A BRIEF HISTORY OF SAINT CHARLES BORROMEO CATHOLIC CHURCH OF NEDERLAND
BY W. T. BLOCK
(With Special Gratitude to Frs. James Vanderholt, Joseph Daleo, August Pucar, Mike Jamail, James Dempsey, Messrs. Lloyd Derouen, Joe Minaldi, Tom Lee, Jr., Mrs. Sharlyn Spell, Jimmy Gard, Mrs. Gladys Thorp, and Mrs. Beckie Cousins.)
PART A: THE PRE-HISTORY OF ST. CHARLES CHURCH
It is indeed interesting that even when Nederland, Texas, was still a vast cow pasture, filled with windswept prairie grasses, its confines were crisscrossed at intervals by Roman Catholic missionaries known as "saddlebag priests." The first Catholic sanctuaries in extreme Southeast Texas were built at Terry Station on Cow Bayou in Orange County in 1877,1 at Orange in 1880,2 and in Beaumont in 1881.3 Long before that, however, itinerant missionary priests celebrated Mass in the log cabins of parishioners whenever and wherever the opportunity was present.
The first saddlebag priest, Fr. P. F. Parisot, found no Catholics living in Beaumont in 1853, but he celebrated Mass at the residence of Maguire Chiasson, a few miles south of town.4 By 1860, the Taylor's Bayou area around Fannett, Texas, had a number of Acadian Catholic families, including residents named Broussard, Blanchette, East, Guidry, Dugat, Gallier, Hargraves, Hamshire, and many others.5 In 1860, the four Catholic families living nearest to the future site of Nederland were Joseph M. Hebert, whose ranch house stood where the Beauxart Gardens Road intersects West Port Arthur Road, and three siblings of Port Neches, Levi Hillebrandt, Lastie Hillebrandt, and Caroline Hillebrandt Brewer, whose Acadian Catholic mother was Eurasie Blanchette of Abbeville, Louisiana. These four families were among the wealthiest in Jefferson County in 1860, each of them owning several slaves and horse and cattle herds numbering between 1,000 and 3,000 heads.6
The itinerant saddlebag priests and circuit riders of that era nicknamed the region the "Alligator Circuit" because of the ever-present danger of death from alligator bites while swimming their horses across Taylor's and Hillebrandt Bayous and the Neches, Sabine, and Trinity Rivers. The huge crocodilian creatures sometimes measured eighteen feet in length. In Civil War days, Frs. P. M. Lacour and J. C. Neraz are believed to have been the first priests to celebrate Mass at the Hebert and Hillebrandt homes while en route from Fannett to the large Acadian Catholic settlement at Cow Bayou in Orange County. Later Father Neraz became the second bishop of San Antonio, serving from 1881 until 1894.7
Although not pertinent to the history of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, it should be stated that Rev. Fr. Vitalus Quinon (pronounced 'keen-yon') was the father of the Catholic faith and its principal propagator in frontier Southeast Texas, as well as the first priest assigned exclusively to the "Alligator Circuit," his parish extending from the Sabine River on the east to the San Jacinto River on the west. Certainly a person of great missionary zeal, inexhaustable energy, and ability, Father Quinon built St. Vital's, now St. Mary's Church in Orange in 1880, St. Louis', now St. Anthony's Cathedral in Beaumont in 1881, as well as Catholic churches at Liberty (rebuilt a burned-out church), Denison, and Dallas, Texas. He spent so much time in the saddle on his evangelical missions that, during one week, he celebrated Mass one Thursday at Cow Bayou, Orange County, swam the Neches River at Port Neches and celebrated Mass on Friday at Moise Broussard's house in Sabine Pass, then swam Taylor's Bayou and celebrated Mass on Saturday at Lovan Hamshire's house at Fannett, and was back in Beaumont at St. Louis' Church on Sunday. Father Quinon died exactly as he had lived. In 1894, while on a sabbatical in his native France, he caught cholera at Marseilles, but he continued to administer the last rites of the Church to the dying until he was too weak to move and near death himself.8
Nederland, Texas, was founded as a colonization experiment of the Kansas City Southern Railroad in 1897. Its first 250 or more settlers were Dutch immigrants who came direct from Holland and who erected a Dutch Reformed Church, which failed to survive. A like number of settlers were native-born Americans, whose church affiliations appear to have been evenly divided between two other Protestant faiths. No record survives about how many of the early settlers were of the Catholic faith, but it seems that their numbers were too small for any effort to materialize toward establishing a local parish. Certainly one of the earliest Catholics to settle in Nederland was Mrs. Kathrena Wagner, a German immigrant, who came to Nederland, via Illinois, in 1902. Mrs. Wagner waited 21 years for St. Charles Church to organize, but lived only three years afterward to enjoy it, dying at age 79 in 1926.9
The combined censuses of Port Neches and Nederland of 1900 do not reveal a single person with an Acadian French surname. Nederland's 1910 census was not greatly different, with only three Louisiana families named Benoit, Falgout, and Farque. There was one Bohemian family and other German and Austrian families who may have been Catholic, but the large French Acadian migration to Southeast Texas did not begin until 1911.10 In 1911-1912, there were enough Catholics living in Nederland and Port Neches who needed wagon transportation to St. Anthony's Church that a Mr. Phillips ran a covered wagon to Beaumont each Sunday to accommodate them. His large rice wagon, covered with wooden benches, left Freeman's Saloon in Nederland at 7 o'clock each Sunday morning and arrived at St. Anthony's two and one-half hours later. The return trip arrived back in Nederland at 5:30 o'clock P. M. In those days, the only shell road to Beaumont was West Port Arthur Road, west of the county airport. What is now Twin City Highway was only a dirt trail bordering the railroad in 1911, which traveled through privately-owned cow pastures of the Mashed-O Ranch, requiring the opening and closing of five barbed-wire gates. Although only an infant in arms, Lloyd Derouen, who as of 1991 is still a member of St. Charles' Parish, made that trip every Sunday in 1911 with his parents.11
Phillips' wagon trips were discontinued in 1912 when the Beaumont-Port Arthur "Interurban," a two-car electric trolley, was established. Thereafter, Nederland's Catholic worshippers could attend Mass at either St. Anthony's Church in Beaumont or St. Mary's Church in Port Arthur with much greater ease, comfort, and loss of time while traveling.
Very little accurate information is available about when the earliest Catholic families arrived in Nederland, but what is available will be listed. Ferdinand and Eloise Derouen arrived in 1911.12 Fred Champagne arrived from Abbeville, Louisiana, in 1912.13 The George Yentzen family arrived to found Nederland's first bakery in 1915, and the Jens H. Peterson family came in 1916.14 By 1918, the French Acadian population of the town was increasing rapidly, but not nearly as much as in Port Neches. The Nederland city directory of 1918 listed one person named Arceneaux, one named Badon, two named Broussard, six named Champagne, five named Clotiaux, two named Derouen, three named Duhon, three named Gallier, one named Herriard, one named Hebert, one named LeBlanc, three named Menard, two named Premeaux, one named Sonnier, two named Theriot, one named Thibodeaux, and one Trahan family. The F. M. Thorp family was also in Nederland in 1918.15 Miss Eunice Bourg, who is probably the oldest surviving charter member of St. Charles' Church (1991), came to Nederland in 1919, and in 1922, was the first organist and choirmaster of St. Elizabeth's Church in Port Neches when that congregation first organized and was meeting in the old Liberty Theater.16
Indirectly, it was the large Acadian Catholic population of Port Neches who, through the organization of their own parish and because of the missionary zeal of Father Fred B. Hardy, were to spur on the organization of the mission which preceded St. Charles Borromeo Parish. By 1918, Port Neches Acadians numbered half of the population of that town. In 1919, an unidentified Port Neches lady wrote a letter to Bishop C. E. Byrne in Galveston, which read in part: "Please send us a priest. We have 400 or 500 people of the Catholic faith here, and all the people are willing to build a church."17 Since in 1918 the Acadian population of Nederland was only about one-quarter of the number of Acadians in the Port Neches city directory of 1918 (there were 13 adult Broussards and 14 Heberts living there then), the writer estimates the Catholic population of Nederland at less than one hundred persons in 1920. In 1918 there were only 694 people living in Nederland and about 800 in 1920.
PART B: THE ORGANIZATION OF THE MISSION CHURCH
Before continuing, the writer would mention that the early 1920s was a particularly difficult time for Catholics to organize anywhere in East Texas, and particularly in Jefferson County. From 1914 until 1926, the Ku Klux Klan of Jefferson County became a very aggressive, abbrasive and obnoxious organization, with strong "dens" or local "klaverns" in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Port Neches, and Orange. Since Port Neches Park was a central location, it tended to become their "private domain," with large crosses burning, loud speeches, and other Klan activities at regular intervals. Klan members paraded in full regalia down Pearl and Proctor Streets and controlled the county government and county offices, as a Master of Arts thesis at Lamar University so vividly portrays. One Beaumont minister professed his membership in and his advocacy of the Klan as a Christian organization in the same breath that he expressed his hatred of the Roman Catholic Church, and in December, 1922, almost open warfare broke out between the Catholics and the Klan in that city.18 The Klan there was only slightly less anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish as it was anti-Negro, and eventually, it was an alliance of the wealthy Catholic and Jewish businessmen in Beaumont that broke the back of the Klan there.
The Port Neches Klan was equally obnoxious toward the Church and the Knights of Columbus. They too regarded the park as their private enclave for Klan meetings and cross-burnings. In 1923, crank telephone calls warned Father Fred Hardy not to organize a local chapter of the Knights of Columbus, and a large stack of lumber to be used in building St. Elizabeth Church was burned, an obvious act of arson. Far from cringing in fear or one to be intimidated, Father Hardy "singed the Klan's beard." He organized the Knights on the Klan's private turf, the Port Neches Park, and when they were ready, he marched with them through the streets and to the site of the new church on Avenue B.19 And apparently his bold action paid dividends. As soon as the Klan realized that the Knights did not intend to be intimidated, the crank calls ceased and no other threats of violence occurred. So far as is known, no similar threats or acts of violence were ever committed against any Catholic church members in Nederland.
In 1986, several Port Neches elderly members of Saint Elizabeth's Church disagreed widely as to when they believed Father Fred Hardy first came to Port Neches, some saying as early as 1919, with others reporting as late as 1923. One article noted that "he was named the first pastor of St. Elizabeth Church in December, 1922."20 The writer presumes that date was when Saint Elizabeth's Church changed from mission to parish status. Eunice (Mrs. H. P.) Landry, one of the few surviving charter members, believed that Father Hardy celebrated his first Mass in the old Liberty Theater at Grigsby and Dearing Streets in December, 1921.21 Sister Mary Daniel Gregor of Houston agreed in an interview in 1981 that 1921 was the year of his arrival.22 And the writer tends to agree with both of them, for on June 8, 1922, the priest signed a sales contract to buy a two-story house (later to become the convent) and ten lots on Avenue B for $14,000. Hence, logic concludes that Father Hardy would hardly have entered into so drastic a business agreement unless he had already been present as pastor for several months.23
It could hardly have escaped Bishop Byrne's attention that the first priest in Port Neches would encounter some opposition from both the Ku Klux Klan and a local populace who feared the changes the large Acadian Catholic group of inhabitants might initiate, particularly in the field of Prohibition. Hence, the writer believes that Father Hardy's appointment as the founding priest was a matter of pragmatism as well as spirituality. Father Hardy was well-known to the writer as far back as 1926 when the latter attended C. O. Baird School, across the street from the rectory and Saint Elizabeth's Church and School; furthermore, he as well as the parishioners would vouch, not only regarding the priest's spiritual qualifications, but also for his affable nature, his soft voice and personal disposition, and the priest's unique ability to "rub upraised furs in the right direction." He had tremendous powers of persuasion with people not of the Catholic faith, yet he knew how and when to assume a resolute and opposing stance if such were needed, as with the Ku Klux Klan.
The son of Charles Hardy D'Lilsle, a French immigrant father, and Mary Elizabeth Moore, an Irish immigrant mother, Rev.Hardy had a metropolitan upbringing as well as baccalaureate degrees resulting from four years of organ and philosophic study in Vienna, Austria, and two years of piano at L'Ecole Nationale of Paris. To the delight of many Acadians, he used his perfect Parisian French to hear confessions, but most people were unaware that Father Hardy spoke flawless Viennese German as well. He made his debut at Carnegie Hall at age 25, and for five years, he sang, danced, and played the piano on Broadway. Later, he entered Saint Mary's Seminary at LaPorte in 1917 and was ordained on June 15, 1921.24 Rev. James Vanderholt noted that Father Hardy was "a priest ahead of his time -- he "out-Vaticaned" Vatican II two generations before the Council."25
In 1922 and 1923, the priest was busy building Saint Elizabeth Church, largely from second-hand lumber begged from Texaco and other sources; organizing the Knights of Columbus; petitioning the Dominican Sisters and starting Saint Catherine's School, again with borrowed and begged books and equipment. (Saint Catherine's School of Port Neches was renamed Saint Elizabeth's in 1942.) His missionary zeal, as Sister Mary Gregor noted, respected no parish boundaries, however, and as soon as he arrived in 1921, he "regularly commuted to Nederland to celebrate Mass for the Catholic people in that vicinity. Cook's Grocery in Nederland served as the church building until a little mission church was built."26 Actually, J. B. Cooke was the store manager of a firm incorporated as J. H. McNeill and Company, and Father Hardy celebrated his first Mass in Nederland on the second floor of the McNeill building, which still stands at 1164 Boston.
