The quarter century following the South's defeat was a time of continuous political, economic, and social turmoil. Louisiana was governed by Federal military officials for twelve years. The major challenge facing the Catholic Church in the United States after the Civil War was the incorporation of newly emancipated African Americans into the mainstream. South Louisiana was the home for most of the country's African American Catholics at the end of the war. The main thrust of the archbishops' efforts for African Americans centered on providing new schools and other educational opportunities.
In 1870, Archbishop Napoléon Perché succeeded Archbishop Jean Marie Odin. Ignoring the uncertain and financially troubled situation of the post-war years, Archbishop Perché forged ahead with an extensive program of parish and school expansion. Four new parishes were established in New Orleans: St. Francis de Sales, Our Lady of Sacred Heart, Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Our Lady of Good Counsel. Among the twenty-three new parishes outside the see city were Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kenner, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Taft (now Hahnville), and St. Jane de Chantal, Abita Springs.
Archbishop Perché was a strong advocate of Catholic education. He viewed public school education as both inadequate and ungodly. Catholic schools, particularly in rural areas, were often more stable, better supported, and better attended than the public schools. By 1888, more than 11,000 students were being educated in archdiocesan Catholic schools.
Eight new religious communities entered the archdiocese between 1866 and 1879: the Sisters of Mercy, Marist Brothers, Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Benedictine Sisters, the Sisters of Christian Charity, the Discalced Carmelite Sisters, Poor Clares, and Sisters of the Perpetual Adoration. In 1871, a second indigenous community was also established - the Institute of the Immaculate Conception, established in Labadieville by Father Cyprien Venissat.
The archbishop borrowed heavily to finance parish and school expansion; he was also charitable to all who knocked at his door. By the mid-1870s, the archdiocese had amassed a huge debt. In 1879, Rome took the unusual step of appointing Bishop Francis Xavier Leray of Natchitoches as Archbishop Perché's Coadjutor with the right of succession and Administrator of Temporal Affairs. Archbishop Leray found an archdiocesan debt of $590,925. The archdiocesan debt continued to restrict Catholic development for another quarter century.
The first archdiocesan paper, Le Propagateur Catholique, was temporarily suspended by Federal officials during the Civil War. Although it was resumed, it did not address the archdiocese's growing population of English-speakers. In 1868, a new archdiocesan newspaper was launched - The Morning Star. The paper remained the main archdiocesan journal for more than sixty years. Father Abram Ryan, the priest-poet of the Confederacy, was the editor from 1871 to 1875. Marie Louise Points, one of the pioneer Catholic women journalists in the United States, served as editor in the early twentieth century.
Other Significant Dates
||Yellow fever epidemic recurs; Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, a Redemptorist, is among the victims; St. Roch Shrine is promised
||Institute of the Immaculate Conception, the archdiocese's second indigenous religious community of women, is founded in Labadieville
||Death of Archbishop Perché; Archbishop Leray immediately succeeds him
||Death of Archbishop Leray