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Parish History

St. Francis of Assisi 1898 - 1962
St. Alphonsus Liguori 1962 - Present

Our vibrant Catholic community, celebrating over 120 years of existence, lies between the Comite and Amite rivers in the central area of East Baton Rouge Parish. St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana began toward the end of the nineteenth century. Local teacher Amelia Landry conducted classes at the Vicknair Place on Frenchtown Road. Students came from miles around to be instructed in scholastic subjects as well as art, music and religion at what came to be known as St. Joseph’s School. On Sundays, weather and river levels permitting, a priest from St. Joseph Cathedral would travel by horse and buggy to say Mass at the school.

Recognizing the need for an actual church, local Catholics began to raise funds for construction, land was donated, and the necessary funds were quickly accumulated. Once monies were raised, a group of local men traveled several days up Greenwell Springs Road to obtain the St. Helena yellow pine from which the new church was constructed. St. Francis of Assisi was completed and dedicated on October 4, 1898. In the beginning, the church was a mission of St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge until after the turn of the century when it became a mission of St. George Parish. Initially, Masses were said four times a year and increased to once a month. St. Francis became a mission of St. Anthony of Padua Parish from 1920 through 1944, when St. Gerard Majella Parish was carved from St. Anthony.

At that time, St. Francis of Assisi became a mission of the new parish and was staffed by Redemptorist priests, an association that would last until 1986. The number of faithful in the area continued to grow, and in 1953, a brick church and meeting hall were constructed. On September 29, 1962, the longtime mission church of St. Francis of Assisi became one of the first parishes established within the newly formed Diocese of Baton Rouge under its new bishop, Most Reverend Robert E. Tracy. The new parish was named St. Alphonsus Liguori after the founder of the Redemptorists. Ironically, the Catholic community of Greenwell Springs’ first pastor was the Reverend Joseph M. Greenwell, CSsR.

In typical American Redemptorist fashion, the new parish set to work on opening a school. A year after its inception, St. Alphonsus Liguori opened a parish school with 131 students in grades one to four led by Rev. Greenwell as principal and a School Sister of Notre Dame, Sr. Janet Marie Abbachi, as administrator. These sisters served the school until 1971.

The 1970s saw phenomenal growth in the area that demanded the construction of a new church. On May 20, 1978, our present church was dedicated with then pastor, Reverend Stephen Plei, CSsR, presiding. The new church was designed to seat 650 with standing room for an additional 300.

In 1986, the Redemptorist priests departed, and St. Alphonsus became a diocesan parish led by diocesan priests. By 1995, the parish had grown to include an Administration Building with Perpetual Adoration Chapel, Family Center, Grades K-8 school and cafetorium, St. Francis of Assisi Meeting Rooms and Rectory.

St. Alphonsus Liguori celebrated its centennial celebration on October 4, 1998 by ringing the original church bell, which has called the faithful to this location for over 100 years. Through the dedication of the staff and many parishioners, new ministries were established and existing ministries were expanded.

Our parish has been blessed to have many dedicated staff members serve this community over the years.

Pastors
Rev. Joseph M. Greenwell, C.Ss.R. 1962-1966
Rev. Henry L. Heim, C.Ss.R. 1966-1972
Rev. Stephen A. Plei, C.Ss.R. 1972-1978
Rev. Eugne Staub, C.Ss.R. 1978-1983
Rev. Robert A. Ruhnke, C.Ss.R. 1983-1986
Rev. Msgr. Leo Guillot 1986-1994
Rev. Miles Walsh 1994-1996
Rev. Thomas Duhe 1996-2007
Rev. Michael Moroney 2007-present

SAS Principals
Fr. Joseph M Greenwell 1963-1971
Mrs. Genevieve Stockstill & Mr. Harold Copes 1971-1984
Sr. Esther Hulin 1984-2006
Mrs. Shirley Bougere 2006-2009
Dr. Cynthia Ryals 2009-present

Since the celebration of our centennial, the parish has continued to grow in both numbers of parishioners and ministries to God’s people within the parish and the greater community. As of July 10, 2018, there were 7,321 registered individuals, 2,681 registered families and over 60 ministries at our church, as well as 449 students enrolled at SAS. We look forward to continued growth within the St. Alphonsus faith community and the City of Central for years to come.

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