Parish History / Former Clergy / Photo Archive
The History of Sacred Heart
1940 - 2001
Originally, Catholics living the Norco area were members of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Destrehan. In the years between 1940 and 1942 Father Basty, the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo, was concerned about the spiritual needs in this growing community. To meet those needs a building fund was established for the erection of a chapel in Norco. A fair was held to help raise money for the chapel.
On February 6, 1942, two lots on Fourth St. (72' by 85' each) bounded by Barreca St. and Clayton Dr. were purchased. This land was purchased from Dr. J.E. Clayton and the Barreca Family at a cost of $350.00 for each lot.
Soon after, the old Saint Matthias Church in New Orleans was purchased for $1000.00. The cost of moving the building ran $1,463.00. It was carefully dismantled, hauled to Norco, and reassembled by the men of this area with some design changes. The reassembled chapel seated 350 worshipers. The total cost was $15, 441.51. The chapel was built to accommodate the growing population of the Norco community, which was establishing a prominence within the parish. Through the labor and generosity of the residents of Norco and the parish, the chapel was completed in the fall of 1942.
Some of the first events included: The first ladies attending the chapel were Regina Brashear, Helen Duhe, and Verlie (Jim) Walker (D); the first Wedding was Marie Mae Waguespack to Fred Rome on November 7, 1942.
Father Basty was moved to St., Augustine's Church in New Orleans in 1949. Fr. Malcolm Strassel replaced Fr. Basty as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in July 1949. In 1951, Sacred Heart Chapel was renovated in preparation for the ordination of the first priest from the area, Fr. Ray Hebert. The renovation included new flooring, a new altar, a new organ, and more.
Preparation for the founding of a new parish began in 1956. On March 22, 1956, Father Strassel purchased 913 acres on Spruce St. from Percy Alleman, James Vial, Gaspar Mule, and Hamilton Payne for the amount of $30, 366.01. A fund-raising drive was started and brought in $23, 935.66.
In March of 1957, a building program for the area served by Sacred Heart Chapel was launched with the construction of two school units, each with four classrooms. To oversee the process, a committee was formed and Father Strassel was the honorary chairman and treasurer of the fund drive. His assistants and honorary vice-chairmans were Fr. Barattini and Fr. Hotard. Other committee member chairmen included: E.S. Lowry, Dave Dill, A.J. Lousteau, Harold Peters, E.J. Lousteau, Ralph St. Ament, Eugene Delaune, Alvin Morales, Gene Yoes, L.A. Riley, Arnold Hymel, George Rochelle, Claude Simon, Leonard Falcon, and Bill Mehrtens. A school expansion took place in 1958. The school was in operation for two years before Norco became a parish. Mrs. Gertrude Triche was principal and also taught 3rd grade. The existing and future facilities on Spruce St. was referred to as "The Plant".
Norco Becomes a Parish
In June of 1959, a new parish was canonically erected and Archbishop Rummel offered the pastorship to Rev. Marcel Fourcade of Holy Family Church in Grand Caillou, Dulac, Louisiana. Fr. Fourcade gracious refused the position and left for a one-week camping trip with Fr. Gautreaux from neighboring Chauvin. When Fr. Fourcade returned, Archbishop Rummel phoned him again. Fr. Fourcade could not refuse the Archbishop a second time so he accepted the position. Father Fourcade arrived in Norco on June 26, 1959. Miss Laurita Neal, Father's housekeeper and cook, came with him. She was the only live-in housekeeper.
Father Stanislaus Manikowski, assistant at St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan, was transferred to Sacred Heart as an assistant. (Father Manikowski was imprisoned in the German concentration camp at Dachau for more than five years during World War II.)
Mass: June 27, 1959, celebrated by Fr. Fourcade
Baptism: Thecla Ayme on June 28, 1959
Wedding: Mary Orlando and Frank Migliore on July 3, 1959
Funeral: Timothy Patrick Girardot (3-day-old baby) on July 1, 1959.
The first rectory was the old fish market on 4th and Barreca Streets, across the street from the church. It was rented from 1959 to 1961. The house was very small had no privacy so it was not well suited for use as a rectory.
Fr. Fourcade's first consideration was to enlarge the school and look for religious Sisters to staff it. Fr. Fourcade wrote on June 29th, 1961: "Construction would be easy enough, but finding Sisters was another matter. After many letters and much searching and prayers (Litany to St. Joseph after every Mass) I received a promise of Sisters of St. Joseph for September 1962."
Plans had to be made to enlarge the school. Mr. Paul Murry, a young architect living in Norco, was recommened by Fr. Strassel. The building committee with Fr. Fourcade and Mrs. Triche visited many schools to get ideas for the expansion project. It was decided that a cafeteria, auditorium and four classrooms, plus a principal's office and a teachers' lounge would be constructed. The contract to build the facilities was awarded to Norco Construction Co. and was completed by September 1960 at a cost of $143,000.60. Cafeteria equipment was purchased from the old Pan Am Refinery at a cost of $1,500.00.