According to an article in East Texas Catholic, Saint Charles' mission "was started by Father Fred Hardy. . .in 1923 to serve twelve persons. In 1924 the mission was closed because of lack of support. Two years later Saint Charles' mission was reopened, successfully this time."27
The mission's name was selected from that of an Italian priest, Saint Charles Borromeo who, even though he was Bishop of Milan, devoted his time to the care of the poor and the sick, especially during one of the Black Plague epidemics. The author has a good recollection of that first wooden building since he lived only one block away from it for many years. According to deed records, Bishop C. E. Byrne purchased lot 6, block 8, of the original townsite of Nederland (at Ninth and Chicago Streets), on February 9, 1924, from Anna B. Chappelle of Illinois, and construction of the Saint Charles Borromeo Mission began immediately. That first sanctuary was a neatly-painted, white building, about thirty-two by eighty feet in size, framed with No. 117 pine siding on the exterior. It contained double doors and two windows on the front and a row of five windows on each side, spaced about ten feet apart. The church faced to the south at 904 Chicago Street, at the intersection of Ninth Street.28 A history of the Bartels family states that Elijah Bartels helped construct that first building at Ninth and Chicago, and undoubtedly a number of the charter members participated in its construction.29
A church in Port Neches and a mission in Nederland, however, were still not sufficient spiritual labor to satisfy the zealous Father Hardy. By 1928, he was off to Groves, Texas, to found the first mission of Immaculate Conception Parish and to Port Acres to found the first mission of Little Flower of Jesus Parish. He was likewise to pastor all three during their years in mission status, in addition to his labors at Saint Elizabeth's Church.30
In 1984, Sister Constance Benke offered a vivid description of Nederland's first mission priest, as follows:31
Looking back close to seventy years in retrospect, it is difficult to visualize that a parish now the largest in the diocese, with some 7,000 members, could begin with only twelve members and in 1924 had to close for a year or two for lack of support. The old wooden building was to end its days still in the service of God much as it had been when it was located at Ninth and Chicago. After the new red brick sanctuary was completed at South 27th Street and Nederland Avenue in 1938, the old building was moved to 2604 Avenue A, across the drainage ditch in back of the church, where it became the first parish school. Across the street at 2603 Avenue A, a large residence was to become Saint Charles Convent during those years that the parish school was in progress.
With the assistance of the congregation's older members, the writer has compiled a list of about 160 early families who belonged to Saint Charles' Church either before or during World War II. Sadly, a few families will have been overlooked, unintentionally of course, and for that, the writer apologizes with deep regret. Since a long list of names, however, decreases readability and reader interest, the writer has chosen to reproduce the list among the footnotes.32
If it's true that "out of the mouths of babes" come occasional gems of wisdom, then one such "gem" described Father Hardy more superbly than anything the writer could produce. One Saint Charles member, Joe Minaldi of Nederland, told the author recently of an embarrassing, yet humorous, episode that occurred at Mass during the closing years of the priest's ministry in Nederland. The exact year is not recalled, but it occurred in the early 1950's, soon after "black and white" television first reached the Sabine area, and a children's cartoon character, "Superman," was known instantaneously by the flaring of the cape he wore. Father Hardy was before the altar on one occasion, when he suddenly and hurriedly turned around, causing the lower part of his vestments to flare out in response to the swift movements. A tiny finger pointed straight ahead and the shrill voice of Minaldi's young son rang out in a manner due to create instant embarrassment:
"Look, Mommy, it's Superman!"
Mr. Minaldi observed that Father Hardy had some faults and sometimes did things his congregation did not approve of, one of which was to go to the organ and play a medley of Methodist hymns instead of the Catholic hymns of which they did approve.33 Yet, nothing could permanently mar the biography and our recollections of the man who was "a priest's priest," - whose life of Christian service to others made of Father Hardy a role model worthy of emulation by people who were not even of his faith. The writer has already mentioned his inexhaustible energy that sometimes prompted him to celebrate Mass at his parish church and all three missions on the same day. This was, of course, in addition to the time required for confessions, the Catholic schools at the various locations, as well as such auxiliary church groups as the Knights of Columbus. Lloyd Derouen noted, however, that in 1923, Mass and Confessions at Saint Charles' Church were celebrated only on alternate Sundays, and Derouen served as Saint Charles' first altar boy. Derouen also confirmed how the priest enjoyed going to the organ in the middle of Mass to play or complete a selection.34 In his biography of Father Hardy, Rev. Fr. James Vanderholt recalled that:35
There were many other positive aspects of Father Hardy's life that are virtually forgotten today. In October, 1929, a collapsed stock market quickly pushed the nation into the "Great Depression," which lasted for ten or eleven long years. Immediately area refineries began slashing pay rolls at a time when no welfare system, no surplus government commodities, and no community chest existed, and Pure Oil Company's Smith's Bluff refinery (now Unocal) laid off half its work force of 600 men in a single day in 1936. By 1930, many Midcounty families were already facing homelessness and starvation. Between 1930 and 1932, Midcounty churches banded together, under the leadership of Father Hardy in Port Neches and Rev. J. L. Ross, the Methodist minister, in Nederland, to become the only relief agency to succor the vicinity's indigent families. They begged farm produce from the Midcounty farmers, who could find no cash or barter market for their commodities, and they arranged for a truck load of freshly-slaughtered meat to arrive in Nederland weekly during those years for distribution to penniless families.36 Churches were the ONLY relief agencies from 1930 to 1932 as no branch of government made any effort to provide food or employment before 1933.
Mr. Minaldi also observed that, while W. W. Richardson was sheriff of Jefferson County during the 1930s, every homeless, abandoned, or disturbed waif at the court house ended up in Father Hardy's care until he had taken in a total of 28 boys who remained with him for extended periods of time, as well as others who remained for shorter periods. Sometimes being placed in his custody was the only alternative to reform school. Hence, Mid-Jefferson County had its own version of Father Flanagan of Nebraska as well. Around 1930, the priest owned a lot of livestock, horses, cattle, and hogs, that he let his "boys" care for. Minaldi noted as well that around 1928, while he was attending Saint Catherine's School in Port Neches, he saw a large pen of hogs in the back yard of Father Hardy's rectory.37
The Hardy biography devoted several paragraphs to Father Hardy's adopted family, some of whom carried his last name. Fr. Vanderholt added that:38
There is an October, 1926 agreement recorded at the court house wherein a widower, Nathaniel Prudhomme, transferred to Father Hardy the care and custody of his three young children, six-year-old Libby and nine and three-year-old Fred and Charles. When Libby (Elizabeth Ann Hardy) was about twelve, the priest sent her to live with his sister in Michigan, where she later married. In 1945, Libby Hardy (Mrs. J. B.) Doyle was residing in Battle Creek, Michigan; Charles T. Hardy was in the Air Force in England; and in 1957, Major Fred P. Hardy was stationed in Dayton, Ohio. His fourth legally-adopted offspring, Harry Hardy, lived in Houston.39
Lloyd Derouen recalled that Father Hardy was "a great entertainer." Fr. James Vanderholt, who has written the most comprehensive biography of that priest to date, recounted that Father Hardy:40
If the years 1929 through 1940 were lean ones for the parishioners' pockets, they were equally lean for the Saint Charles' collection plates. Father Hardy was known on occasion to walk down the ailses, taking up the collection himself.40 His unique ability, however, was his proficiency at raising funds outside the church. Joe Minaldi recalled that when he was about eighteen, the priest sent him to Port Arthur with a letter and instructions to pick up a $500 check from each of two men. Upon arriving in Christy Flanagan's (head of the stevedoring firm) office, Minaldi, confident that Father Hardy had already spoken to him on the phone, told him that he had come for the $500 check. "And," Flanagan inquired, "just why should I give a boy I never saw before a $500 check?" "Because Father Hardy said to," Minaldi responded as he handed Flanagan the letter. Minaldi returned to Nederland with checks from both Flanagan and Captain Steele. Also beginning in the 1930's, bazaars became one of the principal methods used by the Saint Charles' parishioners for raising money for the building fund and other purposes.41
Both Derouen and Minaldi recalled that Father Hardy, as well as the early Saint Charles' School sisters, were strict disciplinarians, whose very presence commanded immediate respect and obedience, especially in the school yard if a fight or other boisterous behavior were in progress. The priest was very particular that the children marched into school in formation in both the Nederland and Port Neches schools.42 Despite his stern sedateness among school children, the writer would add that the priest possessed such a soft-voiced and winsome disposition that he could literally "charm the socks" off anyone, either Protestant or Catholic.
By the late 1930's, many of the Saint Charles auxiliary societies had already been organized and were functioning, but a discussion of each of them will take place later. By 1938, Mrs. Ed Hebert was president of the Saint Charles Altar Society.43 By 1941, the Saint Charles Catholic Youth Organization was already sponsoring dances for the congregation's young people and was able to hire well-known dance bands from Beaumont for such occasions.44 The old wooden church (later to become the school) and rectory, and after 1942, the Saint Charles Convent building were in constant need of repairs and yard maintenance, and to accomplish that purpose, as well as plan for bazaars, socials, and fund-raising, Joe Minaldi and others organized the Saint Charles Parish Society.
For some time now, the writer has had difficulty accepting as fact that the first red brick sanctuary on Nederland Avenue was built in 1936, as is stated on a single-page church history. He distinctly recalls that the old wooden church at Ninth and Chicago Streets continued in use long after his arrival in Nederland in October, 1935, and Father Vanderholt's biography of Father Hardy states that the wooden church there served until 1938.45 Also, three different newspaper accounts of the fire of February 23, 1941, state either that the red brick sanctuary was "only two years old" or that it was built in 1938.46 None of the old members who were interviewed recalled the year it was built, but Tom Lee, Jr. remembered that before leaving for college in 1936, he had driven Father Hardy to see Bishop C. E. Byrne in Galveston concerning the new church. As it turned out, the 1936 date for the church was taken from the deed record, but the new building was not completed until twenty-four months later.
In 1936, Nederland Avenue was shelled solidly only to the 1600 block, and beyond that, toward the airport, there were only two thin ribbons of shell, separated by yellow bitter weeds, all the way out to Saul Trahan's dairy, near the present location of 30th Street. At that moment, Tyrrell-Combest Realty Company was developing Hillcrest No. 1 Addition, as well as building up the 2500-2600 blocks of Avenues D and E and all of Hilldale and Hillterrace Drives. When Father Hardy suggested buying vacant land at the intersection of Nederland and South 27th Street (which was "paved with grass"), it must have seemed like a mile out into the prairie, but apparently he was already aware that the State of Texas planned to concrete Nederland Avenue (in connection with the building of Highway 69 in 1938) since they had already bought highway frontage along Nederland Avenue. On November 25, 1936, Bishop C. E. Byrne bought lots 7 through 12, facing Nederland Avenue, and lots 13 through 18, facing Avenue A, all located in Block 3 of Hillcrest No. 1, from the Tyrrell-Combest Company for $750.47 While the price may sound like a bargain, even for that period of time, recall that five of the lots were rendered valueless by the twenty-foot District 7 drainage canal which passes through them, and which also would separate the church and rectory from the school and convent.
After the old wooden church was moved to 2604 Avenue A late in 1938, the writer presumes that the Dominican Sisters who taught at Saint Charles School continued to live at Saint Elizabeth Convent until suitable quarters could be obtained for them in Nederland. On February 7, 1941, only two weeks before the first brick sanctuary was destroyed by fire, Father Hardy purchased the building and lots 8 and 9, of Block 4 of Hillcrest No. 1, located at 2603 Avenue A (across from the school), from U. D. and Alta Staten for the new Saint Charles Convent.48
Without a doubt, the need for a larger church building had grown acute by 1936. With the old church's seating capacity of only about 150 persons and only one Mass each weekend, it seems probable that some worshippers may have lacked seating space at times. There was, however, some underlying cause which prevented the congregation from acting immediately to build on the newly-acquired church property, and a second guess is hardly needed to realize that a substantial amount of money, perhaps $6,000 or $8,000, had to be raised first. Hence, for the next eighteen months, every appropriate means of fund-raising, including bazaars, personal pledges, and public donations, had to be solicited in order to reach some stipulated amount.
On June 1, 1938, the Saint Charles building committee, consisting of Ed Hebert, chairman; Sam Hayes, Pat C. Tynan, and Dan Harkins, announced that building materials were on the premises, and construction of the new 300-seat brick sanctuary would begin on June 15.49 The year 1938 was one during which millions of red fire bricks were torn out of and salvaged from the old dismantled coke stills in the area refineries. There seems a good possibility that Father Hardy may have appropriated a sufficient number of used brick to build the new church, but the writer has been unable to confirm that assumption from a number of the older members. The new sanctuary's architect was Douglas Steinman, Jr. of Beaumont, and the contractor was William Seale and Company. Apparently, the building committee were so well satisfied with the contractor's work that within three days of the fire that destroyed that church on February 23, 1941, they also awarded the rebuilding contract to William Seale and Company.50
By the middle of October of 1938, the exterior and interior construction was about completed, leaving the final month devoted primarily to installation of the altar, organ, pews, and similar fixtures. By November 15, the building committee announced that Sunday, November 27th, 1938, would be the dedication Sunday and would be the most gala religious observance for Nederland's Catholics ever witnessed up until that year. It is still unknown how much money the church borrowed for construction costs, but when the church burned two years later, the building indebtedness was still $6,000.51
PART D: A NEW CHURCH AND SUBSEQUENT DISASTER
On Sunday, November 27th, the Very Rev. C. E. Byrne, Bishop of Galveston arrived in Nederland at an early hour for the day's events. A newspaper account stated that "hundreds of Catholics of the Sabine area Sunday braved piercing cold winds to attend the dedication of the new St. Charles Church." The day's activities began at 8:00 A. M., with Mass and Communion for the congregation. At 10:00 A. M., Bishop Byrne laid the cornerstone and blessed the church, but the dedicatory service scheduled for the outside was curtailed and brought inside due to the severity of the weather. The bishop's dedicatory address centered principally around the Catholic schools and "the part they have in keeping the nation free."
Solemn High Mass was then celebrated by Rt. Rev. Monsignor James Kirwin, assisted by Frs. Juan Arana and - Fernandez, all of Port Arthur. At noon, the bishop, the clergy, and Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Phelan, donors of the new altar, were guests at a dinner in the rectory. At 3:00 P. M., seventy children and adults were confirmed by Bishop Byrne, which certainly indicated the strides of membership growth that Saint Charles' Church was experiencing in 1938.
