St. Isidore Church was established in 1879 as a mission of St. Joseph Church in downtown Baton Rouge. It was a small rural farming area north of the city. Circuit riding priests from St. Joseph's ministered to the congregation.
Col. Henry M. Favrot and John W. Lamon are to be remembered as the donors of a ten acre plot of land on which the first church of St. Isidore was built. The terms of the donation: "Two acres wide and five acres deep with provisions that a chapel be erected within five years." The ten acres in the donation were valued a $80. This land was secured through the efforts of Rev. Cyril de la Croix, the pastor of St. Joseph's. He was remembered as "a stately man with long, flowing white hair, who wore boots and spurs."
1880:First Chapel Built
In the spring of 1880, a picnic was held at Kleinpeter Grove (now Kleinpeter Terrace subdivision) to raise money to buy lumber for the chapel. It was to face Plank Road with Thomas Road on the South side. The original chapel measured 20' wide and 30' long and accommodated about 50 people. Candlesticks in the chapel were donated by Bishop William Elder, Bishop of Natchez, and a relative of parishioner Julia Elder Kleinpeter. One of the first baptisms in the parish was that of Alma Augustine Babin, daughter of Joseph Theophile Babin and Eugenia Fuenters on February 9, 1879.
In those early days worshipers came to St. Isidore on foot, horseback, in buggies, and in wagons, and Mass was said only once a month. Mrs. Luby Brashear recalled crossing such streams as the Comite River, Cypress Bayou, and White's Bayou to get to church.
1908~1921: Under the care of St George Parish
St. George was established as a parish in 1908 and St. Isidore was put under its jurisdiction as a mission. The five priests from St. George who served the mission churches would board steamboats at Gardere landing and get off at Port Hudson landing. It was faster than coming by horse and buggy.
The priests from St. George who served the mission churches were: Rev. Cambiaire, Rev. Verhoeven, Rev. Jan, Rev. Ballinik, and Rev. Heil.
1921~1944: Mission Church of St. Anthony Parish
In 1921 St. Anthony became a parish and St. Isidore one of its mission churches. Rev. Ralph Vincent was St. Anthony's first pastor and celebrated Mass every third Sunday at 10 AM at At. Isidore. His successor was Rev. Thomas Colbert who celebrated Mass every other Sunday. When Rev. William Castel became his assistant, Mass was soon celebrated every Sunday. Rev. Castel is credited with the idea of holding annual church fairs to raise money for repairs and enlargement of the chapel.
By 1928 the old chapel was sadly in need of repair and Rev. Colbert decided to build a new one rather than patch the old church. Bishop John Laval blessed the new church in November 1928.
Other priests from St. Anthony who served St. Isidore were: Rev. Lohmann, Rev. Finnegan, Rev. Miles Kearney, Rev. Pooley, Rev. Paul Daigle, Rev. Knobloch, and Rev. Quinn.
1944~1958: St. Gerard Parish Takes Over
The creation of St. Gerard parish, to be staffed by the Redemptorist priests, was announced on July 26, 1944. Once again St. Isidore became the mission of another newly formed parish.
During World War II the Army Air Corps was based at Harding Field and after the war one of the barracks was purchased, moved, and converted into a hall at St. Isidore.
Some of the priests from St. Gerard who served the missions were: Rev. Morin, Rev. Porten, Rev. Amigh, Rev. Godbout, Rev. Springer, Rev. Connor, and Rev. Schultz.
1958: Finally a Parish
On June 28, 1958 St. Isidore the Farmer became an official parish with the Rev. Robert Mylie as its first pastor. A house on Wedgewood Dr. in Harding Terrace subdivision was purchased in 1958 to be used as a rectory. By 1959 it was decided that the chapel, which seated about 250 people, needed to be replaced. Plans were approved for a new church and classroom buildings which would cost $300,000. The new church would seat 960 people with additional space for 250 more in the choir loft.
1960~1961: New Church and School Dedicated
St. Isidore Elementary School opened its doors in September 1960 with 126 children attending kindergarten through third grade. Mrs. Shirley Troth was named the first principal. The new church was officially dedicated on June 11, 1961 by Bishop Caillouet of New Orleans. The homily was given by Bishop Tracy of Lafayette.
1962~1979: Pastoral Changes
In June 1962 Fr. Mylie was replaced by Rev. John Weber. Under his leadership, St. Isidore was assigned its first associate, Rev. Nick Martrain, from December 1954 to May 1966. Two other associates served under Fr. Weber, Rev. Lyle Hitzman and Rev. Leblanc.