It was obvious from the beginning that the rectory house on Barreca St. was not adaquate. Fr. Fourcade recalled, "Fr. Manikowski and I had no privacy and Miss Neal hated living across the street. People who came to the rectory could not speak with us alone. We had to go to the Sacristy" (across the street in the church). After the shool was finished, plans were drawn for the present rectory. It was also built by Norco Construction Co. They were by far the lowest bidder at $65,750.00 versus a high bid of $108,00.00. Fr. Fourcade commented,"I feel they made no money on the project." An additional $5,000.00 was spent to furnish the quarters. Fr. Fourcade recalls,"We moved into the new rectory in May 1961. We felt lost in the big building after (living in the house on) Barreca St. The furniture came with us but there was much to buy...Bishop Caillouet blessed the rectory and made some remarks about it looking like the Roosevelt Hotel".
The work, however, was not over. New construction was again necessary. The St. Joseph Sisters were coming so a convent was needed. The school was growing, so additional classrooms were also required.
By Sept. 1962, the convent was completed at a cost of $64,000.00. Paul Murray was the architect and the construction was handled by Payne Construction Company. Fr. Fourcade remembered this about the Sisters who had taken up residence in the new convent; "Four sisters arrived (and they were) Mother Bertrand, Sister Angele, Sister Angela and Sister Ann Catherine. The two angel sisters (were) confusing to me and Fr. Manikowsi. One of them wore glasses, but it (was) hard to remember which one."
At this point the Parish debt was $230,000.00. School tuition went up from $4.00 to $8.00 per month.
In January 1964, the Parish debt was $168,000.00.
Many Priests, One Mission
In 1964, Father "Stan" Manikowski was assigned to his own parish, St. Louis Church at Bayou Blue near Houma, Louisiana. In December 1964, Father Joseph Hoppe, a newly ordained priest from Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish replaced Father Stan. Father Hoppe left in October 1966. Father Lawrence Walsh replaced Father Hoppe. He was a missionary in Nigeria for 15 years. In March of 1968, he was offered a parish in Slidell. On March 3, 1968, Father John Hegarty, C.S.Sp., replaced Father Walsh. Father Hegarty was also a missionary in Nigeria from 1956 to 1968.
How can we forget?
On Thursday, Sept. 9, 1965, Hurricane Betsy with winds of 150-180 MPH caused much damage to the church - the fence was torn away, one-third of the roof was gone, power was out, and there was water damage to the interior. St. Isidore Chapel in Montz was destroyed.
The New Church
After decades of saving and patiently waiting, the late 70's ushered in a glorious change for Sacred Heart parish. With Ronald St. Pierre as building chairman, Harold Pique and Associates as architects and Milton Pounds as interior designer plans were layed for construction of the new church. Cost of design and construction was to be $600,000.00. On May 1, 1978, 175 pilings were driven and the concrete poured. Fr. Fourcade buried medals of the Sacred Heart and St. Joseph in the foundation concrete. Church construction was slow, beginning in January 1978 and lasting until April of the following year. After much stress and worry, Fr. Fourcade adopted Fr. Stan's philosophy, "Let God do some of the worrying."
By May of 1979, construction was complete. The last Mass in the old church on 4th St. was said by Fr. John Hegarty on Thursday, May 3rd , 1979. The congregation in procession with Fr. Hegarty carried the Blessed Sacreament to the new church on Spruce St. where Fr. Fourcade had Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. And so a new chapter in Sacred Heart's history began.
The first Mass was held on May 4th, 1979
The first baptisms took place on June 3, 1979.
Welcomed into God's and Sacred Heart's family that day were:
Aimee Elizabeth Weber
Andrew Walter Hesse
Richard Joseph Vial
Hal Adolph LeBlanc, Jr.
Kevin James Carruth
Lauren Elizabeth Tramonte
Barry Lawrence Banquer
Keah Marie Simon
The first wedding was held on May 18th, 1979.Joined in holy matrimony were John P. Pollizzio and Sybil A. Jackson.
Sadly, the first funeral was observed on May 9th, 1979 with the passing of Charles J. Mosshammer.
The Bells of Sacred Heart
The first bell tower with a rope-pulled bell was a gift from the Catholic Woman's Club of Norco. In later years, the bell was converted to automated system by Earld "Duke" Bourgeois. The original bell was removed from its tower and and placed on a slab in front of the new church on Spruce St. The bell is inscribed as follows:
"Hoc Tintinnabuim Donatum A Catholic Woman's Club of Norco, LA In Honorem SS Cordis Jesu Erigitur IV December 1949."
In 1972 Miss Stella Roman presented Sacred Heart with Carillonic Bells in memory of her mother and sister. The dication plaque read as follows:
Schulmerich Carillonic Bells
Dedicated in Honor and Glory of God
A gift from Miss. Stella J. Roman
To the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church
In memory of her Mother and Sister
"Make A Joyfull Noise Unto The Lord"
When the new church was built these bells were installed in the new bell tower.
Miss Irene Hebert was the first unofficial parish secretary, donating all of her spare time helping Fr. Fourcade in the office. While holding down a full time job and taking care of her invalid sister, Miss Irene assisted Fr. Fourcade with all the bookkeeping, printing the bulletin and day to day business of the parish. She held this volunteer position until 1982. Liz Brown was a daily housekeeper at the Convent and the Rectory from 1968-1985.