Other program participants included the building committee (which by November included Dan Barras and Louis Castille), the Saint Charles Altar Society, the Knights of Columbus of Port Neches, and Boy Scout Troop 52. The newspaper account added that:52
The joys of that Sunday were short-lived, however, for on another Sunday night two years later, the new $15,000 sanctuary caught fire and was totally destroyed. The interior was thoroughly gutted, leaving only the scorched and blackened brick front and jagged sidewalls. The fire began at about 9:30 P. M. on February 23, 1941, while Father Hardy was asleep in the rectory. The Port Neches and Beaumont fire departments fought the blaze, which was very advanced by the time they arrived, and the firemen were still hosing down and cleaning up the debris at 2:00 A. M. the next morning. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it began in the rear of the church where, according to Joe Minaldi, some Christmas decorations were stored. Although arson was suspected at first, the fire chief decided it was the result of faulty wiring in his final decision. The total loss was estimated at $15,000.53
The following afternoon, the church's building committee met and awarded a rebuilding contract to William Seale and Company, who had also been the original builder. There was an insurance policy written on the structure for $6,000, but the insurance was barely enough to pay off the building's indebtedness. The most amazing thing was that the church was able to rebuild immediately. Before the brick church was built in 1938, members spent a year and a half raising funds (Nov. 1936 to June 1938), and following the second fire of 1953, it was almost a year before the congregation could rebuild.54
Workers began clearing the blackened bricks and debris on March 17, 1938, and exactly eight weeks later, the new sanctuary was ready for use. The contractor had built the original church in 1938 for $14,000, less fixtures, but the new contract was for $16,000 to allow for changes and cost increases. On March 31, the Saint Charles Catholic Youth Organization met to discuss their options for raising money for the building fund.55
Only two months from the time the cleanup began, the new Saint Charles Church was dedicated for a second time in two years, but on the second occasion, the Very Rev. C. E. Byrne, Bishop of Galveston, did not attend. Instead and acting in the bishop's behalf, the Right Rev. Monsignor James Kirwin of Port Arthur blessed the church and celebrated Solemn High Mass at 10:30 A. M. on Sunday, May 19, 1941, assisted by Father Juan Arana of Port Arthur, with Father Bauer of San Antonio serving as deacon, Father Fernandez of Port Arthur as sub-deacon, and Father J. M. Notzan of Groves as master of ceremonies. One newspaper article noted that:56
Monsignor Kirwin and Father Hardy were classmates at St. Mary's Seminary in Laporte and were destined to enjoy a lifelong personal friendship. The new church was also designed to seat about 300 persons. The 1941 membership of Saint Charles Church can only be estimated, but it appears that somewhere between one hundred and 125 families, or about 500 persons, were enrolled as members.
A few months later, the attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was to plunge this nation into World War II, and life in Nederland and at Saint Charles Church were to undergo rapid changes as well. In 1939, soon after the brick church was built, Saint Charles was elevated from mission to parish status. Father Hardy then gave up the pastorate of Saint Elizabeth's Church in order to become the first pastor of Saint Charles Parish. In 1940, Nederland, Texas, was still quite a country town (having just voted to incorporate), with a population in that year's census of 1,400. Nederland's young men began leaving town for the service rapidly, until about 500 of the town's residents were called to duty, of whom sixty or seventy were from Saint Charles Church. Two young men, Henry Broussard and Clarence Peterson, from Saint Charles were killed in the war, and undoubtedly several more were wounded. The writer has almost no information on the contributions of the Saint Charles Parish servicemen during that war. However, two of them, Tom Lee, Jr. and Zanet Matte, served as Army Air Corps pilots, eventually being promoted respectively to the ranks of lieutenant-colonel and colonel. Matte was shot down in France during combat, but survived. Joe Thorp was commissioned an officer in Armored Force and served in a tank or armored division. Peterson was an infantryman who was killed in Eastern France on December 3, 1944, and is buried near Paris. Rayford Guzardo was shot down over Europe and remained a German prisoner for many months. There were many more who deserve mention here, and the writer apologizes that space will not permit further elaboration.
The decade of the 1940s can be divided into two parts locally, the first half (1941-1945) being the war years, and the second half (1946-1950) being the "building years." From 1942 until 1944, there were 10,000 defense workers who were building the Port Neches rubber complex, and a shortage of housing there forced many of them to live in Nederland. Hence, a temporary membership increase, composed of defense workers, replaced the young men of Saint Charles Parish who had left to fight the war. And as the servicemen began returning home in 1945, the defense workers left for their permanent abodes elsewhere. Between 1946 and 1950, several new residential subdivisions opened up until Nederland's 1950 population reached 3,800, an increase in that decade of 2,400 people. Saint Charles Parish picked up many new members as well until, by 1950, its membership rolls tallied up to about 250 families. It could probably be said that the Saint Charles Parish finances increased accordingly, as unemployment dwindled almost to zero, and even after the war ended, unemployment still remained extremely low as the Jefferson County oil, chemical, and shipbuilding industries flourished. The decade ot the 1950s were likewise the "building years" as well, as hundreds of new homes continued to be built in Nederland and dozens more of new families joined Saint Charles Catholic Church.
Father Hardy and Saint Charles Parish, however, were destined to undergo one more encounter with the destructive fire demon. On Monday afternoon, March 23, 1953, the priest left the class he was teaching in Saint Charles School about 3:00 P. M. and returned to the rectory for an afternoon nap. About 4:30 P. M. some one banged on his rectory door at a time when his bedroom was already filling up with smoke. The priest, who was a heavy sleeper, managed to slip on his trousers and escape, only to discover that high flames were once more racing through the roof of the church.
Nederland and Port Neches fire trucks fought the blaze for one hour while police rerouted traffic along Nederland Avenue. Firemen were severely handicapped because the nearest fire plug was three blocks away, and later a hose extending to a second fire plug was eight blocks long. Total damage was about $50,000, and the cause of the fire was undetermined although some thought it was spontaneous conbustion. New material that had been ordered for Easter, along with a new electric organ, the altar, and most of the church fixtures and equipment were destroyed. Women from the Saint Charles Altar Society had worked all morning in the church, cleaning, waxing, polishing, and preparing for the upcoming Easter services.
Port Neches fire chief Leroy Cormier was slightly injured and barely escaped death when he fell beneath a fire truck being driven by his brother, Nederland fire chief Johnny Cormier. A $25,000 insurance policy on the church covered about half of the fire loss. At the time of the fire, a church recreation building was under construction on parish property on Avenue A at the rear of the church.57
Immediately the building committee, chaired by Tom Lee, Jr., set up a $50,000 building budget for replacing the church, with half of that amount to be raised by personal pledges and bazaars. Father Hardy and his assistant, Father Joseph Schneider, celebrated Mass each Sunday thereafter at 6:00, 7:30, and 9:00 A. M. in the parish school on Avenue A. Construction plans went ahead on the parish hall in order that it might be utilized in lieu of the church until such time as a new sanctuary could be built.58
By April 1, 1953, a pledge committee of 37 members, under the auspices of Father Schneider, began making personal contacts with the members in an effort to raise $25,000 over a two-year period. Pledges could be paid at once or in up to two years, and no sanctuary construction would be undertaken until "the full amount" was pledged. The committee soliciting pledges included as follows: John Tillie, A. W. Sattler, A. L. Fruge, Mike Halphen, Joe Concienne, Jr., Mrs. Lewis Hilley, Mrs. Eddie Broussard, M. A. Cloutman, Firman Domec, Mrs. A. T. Theriot, R. E. Duplant, and Mrs. L. A. Broussard.
Others included Jack Maugans, Joe Thorp, Tom Wooten, Mrs. Paul Viator, Nick Cuccia, Joe Dickinson, Joe Concienne, Sr., Carl LeBlanc, W. P. Patin, Ambrose Richard, Mrs. Tony Terracina, Adam Devillier, L. E. Sherman, Wilson Hanks, J. D. Stark, Ed Laperruque, Dennis Pousson, T. J. Bernard, C. C. Bernard, C. C. Bridges, Thomas Lee, J. J. Kearney, Thomas Moore, Joe Minaldi, and Joe Cessac. Pledge cards were available at Minaldi Shoe Store, Model Cafe, and Tom and Skeeter Cafeteria.59
PART E: THE 'PHOENIX' RISES AGAIN
"Like the Phoenix of ancient mythology," so one newspaper article reported in September, 1953, "Saint Charles Catholic Church of Nederland will rise again from its own ashes." Father Hardy announced that construction bids were being received by Douglas Steinman, Jr., architect, for the building to be fifty feet wide, ten feet wider than the old church, and ninety-six feet long, with a seating capacity fo 396 persons. The old church had pews for only 280 people. The exterior of the new church would be a stucco finish over brick and hollow tile, whereas plans for the interior called for semi-finish tile.60 Nevertheless, it would be another six months before actual construction would begin. By September, 1953, Masses were being celebrated in the parish recreation hall.
After a three-months construction period, the new Saint Charles Church, built in Spanish Mission style, was ready for occupancy in the first week of May, 1954. Windows of the white stucco church were trimmed in pale blue, and the doors were made of California redwood. The sanctuary floors were terrazzo, and the pews were manufactured of solid oak. Statues for the church were hand-carved and imported from Germany, whereas the altar was constructed by A. L. Fruge, patterned on Father Hardy's personal designs.
Architect for the new building was Charles Sullivan of Houston, with D. E. Steinman of Beaumont as consulting architect. Winter King and Son of Beaumont was contractor for the $55,000 sanctuary, the cost of which, with fixtures, was expected to reach about $62,000. After the church dedication on May 23, 1954, the building then in use for church services would be completely converted into the parish recreation hall.61 On May 15, 1954, however, the annual Saint Charles Spring Carnival and May Bazaar would get under way with the crowning of a queen, with all proceeds going to the building committee.
Saturday's events began in the new parish Recreational Hall with a "gala ball," featuring the music of the Neches Valley Boys. On Saturday afternoon, a queen was to be selected from among seven contestants. During the afternoon the queen and her court were to be introduced and feted, and on Sunday, May 16, a barbecue dinner, touted as "the best ever served in the county," was to be served.62
Selected as queen on May 15 was Eldora Fruge, age 16, whose escort was Raymond Doucet. She was crowned by Walter "Buddy" Davis, Nederland's Olympic high jump champion and gold medal winner. Other candidates and their escorts were Patricia Ann Guidry and Benford Moore, Lynn Ann Lee and Jack Pelloat, Iona McGuire and John Tyler, Shirley Ann Baron and Lynn Concienne, Cynthia Cuccia and Larry Minaldi, and Phyllis Ann Robin and Bob Semons.63 Entertainment for the program was provided by tap dancers Ann Semons, LaJuanda Gebauer, and Donna Fruge, with Linda Bernard and Fruge performing ballet dances as well. Vocal and trumpet soloes were furnished by Ralph Dowden and Ferguste Decuir.63a
Following the early Mass on Dedication Sunday, May 23rd, the sanctuary was locked until the exterior of the church was blessed. The dedicatory sermon was delivered by the Very Rev. Vincent Harris, Chancellor of the Diocese of Galveston. Following the blessing of the interior, Father Joseph Schneider was celebrant of the 10:00 A. M. Mass, with a special choir and Father Hardy, organist, assisting. Father Schneider said that the church netted about $7,500 to be applied to the church debt.64
Joe Minaldi recalled many such bazaar weekends under Fathers Hardy and William Brooks. He added that the C. Doornbos family always furnished the meat for the bazaar, and the Beaumont Rice Mill furnished the rice. On one such weekend, when about $15,000 in cash had been raised, Father Brooks said to Minaldi, "Joe, what are we going to do with all this money?" Joe said, "Put it in the bank!" The priest asked, "How?" "Let's go get Eunice Bourg," Joe responded. "She has a key and can put it in the Port Neches bank." On another bazaar occasion, when Father Brooks was in a prankish mood and the cashiers were tallying up the day's receipts, an intruder, wearing an old hat, with a bandana handkerchief covering his face and pointing on old gun, bellowed out, "Stick 'em up!" John Tillie responded instantly, "Aw, come on, Father. I like your old hat. Where'd you get it?" It was the priest's old fishing hat.65
By 1956, Father Fred Hardy was already 68 years of age and entering his thirty-fifth year of ministry in Mid-Jefferson County. Doctors had already diagnosed and were treating his serious heart problem, and they advised him to retire. He preached what he called his "last sermon" in Nederland on May 26, 1956.66
Following a period of recuperation at Saint Mary's Hospital in Port Arthur, Father Hardy resided in his new rectory at 307 Avenue B in Port Neches that his former parishioners had built for him. And for the next year and a half, he served as chaplain to the Dominican Sisters of Saint Elizabeth's Convent, with whom he had worked so closely for so many years of his life. At 6:30 A. M. on November 7, 1957, he was found dead in his bed, an apparent victim of the heart ailment that had plagued his health for so many months. His funerary request was to be buried beside his parents in the Hardy family plot in Jackson, Michigan.
