The Redemptorists, founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori, arrived in New Orleans at the invitation of Bishop Antoine Blanc in 1843 and eventually settled in the area originally known as Lafayette. As years went by and a diverse population grew, three churches were built as part of the what would become to be known as St. Alphonsus Parish: a church for the Irish (St. Alphonsus Church), a church for the Germans (St. Mary’s Assumption Church) and a church for the French (Bon Secour). All three churches in one parish were and continue to be staffed by the Redemptorists.
As the years went on and the population shifted, only one of the three churches (St. Mary’s Assumption Church) is still used today for Mass and the administration of the Sacraments. Bon Secour church was dismantled many years ago and St. Alphonsus Church continues to undergo gradual restoration and is currently being used for a variety of cultural activities highlighting the unique role it has and continues to play in the life of New Orleans. Built in 1858 by German immigrants in testimony to their faith and as a proud statement that they were here to stay, St. Mary’s Assumption Church, which serves as the active sacramental church of the parish, is recognized as a National Historic Landmark. The art and architecture reveal the unbridled spirit of a people who came with roots and planted them deeply in New Orleans. They would forever be part of the fabric of this city.
Through the untold agonies of yellow fever and the destructive power of hurricanes, this people endured and grew through their refusal to give up and an unshakeable trust in God. One of their own, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, led a heroic life and is on the verge of being declared a saint. His remains are enshrined in St. Mary’s Assumption Church and the Seelos Welcome Center is situated immediately next to the church. Because of the large footprint that the parish has had with three distinct ethnic communities and its pastoral outreach which included two orphanages, three convents of religious sisters, and five schools we are historically designated as an area referred to as “ecclesiastical square.” Orphanages, schools and adult societies were an integral part of Church life in “ecclesiastical square.” Today, St. Alphonsus School – an early childhood education center run by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Endeavors – an outreach ministry to elderly, Hope House – a ministry to poor and homeless, all stand tall around St. Mary’s Church. St. Thomas Community Health Center operates out of a building owned by the parish. Since Hurricane Katrina St. Alphonsus Parish has provided more than $300,000 in assistance to needy neighbors – thanks to the generosity of special donors. St. Mary’s Assumption Church is a special house of worship, but it is much more than that. It anchors the neighborhood.
St. Alphonsus Parish/St. Mary’s Assumption Church is the spiritual home for about 700 families as well as a place of pilgrimage for many who come to feel close to Fr. Seelos and to seek his intercession for healing. We are a welcoming community which recognizes the importance and value of all people regardless of their background or state of life.