Rev. Gerald Lefebvre was named the third pastor of St. Isidore in February 1968 and Rev. Frank Uter was assigned as associate in June 1969. Fr. Uter was very good with the youth of the parish and got them involved in liturgical activities and the CYO. Under Fr. Lefebvre's service a Saturday vigil was added.
Rev. Robert Marcel replaced Fr. Lefebvre in January 1973 and served until July 1974. In July 1973 Rev. Robert Stine replaced Fr. Uter as associate pastor.
Rev. Patrick Mascarella replaced Fr. Marcel as the fifth pastor of St. Isidore in July 1974 and Rev. Andy Joffrion was assigned as a second associate in 1975. For a short time the parish had three priests. However in April 1976, Fr. Joffrion was reassigned. Other associate pastors during this time were Rev. Darryl Ducote, Rev. Donald Blanchard, and Rev. Howard Hall.A welcome addition to the parish in 1975 was Sister Ann Russo, CSJ who came to assist with administration until 1979.
By December 1976, the parish population was estimated at 1,400 families. There were 170 students attending the school and about 700 young people attending the CCD program.
Due to failing eyesight, Fr. Mascarella curtailed his ministry and went to Christ the King Chapel on LSU's campus. For the first two months of 1979, St. Isidore was without an official pastor. Fr. Blanchard served as administrator until March 1979, when Rev. Michael Moroney was assigned as the sixth pastor of St. Isidore.
In August 1979 Sister Anne Whitehead came to St. Isidore and replaced Sister Russo. She worked tirelessly with education, social responsibility and parish outreach.
1979: Centennial Celebrations & Fundraising:
In 1979 under the leadership of the parish council and staff, the Centennial fund drive and the Centennial celebrations were planned and approved. As a result of a very successful fund drive the parish was able to grow tremendously, providing much needed additional office space, new parish center, new cafeteria and school classrooms, a daily chapel, and a rectory for the priests to reside, as they lived a mile down the street.
1980~1995: More Changes
Fr. Hallserved until June 1982 when Rev. Phillip Spano was named to replace him as associate pastor. 1986 brought the school Jubilee celebration and the "Burning of the Mortgage."
Rev.Jerry Martin was appointed as the seventh pastor at St. Isidore, replacing Fr. Moroney in 1987.Fr. Spano was replaced by Rev. Trey Nelson in 1988.
In 1990 Rev. Joel LaBauve was named as the eighth pastor. Rev. Gary Belsome was also assigned in 1990. St. Isidore Middle School, grades sixth through eighth, was opened in 1991 and was housed at the St. Pius campus. In 1993 the "Future is Now" fund drive was started to raise money for a new church and in 1994 the groundbreaking ceremony was held. Rev. Shelton Fabre was assigned to the parish in 1994 and was to be the last associate pastor at St. Isidore.
On Palm Sunday 1995, the parishioners of St. Isidore processed from the church that had been in use since June 11, 1961 to the new church. Bishop Alfred Hughes officially dedicated the new church on June 11, 1995. Shortly thereafter, the old church was renovated into a multipurpose facility and named the Ott Center in memory of Bishop Stanley Joseph Ott.
In July 1995, Rev. Fred Youngs became the ninth pastor of St. Isidore. He began the ENVISION process, a goal setting procedure, in 2003. Also in 2003 our school entered into a partnership with Redemptorist Jr. High School, sending our seventh and eigth grade students directly to RHS.
October 2, 2005 ~ Dedication of the narthex addition to the church
May 18, 2008 ~ 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Parish
June 30, 2010 ~ St. Isidore School closed after 50 years of Catholic Education. St. Isidore School merged with St. Gerard School and became Redemptorist Elementary School.
June 2010 ~ Rev. Frank Bass was appointed as the tenth pastor of St. Isidore.
July 1, 2011 ~ St. Isidore and St. Pius X were moved into a clustered parish with Fr. Frank Bass as Pastor of both parishes.
March-June, 2015 ~ Maintenance Project here and here
In 1977 a Permanent Diaconate Program was established in the Diocese and one of our parishioners studied for three years before being ordained a permanent deacon on May 23, 1980. Rev. Mr. Bruno Rizzo served our parish until his death in August of 2011.
Others ordained through the Diocesan Permanent Diaconate progam and now serving at St. Isidore: Rev. Mr. Donald Ard, ordained June 10, 2010 Rev. Mr. Tommy Benoit, ordained June 8, 2013 Rev. Mr. Willie Berthelot, ordained July 13, 2002 Rev. Mr. Shelley Joseph, ordained June 3, 2006.
St. Isidore the Farmer Catholic Church, 5657 Thomas Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70811