The following Monday, the Right Rev. Monsignor James Kirwin of Port Arthur was the celebrant of the Solemn Requiem Memorial Mass in Nederland at which Father Hardy's successor, Rev. Fr. William Brooks, served as deacon, Rev. Fr. J. P. Hickey as sub-deacon, and Rev. Fr. Joseph Koedel, assistant pastor of Saint Anthony's Church, was master of ceremonies. A number of area priests sang the Requiem Mass, and following the Mass, the body was shipped to Michigan for final services and interment.67
The death of Father Fred B. Hardy marked a milestone in the progress of the Catholic faith in Mid-Jefferson County, Texas. He had seen Saint Charles Church grow from its original twelve members to an enrollment of 350 families or about 1,400 members at the time of his retirement. Thousands of others mourned his passing as well, as the members of St. Elizabeth's, Immaculate Conception Parish in Groves, and Little Flower of Jesus Parish in Port Acres remembered him as the founder of their churches as well. Hundreds of others outside his faith considered him as a personal friend. The death of Father Hardy put to rest for all time the rumors that he was a wealthy man. According to Joe Minaldi, although he had had wealthy parents who lavished money upon him in his youthful days, the priest had given all of his personal substance to the church, the needy, and his children, leaving his estate with barely enough to cover funeral expenses.68
PART F: ST. CHARLES SCHOOL AND THE DOMINICAN SISTERS
(The writer disclaims any credit for the preservation of St. Charles School history except for minor items he will make note of later. Instead both he and the St. Charles congregation owe a large debt of gratitude to Sister Sheila Hackett, O. P., for her extensive and tedious research before writing her Dominican Women in Texas. The verbatim quotes which follow from her book are enclosed in quotation marks W. T. Block)
The Dominican Sisters' first contact with Saint Charles School dated to the year 1930, according to Sr. Hackett.69 On an earlier page, the author quoted an interview of Sr. Hackett with Sister Mary Daniel Gregor who described her accompanying Father Hardy to Nederland at a much earlier date in order to give instruction to about fifty childlren. The direct quotes from Sr. Hackett begin here:
"Soon after Father Hardy became the resident pastor of the newly-created St. Charles Borromeo Parish in 1937, the people purchased land and erected a brick church building.....The little mission church building they moved to the parish property and renovated it to serve as a school. A small cottage which was situated across the street from the school, they refurbished to serve as a convent for the sisters who would teach in the future school. The renovated cottage contained three bedrooms, a refectory, parlor, kitchen, and a screened-in back porch....."70
"When Father Hardy opened the school in Nederland, he again turned to the Dominican Sisters for help. Mother Angela O'Kane appointed Sister Louis Mangan, superior and principal, and Sisters Irene Larkin and Ignatius Bellew to assist her in the new school, St. Charles Borromeo. On September 5, 1939, about sixty students registered in grades one through six. The school had three large classrooms, but there were no funds to purchase desks or other school furnishings. Books, though many years out of date, were collected to meet the immediate need, and about seventy badly-damaged desks were likewise collected. Gradually new desks began to appear, and an unidentified friend of the pastor provided the needed text books. The teachers were eager for the school to succeed, and the students were happy, contented, and reasonably anxious to learn. During the rainy seasons, the children could not go outside. Nothing was paved and the area quickly became a swamp. 'The children,' Sister Louis write, 'never complained, but seemed to enjoy all the difficulties that presented themselves.'"71
"The pastor...taught music in the school and scripture to the Catholic students who attended the public school. By the end of the year (1939) about 126 students had registered at St. Charles School."
"The St. Charles students presented their first program on October 31, 1939. Admission was five cents for children and fifteen cents for adults. The students realized five dollars for their school and a further $6.50 for the same purpose from their Christmas program. Mrs. Bordages from Beaumont many times accompanied the children on the piano during their performances. She was kept especially busy at the school musician during the years her daughter, Sister Raphael Bordages, was assigned there....."72
"In addition to teaching in the parish school and giving religious instruction to the children of the parish who attended the public school system, the sisters...also trained the altar boys, took care of the liturgical vestments and prepared the altar and vestments for all liturgical ...celebrations. The arrival of Sister Elizabeth Weinbach in September, 1941, as an assistant sister was a welcome relief to the household. She was responsible for cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, and the general maintenance of the convent. It quickly became a Sunday tradition to bake Father Hardy his favorite lemon pie....."73
"When Sister Louis left St. Charles, Father Hardy requested that Sister Regina Owens...be transferred from the position of principal at Saint Elizabeth School to principal of Saint Charles School. His request was granted....."74
"During the summer of 1940, a classroom was added to the school and 160 students registered on September 5 for grades one through six. Three sisters were assigned to St. Charles and Father Hardy and Mrs. J. Vice were listed as the sixth grade teachers....At that time the kindergarten and seventh grade were also introduced. Mrs. Bourque taught the first grade and Father Hardy the seventh.....In 1943 the eighth grade was added, but the enrollment did not increase, and the eighth grade was dropped two years later."75
"During the mid-1940s and 1950s...Father Hardy procured a bus to transport the children to school free of charge. At the same time so many families could not pay tuition that to help defray expenses, Father Hardy had to charge ten cents a day to ride the bus. Again there were not enough desks....The boys went to the local grocery store and collected (wooden) boxes. Some they used as desks and others as chairs."
"One of Sister Raphael's jobs while at St. Charles was to mow the convent lawn. The lawn mower belonged to Father Hardy and was...'hand and foot-powered.' Only once did she neglect to return it on time. During Sunday Mass, Father Hardy announced the loss of the mower and continued to talk about it until Sister Raphael raised her hand and confessed that she had it....."76
In May, 1954, according to Sister Mary Benignus, principal, diplomas were handed out to the graduating class of ten students. They included Margaret Pousson, Don Gard, Charles Dowd, Rowland Derouen, Earline and Shirley Chaisson, Judith Ann Hanks, Eula Maxwell, Frances Mayer, and Melba Patin. The graduates were feted and honored with a breakfast at Tom and Skeeters by the Mothers' Club.77
The Saint Charles Mothers' Club funtioned much like the Parent-Teacher Association in the public schools and often assisted in classes. During their 1954 nominating meeting, the following members were elected: Mrs. William Naizer, president; Mrs. M. D. Phillips, vice president; Mrs. T. J. Bernard, secretary; Mrs. E. P. Nesom, treasurer; Mrs. R. Hayes, publicity director; Mrs. Nick Cuccia, parliamentarian; Mrs. Fred Gebauer, party chairman; and Mrs. F. Domec, telephone chairman.78
Sr. Hackett continued: "St. Charles Parish continued to grow and a beautiful, three-winged school was built in 1962. Located between Twenty-Seventh Street and Hardy Avenue, it contained twelve class rooms, a library, principal's office, and teachers' lounge. But the funds were exhausted before needed educational materials and equipment had been purchased. A very active group of mothers (St. Charles Mothers' Club) promised a Halloween family night of food, fun, and foolishness. The evening was a financial success, and the funds raised were used to purchased educational materials for the school children. During the 1965-1966 academic year, there were 318 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, but there were only thirteen students in grade seven and fifteen in grade eight. Father Brooks, the pastor, believed that those numbers in grades seven and eight did not warrant two teachers. He dropped both grades in September, 1967, and the enrollment plummeted to 220. In June, 1967, ground was broken for a new church and rectory, and in June, 1968, the parish school closed."
"From 1968 on, there were no Dominican Sisters at St. Charles, until Sister Edna Marie Madden went there in 1976 as coordinator of the religious education program. In 1985 Sisters Justin Farinella and Rita Marie Owens served as directors of religious education in the parish. Sister Justin worked with the four-year-old through sixth grade students, and Sister Rita Marie with the junior high and high school students. Both sisters trained catechists and worked with parents in sacramental and other adult religious education programs. Well in excess of one hundred catechists and more then twenty auxiliary volunteer personnel worked in the program. The enrollment in 1985 reached about 850 students."79
Thanks to Sr. Sheila Hackett, the story of Saint Charles School and of the Dominican Sisters will not be lost. In writing the parish history, it would be so easy to neglect or diminish the worth and important work done over the years by that selfless and self-effacing sisterhood known to us as the Dominican Sisters. Yet every priest would vouch for the fact that their measure of devotion in providing religious and secular education is actually and truly immeasurable. The names of some of them are recalled and recorded in this manuscript, but the names, ministries, and religious exertions of many others, much like the Unknown Soldier, are known only to God and are unheralded except in Heaven.
PART G: THE PASTORATE OF FATHER WILLIAM BROOKS
The shoes of Father Fred B. Hardy would be difficult shoes to fill under any circumstances, for two generations of Nederland Catholics (350 families), except for those who had resided elsewhere, had never known any other priest. And the first thing a new priest undergoes, however unfair it may be, is immediate comparison with his predecessor(s). Father Hardy had been a superbly-talented speaker, organist, singer, fund-raiser, organizer, and social mixer. Yet, his successor, Rev. Fr. William Brooks, was able to fill those shoes, and to do it so well that his pastorate lasted nineteen years, and the parish recreation center (Brooks Hall) was soon to bear his name.
Father Hardy preached his last sermon on May 27, 1956, and interim priests from Port Arthur filled the vacant pastorate until the arrival of Father Brooks on June 17th. In the meantime, other parish activities were continuing to function at a normal pace. On May 31, 1956, the Saint Charles Mothers' Club gave a barbeque at the recreation hall in support of its candidate, Beverly Hanks, for queen of the annual bazaar. Tickets sold for 75 cents each.80 This was the last of the fund-raising activity prior to the bazaar on June 23rd.
The Saint Charles Parish annual bazaar of 1956 was one of the many congregational efforts under Father Brooks to raise money for the building fund or parish indebtedness, and it climaxed four months of activities in support of each of four candidates for queen. Mrs. Fred Gebauer was chairman of the queen's contest, and Joe Minaldi was president of the Saint Charles Parish Society, which sponsored the annual event. Gordon Baxter, a well-known radio and newspaper personality, was scheduled to be master of ceremonies of the queen's ball in the recreation hall, where the previous year's winner, Beverly Stephens, would crown her successor, and Bill Abel's band from Port Arthur would provide the dance music. Queen candidates were as follows: Faye Hartner, sponsored by the St. Agnes Group; Leatrice Quibideaux, sponsored by the St. Margaret's Group; Loretta Koonce, sponsored by the St. Anne's Group; and Beverly Hanks, sponsored by the Mothers' Club.
Beverly Hanks was crowned queen of the 1956 annual bazaar and was escorted by Jerry Smith. Loretta Koonce was the runner-up. Altogether, the Saturday night Queen's Ball and the Sunday bazaar netted $12,000 for the building fund.82
Rev. Father William Brooks assumed his duties as Saint Charles Parish priest on June 17, 1956. He was a native of Waco and Austin, who came to Nederland from All Saints Church in Houston. Earlier he had been assistant pastor of Saint Mary's Church in Port Arthur for three years.83 On May 12, 1945, eleven years prior to his arrival in Nederland, Father Brooks was ordained in the Chapel of St. Mary's Seminary in LaPorte by Bishop C. E. Byrne of the Galveston Diocese. One article noted that Fr. Brooks "was the last to be ordained who graduated from St. Mary's High School in LaPorte."84
Father Brooks' nineteen-year pastorate in Nederland spanned a period of years during which Nederland's population skyrocketed from 5,000 people in 1955 to 16,000 in 1970, so it should come as no surprise that the priest witnessed an ever-spiraling membership, and with it a skyrocketing volume of confessions, confirmations, baptisms, marriages, and funerals. During his long stay here, Saint Charles' membership quadrupled from 350 families to about 1,400 families. Even with a seating capacity of 396 persons, it seems plausible that Saint Charles Church was already experiencing cramped quarters. Father Brooks quickly announced his summer schedule, which included daily Masses at 7:30 A. M. and Sunday Masses at 6:00, 7:30 and 9:00 A. M.85
Jimmy Gard recalled that Father Brooks was very well-liked, had a great sense of humor, yet was a strict disciplinarian around the school children. It was he who initiated the wearing of uniforms in 1962 by the Saint Charles School children. Mr. Gard remembered that Fr. Brooks often went hunting or fishing with Monsignor N. Enderle, and he built a small smoke house in back of the rectory, where he cured his deer meat, squirrels, quail and other game. Gard recalled as well that Father Brooks was very dedicated to his calling and his congregation, and on occasion celebrated Mass when he was too sick to do so and needed to be in bed.
Gard also remembered when the priest and Monsignor Enderle got lost while on a long boat trip near Florida, they had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. On another occasion, Fr. Brooks returned from a hunting trip and placed a paper sack on the rectory kitchen cabinet, instructing his housekeeper, a black lady named Ruby, to cook it. Upon emptying the sack, the housekeeper discovered a dead, four-foot rattlesnake, which prompted Ruby to utter some unprintable language, and she notified the priest to keep rattlesnakes out of her kitchen in the future. Eating rattlesnake meat was a popular fad in West Texas around 1960, and the meat, either canned or frozen, commanded luxury prices. Mr. Gard also added that Father Brooks was also a good guitar player, who loved to play and sing Western songs.86
The story of Father Brooks' pastorate perhaps can be told best through the statements of two former assistant priests, Fathers Michael Jamail and James Dempsey, who served in Nederland between 1960 and 1966. Both of them now fill important assignments in the Diocese of Beaumont, Fr. Jamail as Holy Family Retreat Center director and Fr. Dempsey as chaplain of St. Elizabeth Hospital. Father Jamail's statement follows verbatim:
"I was assigned to St. Charles Parish, Nederland, a few days after I was ordained a priest in May, 1960. I arrived in mid-June. Father Brooks had been a young associate priest at my home parish in Houston, St. Vincent de Paul, when I was in grammar school; so I knew him prior to my assignment as his associate."
"I will never forget the day I arrived, a Sunday afternoon. I came a week early as he wanted to get in a little fishing trip with his old buddy, Father Nestor Enderle, before having minor surgery. When I drove up in the driveway behind the old church, he was getting ready to pull out with his boat behind his old station wagon. He showed me where the key to the tabernacle was hidden in the church (we never locked it in those days), told me to sleep in his bed until some of the men finished building a room for me on the side of the house, smiled and waved as he and Father Enderle drove off. I did not have the slightest idea of what to do, but I had plenty of help from the ladies of the altar society, and from the men of the parish society who were building my room onto the side of the rectory."
"Father Brooks created a home for me at Saint Charles and encouraged me to be creative in ministry for the people, especially the children and teenagers. The parishioners were the warmest, friendliest people I had ever known. Their hospitality has never been surpassed in all my subsequent assignments; whenever, over these past 31 years, I have returned to St. Charles Parish, it has always been like coming home."
"I was reared in Houston and had never lived among the French Acadian people. From the beginning of my assignment in Nederland, I knew I wanted to remain in Southeast Texas for the rest of my priesthood. I wanted to share the Cajun culture which had received me so generously and so lovingly as a young priest. When the area was split off from the Houston-Galveston Diocese and made an independent diocese, the Diocese of Beaumont, I was a very happy man just to have been transferred back to this area, to know that I would spend the rest of my life as a priest of Southeast Texas. And it all began for me with my first assignment as a priest of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Nederland. A priest's first assignment is the most important assignment of his life since it is his introduction to the priesthood ministry. I was given the best first assignment that a priest could have."
