The thirty years between 1888 and 1918 witnessed a marked change in Louisiana Catholicism. Under the direction of three archbishops - Francis Janssens from Holland (1888-1897), Placide Louis Chapelle from France (1897-1905), and James H. Blenk from Germany (1906-1917) - the archdiocese moved increasingly into the mainstream of American Catholicism and away from its French distinctiveness.
The period witnessed the elimination of the archdiocesan debt, the opening of a preparatory seminary by Benedictines from St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana, the continuing recruitment of European clergy, the establishment of the first parishes exclusively for African Americans and Italians, the establishment of national lay organizations in Louisiana, the continued expansion of parishes and schools, and the appointment of the first boards and superintendents of Catholic schools (1906) and Catholic Charities (1912).
In the 1890s, two Italian parishes were established in New Orleans: St. Francis of Assisi Chapel on Ursuline Street (1889-1893) and St. Anthony on Rampart Street. In 1918, these were replaced by St. Mary's Church on Chartres Street - known for more than four decades as St. Mary's Italian. Other Italians established farms in Kenner and Tangipahoa Civil Parish.
Janssens' tenure also spanned the period of hardening racial divisions. Janssens believed that a separate parish would facilitate black leadership just as it had for Irish and German immigrants. Feelings about such a parish were mixed in the black community. In 1895, St. Katharine's Parish on Tulane Avenue was established as the first parish designated for those of African descent; attendance, however, was optional. In the decade preceding World War I, the Josephites established Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi, and the first St. Dominic (later St. Joan of Arc) parishes in New Orleans; the Holy Ghost Fathers opened Holy Ghost Parish.
Active participation by laity in Church life received a major impetus during this period. Among the lay organizations that were organized in Louisiana were: St. Margaret's Daughters (1899); the Holy Name Society at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in New Orleans (1899); Council 714 of the Knights of Columbus (1902); the Louisiana State Federation of Catholic Societies (1908); the Catholic Societies of Women of Louisiana (1911); the Knights of Peter Claver at Opelousas (1912); and the Catholic Women's Club (1916).
The arrival of new religious communities strengthened archdiocesan parish, education, and social ministries. These new communities included: Benedictine Monks, Dominicans (male), Josephites, Holy Ghost Fathers, Scalabrini Fathers, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament, and Teresian Sisters.
Two events clouded Archbishop Blenk's final years: the 1915 hurricane that caused widespread devastation to South Louisiana churches, schools, and institutions, and the outbreak of World War I.
Other Significant Dates
||Archdiocese of New Orleans holds its centennial celebration
||Our Lady of Prompt Succor is proclaimed the archdiocesan patroness
||The archdiocese and its parishes are reincorporated
||St. Katharine Parish is established as the first parish in New Orleans for African Americans
||Last outbreak of yellow fever takes place; Archbishop Chapelle is among the victims