church building, along with the priest’s residence (later the Ministry/Education Bldg), was completed in late 1974. The Reverend Clement H. Funke, C.S.C., was appointed founding pastor. He was the first of several Holy Cross priests to serve in the diocese. Until his death, The Reverend Edwin D. Bauer, C.S.C., was assigned to assist the Reverend Daniel Walsh, C.S.C., in the non-Catholic hospitals and nursing homes in Baton Rouge, assisted at St. Jude by offering Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. The Reverend Allen L. Cormier, C.S.C. was assigned as the first associate pastor of the parish in the summer of 1974. Later, Fr. Ed and Fr. Harrell assumed the leadership of the parish.
The boundaries of the parish include areas south of Louisiana State University, formerly belonging to the Parishes of St. Aloysius and St. George, and up to Siegen Lane. The church, rectory, and parish hall are located on a ten-acre site at the corner of Highland Road and Gardere Lane.
The Reverend Monsignor Patrick Gillespie, P.A. Vicar General of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, on August 22, 1975, the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen, consecrated the altar of Texas shell stone. The relics of the holy martyrs entombed in the altar are those of Sts. Gregory, Orasius, and Titus. The Stations of the Cross were also erected at the same time. Both the stations and the crucifix are carved from linden wood and were obtained from artists in Italy. The same artists also carved two statues, our patron St. Jude and the Blessed Mother.
John A Bani A.I.A. was the architect for the church and rectory and former Ministry/Education Building. General contractor as the Albert H. Hart Corporation. Engineers for the new buildings included: Perrault & Perrault, Inc. (Structural), William J. LeBlanc (mechanical), and Joel I. Forrest (electrical).
Fr. Michael Collins began as Pastor in 1984, and through his 13-year tenure, was joined by Associate Pastors: Fr. Walter Kersey, Fr. Trey Nelson, Fr. Joel LaBauve, and Fr. Duane Breaux. In the late 1980’s, with the addition of more parish personnel, a new rectory was built facing Highland Road (on the hill). The old rectory expanded to accommodate needed office space and meeting rooms. The church interior also underwent a facelift.
In 1992, with private contributions from parishioners, stained glass windows were designed by artist, Stephen Wilson, and installed throughout the church.
Fr. David Allen celebrated Mass as St. Jude’s new pastor in the summer of 1997, assisted by newly ordained and Associate Pastor, Fr. Michael Miceli. Fr. Michael was transferred to Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs in 1999, and Fr. Francis Lonakutty was named the new Associate Pastor. Fr. Francis served until June, 2001, when he was transferred to Most Blessed Sacrament Church.
Plans were made to convert the rectory on Highland Road to Administrative Offices in 1999. The old administrative offices were converted to meeting rooms and the building was named the Ministry Building. In the Spring of 2000 the Pastor and the Administrative team moved into the new offices on Highland Road.
In July of 2009 Father Trey Nelson assumed the role of pastor. Shortly thereafter, the parish position of Director of Administrator was created, and Deacon James Morrissey was hired to serve in that role. Shortly after his arrival, Father Trey initiated a series of listening sessions, offering parishioners the opportunity to share their thoughts about the needs of the parish in the 21st century. One of the results of this dialogue was the development of a long range plan, which included, the renovation of the church and the construction of a new ministry building, parish hall, and daily Mass chapel. During the summer of 2012 weekend Masses were moved to the Parish Activity Center, and renovations to the church began. This project was a major undertaking, resulting in one of the most beautiful worship spaces in our diocese. On June 30, 2013 Bishop Robert Muench celebrated the dedication of the newly renovated church. In late 2014 construction began on a new 2 story, state of the art ministry building and office complex. This building was opened just prior to Christmas of 2015 and is a truly amazing space for our parish personnel and for various parish meetings.
As of the fiftieth anniversary of our parish, Saint Jude is blessed with three amazing deacons. They are Deacon Frank Bains, Deacon Curt Reeson, and Deacon James Morrissey. The parish staff includes the following persons: Fr. Trey Nelson (pastor), Deacon James Morrissey (Director of Administration), Mrs. Charmaine Biossat (Director of Ministries), Ms. Linda McVay (Receptionist), Mr. Warren Scott (Custodial), Mrs. Melanie Chabarria (Director of Christian Formation), Mrs. Peggy Villavaso (Sacramental Records and Assistant to the Pastor), Mr. Keith Gaspard (facilities manager), Ms. Liz Barrow (housekeeper), and Mrs. Mindy Coogan (bookkeeper). The principal of St. Jude School is Mrs.Michelle Gardiner, and the assistant principal is Mrs. Angelle Saia.
Saint Jude Parish registration has grown 46% from 2009 to a total number of 3,300 registered households. We are the most culturally and economically diverse parish in the diocese. St. Jude is also the youngest parish in the diocese with an average age of 69% of our parish is under the age of 55. Within the parish encompasses 68 different ministries. Throughout our history because of the sacrifice of many we have been able to minister effectively to the changing needs of our parishioners. Having moved out of the previous office building, plans are underway to convert that space to a Youth House.
The largest ministry of St. Jude the Apostle parish is St. Jude the Apostle School. The school was founded in 1983 through the Diocese of Baton Rouge to provide quality Catholic education to the children of St. Jude Parish. The school, as a ministry of St. Jude the Apostle Church, works closely with the Parish to minister to the academic, spiritual, and social needs of the students.