"I am writing this statement in my office at Holy Family Retreat Center, where I am presently assigned as director. As I look out my window at the beautiful grounds and buildings, I remember that the people of Saint Charles Parish were among the strongest contributors to build our retreat center. Whenever they come here for a retreat or program, I am pleased to make them feel 'at home,' just as they offered me a home so many years ago."87
After Father Jamail's departure from Nederland in 1962, he was soon replaced by Rev. Fr. James Dempsey, who remained at Saint Charles Church until he was reassiged in Beaumont. Jimmy Gard remembered Fr. Dempsey as the 'cowboy' priest, who loved to ride horseback and whose large dog Juno often would be scratching on the sacristy door while his master celebrated Mass.88 Father Dempsey's statement begins as follows:
"I was assigned to Saint Charles Parish in June of 1962. Fr. William Brooks was the pastor, a kind and understanding man. Fr. Brooks was very popular and was known throughout south and mid-Jefferson County for his wisdom, counsel, and understanding. He was very supportive of the spiritual and education programs that I wanted to introduce into the parish. The Cursillo Movement and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine were going in full force in Houston, and I was anxious to begin them at St. Charles Parish."
"The brand new Saint Charles Grade School was opened the first year I was at Saint Charles. We moved from a wooden school building into a brand new brick complex. About that time, the medical community opened Mid-Jefferson County Hospital. I had the pleasure of visiting sick Catholics patients from surrounding parishes at that hospital."
"The people in Nederland were very hard-working people. I was very impressed by the many skills that the laboring men possessed. These skills were learned in their union apprentice programs, where they really learned their crafts. These men were masters of all trades, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, bricklayers, and welders. They were able to do everything well. I found out later that they were much in demand whenever they left the midcounty area and entered the 'workaday world.' They were quickly hired."
"In addition to their skills in the work place, they were determined to have strong families. Their dedication to their families was exemplary. St. Charles Parish was my home for four years, and I remember it with fond memories. I was then assigned to St. Anne's Parish in Beaumont in May of 1966."89
By January 1, 1962, it was obvious that Saint Charles School on Avenue A could no longer accommodate an enrollment of 300 students in the old outdated and antiquated wooden building. The Nederland newspaper of January 11th carried the architect's (Julian and White of San Antonio) drawing of the proposed new school, for which ground-breaking ceremonies were scheduled for the following week. The school was to be built at the intersection of Hardy Avenue at South 27th Street, on the ten acre tract that Father Hardy had purchased prior to the building of the recreation hall in 1953.90
The building committee signed a contract for $195,000 with Foster Brothers of Port Arthur for the brick, three-wing building, estimated to require seven months to build. Construction was to be of brick and hollow tile, with a built-up gravel roof, twin-deck laminated roof supports, and steel and aluminum door and window facing. The school was to contain twelve classrooms, library, principal's office, and teachers' lounge. By April, 1962, the foundations and columns were finished, and work was progressing on the roof and sidewalls.91
By the end of August, 1962, the building was completed, but other technicalities kept the school from opening before September 10th. As Sister Justin recalled, school funds were exhaused. Eventually a Halloween bazaar by the Mothers' Club was held and was financially a success for raising the funds needed for educational materials. In September, 1962, the enrollment was over 300 students, and a uniform dress code was established. Smaller girls were to wear jumper-type dresses, while their older sisters would wear polka-dot skirts and white blouses to be "made of a cheerful green and white plaid." Boys wore khaki trousers with brown-and-white checked shirts.
Fr. Brooks had discontinued school busing, and each family became responsible for its own transportation. As of 1962, Sister Germaine was principal, with Sisters Ignatius, Maria Ghoretti, Magdelen and five lay teachers comprised the teaching staff. Fathers Brooks and Dempsey supervised the school and taught some religious classes.92 By 1967 the seventh and eighth grades were dropped because of a shortage of students, and coupled with tuition increases, the enrollment plummeted to 220. Although Father Brooks wanted to keep the school open, it was decided that it must either close or be self-supporting. All classes were discontinued in June, 1968.93
The church's auxiliary organizations flourished during Father Brooks' pastorate. One of them was the Saint Charles' girls volley ball team. In 1962, the twenty girls of St. Charles' "A" team tied for second place in the Sabine Area Volley Ball League. On March 1, the mothers of the team feted their daughters to a "turkey and trimmings banquet for the awards night affair," where the team members received green and white letters with the school initials. Nine girls of the "A" team were also awarded "silver volley ball charms" in addition to their letters.94
In 1962 the Saint Charles Catholic Youth Organization was equally as active as it had been during the 1930s. At the installation of officers banquet in October, Father Dempsey installed the following officers: Mike Collins, president; Paul Decuir, vice president; Rose Marie Edwards, secretary; James Rogers, treasurer; Carolyn van Oostrom, parliamentarian; Amaya Carpenter, social chairman; Jo Ann Devillier and James Stark, physicial chairmen; Sandra Merrell, spiritual chairman; and Sandra Tillie as telephone chairman.95
Another major auxiliary unit to organize under Father Brooks was the Saint Charles Council #5145 of Knights of Columbus. James Gard, a charter member, has graciously written the following history of the council, which is quoted verbatim as follows:
"The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic, family, fraternal, service organization of Catholic men. Founded by Father Michael McGivney of New Haven, Connecticut in 1892 with the purpose of caring for the widows and orphans of its members, it is composed of over 10,000 councils."
"In the summer of 1960, a group of men, composed of Walter Boudreaux, District Deputy of the 34th District of the Knights of Columbus; Pat Tynan, Insurance Field Agent of the Knights of Columbus; Preston Cessac, and Tom Lee, Jr., St. Charles Parish members, held a meeting with Father William Brooks with the purpose of forming a Knights of Columbus Council within the Parish. St. Charles Parish already had two men's organizations, the Ushers' Society and the Holy Name Society. Father Brooks realized that the Knights would draw most of its members from those groups, but he gave his blessings anyway."
"The necessary forms were sent to the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, Connecticut. The charter was granted, and on Mothers' Day, May 14, 1961, the Nederland Knights of Columbus #5145 became a Knights of Columbus Council under the direction of Robert Parsons, State Deputy of the State of Texas Knights of Columbus of Kilgore, Texas."
"There were ninety charter members, most of them coming from the Port Neches Council, which is the Mother Council for Nederland as well as the Groves Council. The charter Knights coming from Port Neches were as follows: Frank Cuccia, James Spence, W. C. Pousson, E. J. Wielicka, Melvin Pruitt, C. J. Schexnaider, Jr., John Theriot, Gene Hardy, Felix Quebedeaux, G. R. Olivier, Austin Sattler, Tom Lee, Jr., W. W. Briggs, Horace Cessac, Paul Domec, Ambrose Richard, Rev. William Brooks, Frank Tuohy, Rev. R. A. Tynan, S. J.; A. B. Adams, Dennis Pousson, Walter Ross, J. R. LeBleu, R. Menchaca, Sr., Joe Concienne, Sr., George Bordonaro, Haden Bourg, John Wise, Rex Rowley, L. J. Hardy, Jr., Robert Sawyer, Marcelle Domingue, Joe Minaldi, Nick Cuccia, John Tillie, Roy Kalfus, Gooch Theriot, Robert Tynan, Preston Cessac, Firman Domec, Carl 'Croppo' LeBlanc, Tom Lee, Sr., Foster Lee, E. P. Martinez, James Gard, J. W. Moss, Jr., Joe Concienne, Jr., Pat Tynan, Irby Basco, J. B. Martin, Joe Thorp, Rev. Michael Jamail, Anthony Ippolito, Anthony Concienne, L. Fruge, Bobby Theriot, Wilson Frederick, Paul Guidry, Buddy Davis, Loveless Theriot, Fred LeBlanc, R. X. Cook, Mike Barrett, Jr., A. Sylvester, Russell Devillier, Irving Wyble, and Clarence Maxwell."
"The Council held its institutional meeting and initiation at the vacant Nederland State Bank building on Boston Avenue in Nederland and later at the old Gulf States Utilities building at 1036 Nederland Avenue until council member Jerry Hanks offered his closed 'Catalina Club,' which was located behind the 'Bluejean Club,' across from the Schooner Restaurant."
"After a storm destroyed the club, Father Brooks offered the Saint Charles Parish Hall for us to meet in. After several months, it was determined that the parish hall was too big for our small membership. Father Brooks then offered the small vacant St. Charles School cafeteria building, which was located behind the church on Avenue A in Nederland. We met there until our present Knights of Columbus home was built in 1965 under the direction of member Fred LeBlanc and many other dedicated members."
"Our first officers and committeemen were: Chaplain Father Brooks, Grand Knight Anthony Ippolito, Deputy Grand Knight Anthony Concienne, Chancellor Joe Thorp, Recording Secretary James Gard, Financial Secretary James Forey, Treasurer Wallace Moss, Lecturer Carl 'Croppo' LeBlanc, Advocate Joe Concienne, Jr., Warden Burton Pouson, Inside Guard Marcelle Domingue, Outside Guard Edwin Worthy, Three Year Trustee Tom Lee, Sr., Two Year Trustee Preston Cessac, and One Year Trustee Loveless Theriot. The council committee were General Program Chairman Ray Guidry, Membership Committeeman Jerry Hanks, Church Chairman Tommy Sawyer, Family Chairman Sam Genuardi, Council Chairman James Spence, Youth Chairman J. R. DeLord, Jr., and Publicity Chairman Russell DeVillier."
"The Knights of Columbus teaches its members four basic principles: charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. At the present (1992), the Council has 355 members and has received many awards and acknowledgments for its charitable works within the Church, city, and state."
"The Council meets twice a month and has activities at other times for family participation. The Council Home is located at 315 Hardy Avenue, about one block south from the St. Charles Catholic Church."96 (end of typescript).
During the summer of 1962, Grand Knight James Spence announced the council's schedule of events for the coming weeks. On August 16, a First Degree initiation was scheduled in the parish hall. On September 6, 1962, a First Degree exemplification was to be held in the parish hall, to be followed on September 9 by a Major Degree exemplification. The series of events would culminate with the Council #5145 annual barbecue scheduled for September 23rd.97
By 1967, at the very moment that the fortunes of Saint Charles School were fast ebbing, Saint Charles membership enrollment was still burgeoning, with an immediate need for larger, air-conditioned quarters. A parish with 1,400 families was meeting in a sanctuary that seated less than 400 people. On June 10, 1967, the Very Rev. Vincent Harris, Bishop of Beaumont, and Father Brooks conducted the ground-breaking ceremony for a new church which would double the seating capacity of the old structure.98
By November, 1967, the building committee had received the plans and specifications for the new church and rectory, with a completion date expected within six months. Father Brooks said, however, the actual construction must await completion of the fund-raising and financial support pledges being circulated among the members. The new church would be of modified Spanish design, facing Hardy Avenue, with 10,300 square feet of floor space and a seating capacity of 795.
"Materials ... will be face brick for cavity walls with concrete columns," so one article noted, "laminated wood arches with wooden roof and ceiling decking. The interior walls will be face brick complemented with wood paneling. The floors will be carpet and vinyl asbestos tile...."
Besides air conditioning, the new building would also have the "latest in liturgical design," as well as a Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament large enough for 138 persons. The adjacent rectory would measure 3,900 square feet, the exterior of face brick veneer, and the interior walls of gypsum board, wood paneling, and floor of vinyl tile and carpeting. The rectory would also contain a small sacristy for the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, three pastor's counseling offices, reception room, work office, living and dining rooms, kitchen, three bedrooms with studies, a guest bedroom, four bathrooms, and housekeeper's quarters. Total cost of the complex was estimated at $260,000.99
The new Saint Charles building complex, designed by Julian and Associates, architects of Houston, was completed by April, 1968, and the dedication was scheduled for late Sunday afternoon, at 5:30 on May 5, 1968. The Very Rev. Vincent Harris, Bishop of Beaumont, celebrated the 6:00 P. M. Mass, assisted by Father Brooks, Father James Dempsey of Saint James Parish, and Saint Charles' assistant pastors, Fathers Ronald Gougenheim and Walter Montondon.
The new modified Spanish sanctuary, with its air-conditioned interior, allowed the Saint Charles' membership to worship in absolute comfort for the first time during the summer months. Located on one wall to the left of the altar were all of the stations of the cross. And the new 795 person seating capacity meant there would normally be ample room for worshippers at each Mass.100
One of the assistant pastors, Father Gougenheim, was a native of Port Neches, where his parents had been longtime, devout members of Saint Elizabeth Parish. Father Montondon, a Port Arthur native and a Bishop Byrne graduate, had already acquired a wide reputation as the "singing priest." One newspaper said of him, "A Catholic priest who has used his guitar and human warmth to win over hundre, perhaps thousands. . .will soon be leaving the area." Father Montondon held a reserve lieutenancy in the Army Chaplains' Corps, and in 1970 he went on permanent active duty, hoping to be sent to Vietnam. As of 1992, he is still an army chaplain. In 1968 Father Montondon was the originator of the Folk Mass at Saint James in Port Arrhur and at 11:00 A. M. each Sunday morning at Saint Charles Church in Nederland.101
Confraternity of Christian Doctrine classes at Saint Charles Church were suspended following the spring session of 1972, and the CCD executive board of the parish began looking for a full-time coordinator. On December 1, 1972, the board hired Charles D. Booth as the parish's religious education coordinator. Booth immediately set up classes for grades one through twelve. The elementary CCD program had 32 teachers and about 48 teacher helpers. In 1973, religious eduation classes were scheduled to end on May 24th, and already the coordinator was planning for future classes that would include four through six-year-olds.102
During the early 1970s, the church's indebtedness was more than $300,000. At one time, interest rates had risen to fifteen percent, and according to Jimmy Gard, Father Brooks simply grew tired of the constant financial struggle that he faced, and he asked the bishop for a transfer to a smaller parish.103 At the time of his retirement in 1989, Father Brooks told Father James Vanderholt that:104
Father Brooks was transferred first to All Souls, later St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Silsbee for the next three years. In 1978, he was assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows Church in China, where he spent the next eleven and where he wound up his forty-four years of ministry prior to retiring. Once, following the Second Vatican Council and the exodus of many priests from the ministry. Father Brooks said he remained a priest because he didn't think he "was supposed to get a divorce." In 1989, Fr. Vanderholt eulogized the priest and his long ministry with these memorable words, as follows:
The pastorate of Rev. Fr. William Brooks was a very special period in the history of Saint Charles Catholic Church in Nederland. The congregation grew tremendously in numbers in direct proportion to the enormous population increases in Nederland, although the writer noted a discrepancy about the exact number of families. One source said that Saint Charles Church had 1,000 families when the priest left in 1975, whereas another source stated that Saint Charles Church had an enrollment of 1,400 families whenever the new sanctuary was dedicated in 1968. Which ever is correct, Father Brooks at least tripled the membership during his nineteen-year pastorate.
PART G: THE PASTORATES OF FATHERS PUCAR AND MAZZU
According to Mrs. Jimmy Gard, there was no church administrator appointed between Father Brooks and Rev. Fr. August Pucar, since the latter, who formerly had been assigned to St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Silsbee, took charge of Saint Charles Parish immediately. Father Pucar arrived in Nederland with a most impressive set of religious credentials. A native of Galveston and a graduate of Kirwin High School there, he entered St. Mary's Seminary in Houston in 1955 and was ordained a priest at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in 1963. He also received a Master's Degree in Divinity from Oblate College of the Southwest in San Antonio in 1981. After ordination, Father Pucar was then assigned as associate pastor of St. Mary's Church in Orange (1963-1967); taught at Monsignor Kelly High School (1967-1968); and served as associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Groves (1972-1974) prior to his pastoral assignment in Silsbee.106
Jimmy Gard recalled that Father Pucar was a very spiritual as well as charismatic priest, who was well-liked by the members of Saint Charles Church. In 1972, several weeks before he came to Nederland, he had already been appointed Diocesan Charismatic Movement Director, and in 1976, he was appointed Diocesan Evangelism Director. As of 1992 a charismatic prayer meeting is still being conducted each Friday night at Saint Charles Church.
Mr. Gard noted as well that Father Pucar was able to deal successfully with the huge church indebtedness that had so woefully defeated Father Brooks, and within a few years the $350,000 church debt had been repaid. It seems likely that a significant reduction of interest rates contributed to that fact. During Father Pucar's pastorate, the Saint Charles sanctuary was renovated, and the Religious Education Department was restructured. Mr. Gard also recalled that Father Pucar had the altar raised, new carpeting installed in the sanctuary, and generally remodeled the entire interior of the church. Gard noted as well that despite Father Pucar's strenuous effort to repay indebteness, he never seemed to ask for money from the pulpit. During the early years of his pastorate, Father Dennis Placette, now of St. Elizabeth's Church of Port Neches, served as associate pastor, and Sister Edna Marie Madden was the CCD Director and Coordinator of Religious Education. And the church membership soon increased to 1,500 families.107
Another highlight of Father Pucar's pastorate was the installation and dedication of the Ambassador Carillon on November 27, 1977. The instrument was the gift of Mrs. Edolia Hanks in memory of her son, Jerry Hanks. The carillon consisted of 25 "units of chime metal which are struck by metal hammers." The chimes provided for the playing of musical tapes, the ringing of the Angelus and Mass Calls automatically, all under clock control. The manufacturer, Schulmerich Carillons, Inc., of Pennsylvania, was the largest producer of carillons, bells, and chimes in the world.108
One Saint Charles women's group that has been mentioned only casually heretofore is the Saint Charles Altar Society. As was previously stated, during the early mission years of St. Charles Parish, care ot the altar linens, candles, and liturgical vestments was handled by the Dominican Sisters. It is not recorded exactly when the altar society was first organized, but the writer estimates between 1932 and 1935. The first newspaper account that the writer has located was in conjunction with the 1938 church dedication, which observed that Mrs. Ed. Hebert was president of the altar society. On the three occasions that the writer has inquired about the early years of Saint Charles Altar Society, the same response was received from all---"Cookie" (Mrs. R. X. Cook), who must have been the altar society's guiding and dominant spirit over a long period of years. For the most recent history of the altar society, the writer turned to its current president, Mrs. Gladys Thorp, and her story follows verbatim:
"The Altar Society of Saint Charles Church has been in existence for a long time. The society has 65 active members and forty inactive or partially-inactive members. The society meets on the second Tuesday of every month in Hall B of the Parish Center at 11:00 A. M. The ladies attend the 9:00 A. M. Mass and go to Holy Communion before the meeting. Dues are $5.00 a year."
"The objectives of the altar societry are as follows: (1) to foster love of the House of the Lord; (2) to labor for its cleanliness; (3) to promote frequent attendance and reception of Holy Communion; (4) to take care of the immediate needs of the altar, such as linens, vestments, candles, wine, hosts, and other items; (5) to give assistance when necessary."
"Committees are appointed to take care of the things that are relative to the church and organization, such as Linens, Vestments, Candles, Courtesy, Publicity, Social, Ways and Means, and Visitation. Visitation means that a lady from the society heads a committee of people that visit Mid-Jefferson Hospital and take Communion to the Catholic patients. A list of patients is provided by the hospital."
"The society also sponsors a group of ladies, called the "Golden Circle," who meet each Wednesday and bring items needed by Father Daleo as he celebrates Mass at 10:00 A. M. at the Golden Triangle Nursing Home. The ladies assist those wanting to go to Mass. After mass, they go to the rooms of the residents who were unable to attend the Mass to offer Holy Communion, offer their prayers and visit with the residents."
"We also have one woman who is in charge of the Beaumont Catholic Student Fund. This is an endowment fund for the education of men for the priesthood for the Diocese of Beaumont. Enrollments are perpetual, and begin at $3.00 and $10.00 for a memorial. Both living and deceased relatives and friends may be enrolled. Money derived from these enrollments is presented annually to the Very Rev. Bernard Ganter, Bishop of Beaumont."
"The society is hostess each year for the First Holy Communion and Confirmation receptions."
"The society raises money by having an annual salad meal in October, at which time we raffle a hand-made quilt or bedspread. Also we have a hand-made Arts and Crafts booth at the meal. The ladies make the articles and donate them to the society. We also have two yearly garage sales, cake sales, bunco parties, and luncheons. The money derived from these activities is used to pay for candles, wine, and hosts for the church; also for any other items requested by our Pastor."
"If able, the ladies are requested to do altar duty. This amounts to two of our members being assigned each week to keep the sanctuary clean, fill the holy water fonts, clean the glass doors, polish the brass vessels, and whatever else is necessary to keep God's house clean."
"The society is always open to any ladies of the parish. New members are always needed. Two socials are held for the ladies each year, a Christmas party and the installation banquet. Both socials are well-attended and a nice time is had by all."
"At the present time, our officers are as follows: Gladys Thorp, president; Margaret Metcalf, co-president; Evelyn Bernard, vice president; Mary Sudela, secretary; and Loretta Esmond, treasurer."109. End of quote.
After reading Mrs. Thorp's account of the Saint Charles Altar Society, one can more fully appreciate the vital role that auxiliary groups play in the parish's day -to-day activities. The Saint Charles Women's Guild is a much newer group, organized only five years ago. Mrs. Becky Cousins' account, which follows, explains the vital functions which that group provides:
"The Saint Charles Women's Guild was organized in 1987. The guild was formed as a social and educational group for the women of the parish, and any spouse of a male parishioner. The present officers (1992) of the Women's Guild are as follows: Becky Cousins, president; Mayna Beniot, vice president; Deborah Dubose, secretary-treasurer; Eva Aguirre, chaplain; and Bonnie Galow, parliamentarian and historian."
"The guild meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 P. M. in the Parish Center. There is a baby sitter provided free of charge in the nursery. We have regular business meeting every three months, and socials and guest speakers in between the business meetings.'
"The guild sponsors the parish blood drive in November, and the clothes and toy drive in July. We host coffee and doughnuts in the Parish Center on the last Sunday of the month after 9:30 Mass. The guild also hosts receptions for the CCD program. Last year the guild sponsored a bus trip to Old Town Spring for a day of shopping. Some of the fund raisers held in the past included tupperware parties and cookbook sales."
"The guild also meets on the third Tuesday of the month in Hillside for an Arts and Crafts class. They also have a bridge group that also meets on the third Tuesday of the month in a member's home to play bridge. The guild sends out the 'Newcomers Book' to all the new members of the Parish. The guild also sponsored the sale of the Diocesan publication of the "History of the Catholic Church in Southeast Texas," due out the first of February, 1992, at the request of Father Daleo. We also sponsor any other projects requested by the Pastor."110 End of Quote.
One Saint Charles Parish auxiliary group that could hardly be over-emphasized is the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and the Religious Education Program, the religious ministries to the parish youth, which also includes the Catholic Youth Organization. Mrs. Sharlyn Spell has graciously provided this summary of activities, which also follows verbatim:
"The Religious Education Department is a vital part of parish life at Saint Charles Church. Students enrolled from four years of age through the twelfth grade number a total of 985."
"Judy Adams is the Director of Elementary Department and Sharlyn Spell serves as Director for Junior and Senior High School. Sharlyn Spell also serves as Youth Minister at Saint Charles. Both Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Spell have worked very hard to develop a well-rounded program for the youth in the parish and continue to strive in their efforts to serve the needs of all of our young people."
"Along with regular Religious Education classes, they also offer social programs in order to build communication, fellowship, and friendship among the parish youth. Teen dances are held on a regular basis, and special trips are planned during the winter and spring seasons. Youth retreats are provided to nurture both the spiritual and physicial needs of the young people of Saint Charles Parish, and service projects are arranged so that students gets hands-on experience at doing the "work of the Lord." Some of the service projects which our students have participated in include a special hamburger party at Hughen School in Port Arthur, food baskets for the needy at Thanksgiving, Christmas baskets for shut-ins; baskets donated to the homeless, and Valentine treats to Senior Citizens. Also offered for high school students is the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), which provides a wonderful opportunity for the students to work together in their own parish, as well as reach out to other youth through the Diocese of Beaumont."
"In 1990, our Saint Charles Youth Ministry Program won the "Outstanding Youth Ministry Program" award in the Diocese of Beaumont. We are very proud to display the trophy we received, which certainly verifies that others outside the parish recognize and appreciate the hard work of many caring adults, who simply "love God's children." Some of the other dedicated adults, other than those mentioned, include Charlotte Mecom, Darlene Rose, Kat Jacobs, Sue Cessac, Father Jim Begnaud, and Father Joseph Daleo."
"As of the beginning of 1992, the Saint Charles Religious Education and Youth Ministry is still growing rapidly. It is doing so because of the huge number of volunteers. Those involved in it as either teachers or teacher's aides total about 135, and the program could not succeed without their devoted efforts. With their help and by the "grace of God," we hope to continue to grow and do our part to spread the word of the Lord to all of God's Children."111--End of Quote.
The foregoing statement exemplifies in detail the role of the Religious Education ministries and their importance to the general welflare of Saint Charles parish. It certainly requires no additional embellishment. The writer is most grateful to Director Spell for taking the time to complete her statement.
While Father Pucar was pastor of Saint Charles Parish, a Dominican nun, Sister Edna Marie Gladden, arrived in 1976 as Coordinator of the Religious Education Program. Three associate pastors also served under Father Pucar. According to the parish baptismal records, Father Dennis Placette arrived about April, 1974 (before Father Brooks resigned), and he remained for about four years until April, 1978. He was replaced by Father Roger Thibodeaux, who remained until December, 1978. After Father Thibodeaux's departure, Father Patick Beck arrived as assistant pastor.112
During a recent interview, Joe Minaldi recalled that Father Pucar was a "fine, straight-forward, low key individual," that Minaldi thoroughly hated to see leave Saint Charles Parish. He also remembered that Father Edward Mazzu did considerable interior remodeling of the parish rectory during his brief stay in Nederland. Minaldi again recalled that when Father Richard DiStefano was the first pastor of the new Saint Peter's Parish in Groves, Father Mazzu served as associate pastor there. However, their roles were reversed in Nederland, with Father Mazzu serving as pastor of Saint Charles Church and Father DiStefano as his associate pastor.113
During a telephone conversation and interview with Father Dennis Placette of Saint Elizabeth Church, the priest recalled that Saint Charles Parish was his first assignment before Father Brooks resigned. However, he came to Nederland as a deacon prior to ordination, and becuse of the enthusiastic welcome and kind response to him by the Nederland parishioners, he chose to be ordained in Saint Charles Church in 1975 by the Very Reverend Warren Boudreaux, the second Bishop of Beaumont. Father Placette could not recall how Father Pucar managed to pay off the $350,000 church indebtedness, but he believed that lower interest rates, coupled with huge membership increases, made it possible.114
At the end of his six-year pastorate in 1981, Father August Pucar decided to take a lengthy sabbatical from active ministry, and he resigned his assignment as pastor of Saint Charles Church. After several years of absence, Father Pucar has returnd to the Diocese of Beaumont, and he is (1992) currently assigned to Immaculate Conception Church in Liberty, Texas. As soon as he left, Father Sidney Marceaux of Port Arthur was assigned as Saint Charles Church's interim administrator until the arrival of Father Edward Mazzu in May, 1981.115 (Monsignor Sidney Marceaux is currently Officialis of the Diocesan Tribunal and is a member of the Army Reserve Chaplains Corps.)
Father Mazzu also arrived in Nederland with an excellent list of spiritual credentials, but his pastorate proved to be of short duration, only eighten months, ending in November, 1982. A native of Beaumont, he completed his required course of studies at Saint Mary's Seminary in Houston, and was ordained to the ministry on May 7, 1972. He was also awarded a Master's Degree in Theology from Saint Thomas University in Houston. His earlier assignments included associate pastor of Saint James Parish, Port Arthur; associate pastor of Saint Peter's Church, Groves; Campus Minister at the Newman Center, Lamar University; and Vocational Director of the Diocese of Beaumont.
During Father Mazzu's brief tenure as pastor, he nevertheless was able to remodel the rectory, and the current office facility was established. Following his resignation in November, 1982, Father James Vanderholt of Saint Joseph Church in Port Arthur served as interim administrator for the next six months until the assignment of Rev. Fr. Joseph Daleo in May, 1883.116
PART H:: THE PASTORATE OF FATHER JOSEPH DALEO
Father Joseph Daleo arrived at Saint Charles Church to replace the interim administrator, Father James Vanderholt, in 1983, and as of the date of this writing (Feb., 1992), he has served almost nine years as the Parish's current resident priest. A native of Beaumont, Father Daleo completed four years at Lamar University, with a major in Businss Administration, before entering Saint Mary's Seminary at Houston. He also earned a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy and a Master's degree in Theology at Saint Thomas University in Houston, before completing his seminary training at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He was ordained by the Very Rev. Vincent Harris, the first Bishop of Beaumont, on May 30, 1971. Father Daleo's previous assignments included four years at Monsignor Kelly High School (1971-1975); Lamar University Cmpus Minister at the Newman Center (1975-1978); Saint Catherine's Parish, Port Arthur (1978-1979); Pastor of Infant Jesus Parish, Lumberton (1979-1981); and Pastor of Saint James Parish, Port Arthur (1981-1983). In 1975, he was named Diocesan Director of Campus Ministry, and he also received the Diocesan Padre of Youth Award for his work with young people.117 Since the arrival of Father Daleo, there have been numerous staff changes and appointments in Saint Charles Parish. Up until 1985, the Religious Education Program was directed by Sisters Justin Farinella and Rita Marie Owens. In that year, the nuns were reassigned elsewhere, and since that year, there have been no Dominican Sisters assigned to Saint Charles Parish. In 1987, the Religious Education Program was placed under the leadership of two lay direcors, Mrs. Sharlyn Spell and Mrs. Judy Adams, and it remains so to the present date.
Since 1983, five assistant or associate pastors have served at Saint Charles Church, as follows in chronological order: Fathers Delphyn Meeks, Jeff Wood, Steven Leger, James McClintock, and James Begnaud, the latter being the current associate pastor. As of 1982, Rev. Mr. Dow Wynn was assigned to Saint Charles Parish as Deacon, and in 1988, Augustinian Brother Frank Paduch was assigned to replace him. Father Paduch was later ordained for the Diocese of Beaumont in July, 1989. As of 1992, Rev. Mr. Vernon Drummond is Deacon of the Parish and also serves as Director of the Hospitality Center. As of 1992, over 600 persons are participating in the Parish lay ministries, of whom 135 are in the Religious Education Program.118
By 1986, Father Daleo was already faced with the need for another major building program, in fact the largest ever in terms of cost. After a year of planning, construction actually began in 1987, with the completion date in may, 1988. The architect for the parish Center and improvements was the firm of Architectural and Engineering Design Group of Beaumont, and the contractor was Pelco Construction Company of Dayton, Texas. The new construction was slated to cost around $900,000.
The focus of the new construction was on the new Parish Center, which contained two large gathering rooms with a stage, conference room, choir room, kitcen facilities, as well as five additional class rooms for the education program.
In addition, the parish parking facilities were doubled, with each parking lot paved and spaces outlined in yellow. The new bell tower was built, one of the most impressive structures in the parish. The covered drive-through area and the expanded northex were finished. One article noted that the "unusual aspect of the construction" was "the Baptismal pool, the only one of its kind in the Diocese...."
"The Baptismal pool allows for immersion for those who wish this form of Baptism and serves also as the holy water font at the entrance of the church," Father Daleo noted.119
On May 28, 1988, the Very Rev. Bernard Ganter, Bishop of Beaumont, blessed the new Parish Hall and delivered the dedication homily. Other liturgical participants included Fathers Daleo and Steven Leger as con-celebrants, Rev. Mr. Dow Wynn as deacon, and Brother Frank Paduch as master of ceremonies. On that date, Father Daleo wrote, "The dedication of the new Saint Charles Parish Center marks another milestone in the history of the Catholic Church in Nederland. The two years of planning and constructing the new center have truly been eventful ones, and I wish to thank those who have assisted me so faithfully throughout this endeavor."120
Father Daleo onced remarked that "Saint Charles Church is a caring community, concerned with the total needs of its members from the cradle to old age."121 And indeed, his statements reflects the truth of that statement in so many ways--care for both the body and the soul from Baptism to CCD, to CYO, to dozens of adult auxiliary functions, and finally the parish's Keenagers Club.
According to James Forey, South Jefferson County's "silver-haired legislator," the Keenagers are a pariish auxiliary composed of senior citizens, aged 55 and beyond, under the presidency of Mary Hines. They meet every first and third Friday, first to attend Mass at 9:30 A. M., then to enjoy coffee and cookies, and then to play bingo or just to converse and fellowship until 11:30 A. M. or later. If there is a fifth Friday in the month, they meet at a restaurant somewhere and enjoy a meal together. Occasionally the Keenagers have taken out-of-town trips together, including one to "Dickens on the Strand" at Galveston, another to the country music city of Branson, Missouri; as well as one to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.122
The writer is tempted to call another Saint Charles auxiliary group the "Seven Good Samaritans," although their official title is the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. James Crane heads up the group of seven members, assisted by Cleasme Comeaux as secretary and Don Bihm as treasurer. Their goal is to provide temporary assistance of a once-twice nature to deserving individuals or families. This aid has taken the form of money or food, and on some occasions as carpenter labor to repair a home of a sick or disabled person, and Mr. Crane noted that church affiliation was not a factor in their decisions. The seven members meet once monthly to plan their future "good Samaritan" activities.123
As of 1988, adult education in the parish included scripture studies, the RCIA program, and a class in church history. At that time, 160 adults were enrolled in the church history class. An "up-to-date parish library" is always maintained for parishioners who wish to further their knowledge through continuing educations programs.
The parish young people are encouraged early in life to participate in programs whereby they give something of themselves that benefits mankind. These extra-social activities might included the "Adopt A Grandparent" program among the residents of the Golden Triangle Nursing Home, or colleclting toys and canned goods for distribution to the poor, or making Advent wreaths to be made available to parishioners. For many years, Saint Charles Parish sponsored Boy Scout Troop No. 422, but that troop recently disbanded.
Care for the sick, shut-ins, indigent families, and other unfortunate souls seems to know no bounds at Saint Charles Parish as every parishioner is encouraged to contribute something, either time, material goods, or money, to help satisfy those needs. These could include weekly prayer services, recitation of the Rosary, or distribution of Communion to patients at Mid-jefferson Hospital, Golden Triangle Nursing Home, or other home-bound persons. Since 7,000 parishioners, plus institutionalized patients from other parishes, is an impossible visitation load for such a small liturgical staff, several Saint Charles lay members are trained as Eucharistic ministers, who can carry Communion and their prayers to convalescing patients.124 (See footnote 125 for one of the writer's experiences.)
There is a monthly "Share Sunday" at Saint Charles Church, when members are encouraged to bring groceries for distribution by relief agencies or simply to restock the parish pantry. The other agencies include the Hospitality Center, United Board of Missions of Port Arthur, and Partnership for Human Development. The Saint Charles Altar Society and Women's Guild also sponsor collection drives for clothing and "toys for tots," as well as the Blood Drive. The Knights of Columbus Council #5145 also engage in a number of projects and charitable activities, including sponsoring the annual Senior Breakfast for the parish graduates.126
On a recent date, the writer sat and conversed with Father Joseph Daleo for about a half-hour, and it was immediately apparent why he enjoys such wide support and popularity among his parishioners. In his usual soft but assertive voice, he articulated with great enthusiasm concerning Saint Charles Church, its future; about its 600 lay ministers in various organizations that seem to enjoy such phenomenal success. He spoke of the Annual Ministers Banquet, which has now been honoring the laity for the sixth consecutive year, at first in the Port Arthur Civic Center, and since 1988, in the Parish Center, which can seat 500 persons.
Father Daleo discussed with much enthusiasm the new Diocesan Pre-nuptial Program, called "One in The Lord," the first pilot program of which is scheduled to be offered exclusively at Saint Charles Church, the first weekend scheduled to begin on March 6-7, 1992. One of the requirements of the new pre-nuptial program was a six-months notification to the pastor of an impending wedding. Father Daleo discussed the pre-nuptial program's division into three parts, as follows: (1). the Engagement Encounter, (2). the Couple's Program, and (3). the "One in The Lord" Program, all of which are designed to acquaint and engender the proper Biblical and church attitudes toward marriage.
A most optimistic personage, Father Daleo envisions only the greatest future for Saint Charles Parish. He fortells "only good will and great expectations for a parish future that appears very bright." He added, however, that the parish, now having passed the 7,000-member mark, consisting of some 2,000 families, faces the distinct possibility at some future date of being divided into separate parishes.127
PART I: SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The writer will once more repeat that it defies belief that a mission that once had only twelve members and had to be closed for a year or two for lack of support could one day grow into a healthy parish of 7,000 souls -- from perhaps the smallest to the largest parish in the Diocese of Beaumont. And that a church could survive for fifty-two years, from 1923 until 1975, with only two resident priests must certainly establish a record of sorts, at least in Jefferson County. For the first thirty-three years, it was a delight of most of the old French Acadians of the parish to be able to confess to Father Hardy in French, whereas the ability even to speak French is fast disappearing among the younger French Acadian descendents of today.
To lose two brick churches to fires only twelve years apart was an ordeal that no other area church has ever endured, and that at a time (1941, 1953) when there were less than 200 families to pledge needed funds to rebuild with. Some churches have been known to dissolve with less congregational tragedy than that. The congregation of Saint Charles Parish, however, many of whom were the pioneers who built Nederland, were of a sturdier breed than that. During those years, Saint Charles' members also watched as scores of their sons and daughters mrched away to three wars, Two of them laid their lives on the altar of liberty, and surely many others bore the battle scars and performed the deeds of valor that, largely, are known only to God.
For the sixty-nine years to date (1992), a number of priests have performed the untold number of Sacraments, involving the routine births, marriages, and deaths within the parish; and have celebrated the countless thousands of Masses, sick visitations, and the many other religious exertions that day-to-day parish life required. Over the years, hundreds of persons still alive owed their elementary secular and religious training to the many unsung sisters and lay teachers of Saint Charles School. And those still living also owe a debt of gratitude to the hundreds of early Saint Charles parishioners who have lived, raised their familes, worshipped God at Saint Charles, communed, prayed, supported the church financially, and have now passed on to their reward on a much brighter shore.
The last paragraph of this treatise will be in poetic verse, a tribute to someone who has deeply endeared himself to a grateful congregation, as is shown in the composition by Sharlyn Spell, that was presented on a plaque on April 1, 1989, as follows:
A SPECIAL TRIBUTE
Every now and then,
And they help you see the brighter side
They see you and they love you,
If you find an individual,
They're kind and understanding,
We have someone among us,
"Thank you, Father Daleo,"
Written by Sharlyn Spell on April 1, 1989.
1(Galveston) Daily News, October 17, 1877.
2Ibid., August 24, 1880.
3(Galveston) Daily News, August 13, 27, 1881.
4Fr. P. F. Parisot, The Reminiscences of a Texas Missionary (San Antonio: 1899), pp. 7-8; W. T. Block, History of Jefferson County, Texas From Wilderness to Reconstruction (Nederland: Nederland Publg. Co., 1976), p. 82.
51860 Census of Jefferson County; M. M. Withers, "The Acadians of Jefferson County," Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record (Nov. 1971), pp. 42-48.
6W. T. Block, Sapphire City of the Neches: A History of Port Neches, Texas (Austin: 1987), pp. 287-288.
7Fr. John Cody, History and Symbolism of St. Anthony's Church (Beaumont, 1943), p. 1; G. Wingate, A History of St. Mary's Church of Fannett (n. p.: 1965), pp. 1-5.
8Sister Theodosius and Alexine Adams, The Catholic Church of Orange: The First Hundred Years (Orange: 1980), pp. 2-5; Fr. J. Cody, History and Symbolism of St. Anthony's Church, pp. 2-3; W. T. Block, "Rev. Vitalus Quinon: Early Catholic Church Builder of Southeast Texas," Parts I and II, in Block, Frontier Tales of the Texas-Louisiana Borderlands (Nederland: 1988), pp. 341-348.
9 "History of the Wagner Families," in W. T. Block and W. D. Quick (Eds.), The Chronicles of The Early Families of Nederland, Texas (Nederland: 1991), Vol. I, pp. 8-10; and "The Memoirs of Elizabeth Brock Gibson," Vol. I, p. 71.
101910 Census of Nederland, Texas, Dist. 11, Residences 7-201, pp. 4801-5751.
11Block, "History of Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church of Port Neches," in Block, Sapphire City of The Neches, p. 289.
13Historical Booklet, Nederland Diamond Jubilee, p. 93.
14W. T. Block, "History of the George Yentzen Family," in Block (ed.), Chronicles of The Early Families, Vol. II, p. 64; and "History of the J. H. Peterson Family," Vol. II, p. 33.
15Nederland section of Worley's Port Arthur 1918 Directory, pp. 443-448.
16Block, Sapphire City of The Neches, pp. 289, 296.
17Texas Catholic Herald, December 23, 1977, p. 10.
18"Catholics Fight KKK in Beaumont," (Beaumont) Enterprise, December 11, 1922.
19Fr. J. Vanderholt, "Father Fred Hardy," East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982.
21Author's Interview with Eunice Landry, October, 1986.
22Sister Sheila Hackett, O. P., Dominican Women in Texas (Houston: 1986), p. 342.
23Agreement, H. and X. Christ to Hardy, Vol. 217, p. 305, Jefferson County Deed Records.
24V. Nicholson, "Father Fred Hardy," (Nederland) Mid-County Review, June 15, 1956.
25Fr. Vanderholt, "Father Fred Hardy," East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982.
26 Sr. S. Hackett, Dominican Women, p. 348.
27"Saint Charles Borromeo Parish Still Growing," East Texas Catholic, November 11, 1988; see also W. T. Block, "The Progress of The Roman Catholic Church in The Golden Triangle Until 1988," in S. J. Sheppeard and W. A. Sutton, Ph. D.s, Texas in The Twenty-First Century: The Cultural and Historical Background of Southeast Texas (Beaumont: 1988), pp. 118-129.
28From the author's memory; also deed record, Chappelle to Byrne, Feb. 9, 1924, Vol. 239, p. 117, Jefferson County, Texas Archives.
29"History of the Bartels Families," Vol. IV, Part D, p. 24, in The Chronicles of The Early Families, Henson Library.
30East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982; "Obituary of Father Hardy," (Beaumont) Enterprise, November 8, 1957.
31Sr. S.Hackett, O. P., Dominican Women in Texas, p. 342.
32A partial list of pre-1945 St. Charles' Catholic families included (read M/M to be Mr. and Mrs.) as follows: M/M Dan Barras, M/M Chester Bartels, M/M Elijah Bartels, Adam Bellard, M/M S. E. Bernard, M/M T. J. Bernard, M/M C. C. Bernard, M/M D. Bonsall, M/M Gilbert Bonsall, M/M Geoge Bordonaro, Ms. Eunice Bourg, M/M Claude Bourque, Johnny Bourque, M/M Rene Bourque, M/M Eddie Broussard, M/M Louis Broussard, M/M Louis A. Broussard, M/M Albert Cessac, M/M Albon Cessac, M/M Alphe Cessac, M/M Dupre Cessac, M/M Horace P. Cessac, M/M Joe Cessac, M/M Oliver Cessac, M/M Preston Cessac, Mrs. Elia Cessac, M/M A. Champagne, M/M Fred Champagne, M/M Otto Champagne, M/M Rene Champagne, M/M Willie Champagne, M/M Ozee Clotiaux, M/M M. A. Cloutman, M/M Anthony Concienne, M/M Joe Concienne, M/M R. X. Cook, M/M Nick Cuccia, M/M Henry Decuir, M/M Stan Delahoussaye, M/M Ferdinand Derouen, M/M Lloyd Derouen, M/M A. Devillier, M/M Joe Dickinson, M/M Fermin Domec, M/M Knighton Dubose, M/M R. E. Duplant.
Also M/M Everise Fletcher, M/M John Fontenot, M/M Larry Fontenot, M/M Ronnie Foreman, M/M James Forey, M/M Wilson Frederick, M/M A. L. Fruge, M/M Joe Fruge, M/M M. A. Furth, M/M Tom Gallier, M/M Dwight Gard, M/M Fred Gebauer, M/M Sam Genuardi, M/M F. Guidry, D. Guilbeaux, M/M Henry Guilbeaux, M/M Gus Guillot, M/M Tony Guzardo, M/M Rayford Guzardo, Dr./M Guy Haltom, M/M W. Hanks, M/M Sam Hayes, M/M C. E. Hayslette, Sr., M/M L. Hanchett, M/M R. Hanchett, M/M D. P. Harkins, M/M Ed Hebert, M/M Loveless Hebert, M/M Erno Hubert, M/M Pat Hubert, M/M Artie Humble, M/M Mike Johnson, M/M J. Kavanaugh, M/M Noah Kingston.
Also, M/M Ed Laperruque, M/M Carl Croppo Leblanc, M/M Fred Leblanc, M/M Joe Leblanc, Foster Lee, Tom Lee, Jr., M/M Tom Lee Sr., M/M Dave Lejune, Mrs. Hazel Maguire, M/M C. W. Manning, M/M L. Manning, M/M J. J. Matherne, M/M Burnest Matte, M/M Joe Matte, M/M Edgar Mayer, M/M Pasquale Mazzagati, M/M Roy Mazzagati, M/M Eulys Maxwell, M/M Louis Maxwell, M/M Willis Maxwell, Mrs. Annie Marie McLean, M/M -- Menard, M/M R. A. Merrell, M/M A. Metreyeon, M/M Dudley Metreyeon, M/M Rene Metreyeon, M/M W. Metreyeon, M/M Henry Miia, M/M Anthony Minaldi, M/M Joe Minaldi, M/M Tom Minaldi, M/M Thomas Moore, M/M Joe Mouton, M/M L. A. Mouton, M/M William Naizer.
Also, M/M Joe Pace, M/M Sam Papania, M/M Arnold Pelloat, M/M H. P. Pelloat, M/M W. D. Perryman, M/M Jens H. Peterson, M/M M. D. Phillips, M/M. J. Pichoff, M/M Dennis Pousson, M/M I. J. Pousson, M/M E. J. Prejean, M/M Ovey Prejean, M/M Rudolph Prejean, M/M Sevan Premeaux, Mayo Premeaux, M/M P. A. Premeaux, M/M Eugene Price, M/M Gilbert Price, M/M Lawrence Ratcliff, Mrs. Harry Rees, M/M H. J. Reich, M/M A. Richard, M/M Ivey Richard, M/M Joe Richard, M/M Adam Robin, George Robin, Sibbe Robin, M/M Henry Robin, M/M Lee Robin, M/M Pierre Robin.
M/M Austin Sattler, M/M Dewey Sehon, M/M L. E. Sherman, M/M Joe Simoneaux, M/M Pat Simoneaux, M/M -- Simon, M/M Delbert Spell, M/M J. D. Stark, Mrs. Agnes Stehle, M/M H. Stehle, M/M C. E. Stephens, M/M Noel Sweeney, M/M Joe Terracina, M/M Sam Terracina, M/M Tony Terracina, M/M G. A. Theriot, M/M Loveless Theriot, M/M F. M. Thorp, M/M Joe Thorp, M/M John Tilley, M/M Julian Trahan, M/M Saul Trahan, M/M Pat C. Tynan, Steve Vyrostek, Mrs. Kathrena Wagner, M/M -- Williams, M/M O. F. Wistner, M/M Tom Wooten, M/M Dow Wynn, M/M George Yentzen, M/M Norman Yentzen, and many others.
33Interviews, W. T. Block with Joe Minaldi, December 13, 16, 18, 1991.
34Interview, W. T. Block with Lloyd Derouen, December 11, 1991.
35Fr. J. Vanderholt, "Father Fred Hardy," East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982.
36Telephone Conversation with J. C. Kelly, Jr. of Beaumont, December 16, 1991.
37Interview, Block with Minaldi, December 13, 1991.
38Fr. Vanderholt, "Father Fred Hardy," East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982.
39Agreement, Prudhomme to Hardy, 1926, and Deed Record, Hardy, Hardy, and Hardy to Hardy, Volumes 499, p. 160, and 576, p. 322, Jefferson County Archives; and "Obituary of Fr. Fred Hardy," (Beaumont) Enterprise, November 8, 1957.
40Derouen interview; Fr. Vanderholt, "Father Fred Hardy," East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982.
41Interviews, W. T. Block and Minaldi.
42Interviews with Derouen and Minaldi.
43(Port Neches) Chronicle, December 2, 1938.
44Ibid., February 28, 1941.
45"Father Fred Hardy," East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982.
46(Port Neches) Chronicle, February 28, 1941; (Beaumont) Enterprise, February 24, 1941; (Beaumont) Journal, February 24, 1941.
47Deed Record, Tyrrell-Combest Realty Company to Byrne, Vol. 428, p. 226, Jefferson County, Texas Archives.
48Deed Record, Staten to Hardy, Vol. 489, p. 364, Jefferson County, Texas, Archives.
49(Port Neches) Chronicle, June 3, 1938.
50(Beaumont) Enterprise, February 24, 1941; (Port Neches) Chronicle, February 28 and March 21, 1941.
51Ibid., (Port Neches) Chronicle, November 24, 1938.
52(Port Neches) Chronicle, December 3, 1938.
53"Nederland Catholic Church Burns," (Beaumont) Enterprise, February 24, 1941; (Beaumont) Journal, February 24, 1941; (Port Neches) Chronicle, February 28, 1941.
54(Port Neches) Chronicle, February 28, 1941.
55Ibid., March 21, 1941.
56"Catholic Church is Dedicated at Nederland," (Port Neches) Chronicle, May 23, 1941.
57"Fire Sweeps Church and Chief is Hurt," (Beaumont) Enterprise, March 24, 1953.
58"Saint Charles Church Fund Drive Starts," (Port Neches) Chronicle, April 2, 1953.
59"Architect Now Accepting Bids," Chronicle, September 24, 1953.
60'Catholic Church Building Planned,' Chronicle, December 17, 1953.
61"Nederland Church To Open Sunday," Chronicle, May 13, 1954.
62"Catholic Church Spring Carnival," Chronicle, May 6, 1954.
63"New Saint Charles Church Dedication," (Nederland) Midcounty Review, May 13, 1954.
63a"Festival Highlights," Midcounty Review, May 27, 1954.
64"Chancellor of Diocese to Dedicate Church," Chronicle, May 20, 1954.
65Interview, Block with Joe Minaldi, December 13, 1991.
66V. Nicholson, "Rev. Fred Hardy," Midcounty Review, June 15, 1956.
67"Obituary of Rev. Fred Hardy," (Beaumont) Enterprise, November 8, 1957; Rev. J. Vanderholt, "Father Fred Hardy," East Texas Catholic, November 12, 1982, written on the 25th anniversary of his death.
68Interview, Block with Minaldi, December 13, 16, 1991.
69Sr. Sheila Hackett, O. P., Dominican Women in Texas (Houston: 1986), p. 188.
70Sr. Mary Daniel Gregor interview, Jan 15, 1984, in Hackett, O. P., p. 342.
71Mangan, SPAA, cited in Hackett, O. P., pp. 342-343.
72Ibid., p. 343.
73Community Records, SHCAH, cited in Hackett, O. P., pp. 343-344.
74Interview, Sr. Mary Daniel Gregor, 1984, cited in Sr. Hackett, Dominican Women in Texas, p. 344.
75School Records, St. Charles Borromeo, SHCAH, cited in Hackett, O. P., pp. 344-345.
76Interview with Sr. Raphael Bordages, 1984, cited in Hackett, O. P., p. 345.
77"Ten Graduate at Saint Charles," Midcounty Review, May 27, 1954.
78"St. Charles Mothers Club," Midcounty Review, June 3, 1954.
79Interview with Sr. Justin Farinella, Nederland, 1985, cited in Hackett, O. P., pp. 346-347.
80"Father Hardy To Retire," (Nederland) Midcounty Review, June 15, 1956.
81Ibid., "St. Charles Bazaar," June 22, 1956.
82Ibid., "St. Charles Queen To Be Crowned" and "Beverly Hanks Chosen Queen," June 22, 29, 1956.
83"Rev. Brooks Is Parish Priest," Midcounty Review, June 22, 1956.
84Fr. J. Vanderholt, "Father Brooks Retires," East Texas Catholic, August 25, 1989.
85"Rev. Brooks Is Parish Priest," Midcounty Review, June 22, 1956.
86Interview, Block with James Gard, January 2, 1992.
87Written Statement, Fr. Michael Jamail to W. T. Block, Undated but December, 1991.
88Interview, Block with Gard, January 2, 1992.
89 Written Statement, Fr. J. Dempsey to W. T. Block, Beaumont, Undated but December, 1991.
90"St. Charles to Build New School," Midcounty Review, January 11, 1962.
91Ibid., January 11 and April 5, 1962.
92"St. Charles To Open Late," Midcounty Review, August 30, 1962; picture of uniforms, September 27, 1962.
93St. Justin Farinella Interview, cited in Hackett, O. P., pp. 346-347.
94"Award Winners at St. Charles," (Nederland) Midcounty Review, March 15, 1962.
95"St. Charles Youth Installation," and group picture, Midcounty Review, October, 1962.
96James Gard, "History of Council #5145, Knights of Columbus," typewscript given to W. T. Block, January 2, 1992.
97"KCs Announce Events," and "KC Exemplification Tonight," Midcounty Review, August 9 and September 6, 1962.
98Undated Texas Catholic Herald clipping of about May 1, 1968.
99"Church, Rectory Planned for St. Charles," Texas Catholic Herald, November 18, 1967.
100"New Church, Rectory Blessing Scheduled," Texas Catholic Herald, clipping of about May 1, 1968.
101Ruth Ganson, "Rev. Montondon: Singing Priest Leaves Area," Port Arthur News, undated clipping, but about September 20, 1970.
102"St. Charles Parish Employes Religious Education Coordinator," Texas Catholic Herald, February 2, 1973, p. 7.
103Interview, Block with J. Gard, January 2,1992.
104Fr. J. Vanderholt, "Father Brooks Retires After 44 Years of Service," East Texas Catholic, August 25, 1989.
106Letter, Father Daleo to W. T. Block, Nederland, December 17, 1991.
107Interview, Block with Gard, January 2, 1992; letter, Father Daleo to Block, December 17, 1991; "Saint Charles, Nederland," Texas Catholic Herald, December 23, 1977, p. 10.
` 108Copy of Press Release of Carillon Dedication, Rev. A. W. Pucar, November 10, 1977.
109Mrs. Gladys Thorp, "History of Saint Charles Altar Society," copy furnished to W. T. Block on January 14, 1992.
110Mrs. Becky Cousins, "History of Saint Charles Women's Guild," copy furnished to W. T. Block on January 14, 1992.
111Mrs. Sharlyn Spell, "History of St. Charles' CCD, CYO, and Religious Education Programs," copy to W. T. Block, January 28, 1992.
112Interview, Sr. Justin Farinella, cited in Sr. Hackett, O. P., pp. 346-347; dates and names taken from Saint Charles Baptismal Records.
113Interview, W. T. Block with J. Minaldi, January 31, 1992.
114Telephone Interview, Block with Fr. Dennis Placette, January 31, 1992.
115Letter, Fr. J. Daleo to W. T. Block, December 17, 1991.
116Ibid., Fr. Daleo to W. T. Block, Dec. 17, 1991.
118Interview, Block with Fr. Daleo, January 14, 1992; "St. Charles Borromeo Parish Still Growing," East Texas Catholic, November 11, 1988.
120Bulletin of Dedication Mass of Saint Charles Parish Center, May 28, 1988.
121"St. Charles Parish," East Texas Catholic, November 11, 1988.
122Telephone Interview, Block with James Forey, January 30, 1992.
123Telephone Interview, Block with James Crane, January 29, 1992.
124"St. Charles Borromeo Parish," East Texas Catholic, November 11, 1988.
125In January, 1986, the writer had his stomach removed, and he laid in Mid-Jefferson County Hospital for 18 days while recuperating. I met a man for the first time (although I had known his wife for several years previously at Lamar university), the Rev. Mr. Dow Wynn, Deacon, who, even though I was a practic=ing Lutheran, came by to visit and pray for me almost daily. I asked him to please come back and pray with me again, which he did - not once, but six or seven times. For once, I was that wounded person "lying on the roadside," and that Good Samaritan did not concern himself that I was not of his faith, but rather that I needed his prayers. Thus a good Christian friend left me with precious memories and an eternal gratitude that only God and death can ever sever; and hence has caused me for the third time to embark on the writing of an item of Catholic Church history.
126East Texas Catholic, November 11, 1988.
127Personal Interview, Block with Father Daleo, January 14, 1992.