Lafayette Bishop Jarrell clarifies comments on plan to build new St. Anne Catholic Church; now says he agreed to explore the issue _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Bishop Michael Jarrell was the celebrant of the Ash Wednesday mass at St. John's Cathedral in Lafayette on Feb. 18, 2015.

Lafayette Diocese Bishop Michael Jarrell this week walked back a statement he made last week concerning the Rev. Jason Mouton’s controversial plan to construct a new, bigger St. Anne Catholic Church.

Jarrell last week stated that all he knew about Mouton’s plan came from reading the St. Anne bulletin that was distributed after Mass earlier this month.

On Tuesday, Jarrell issued another statement via Mouton, who is pastor at St. Anne and contends the St. Anne building has deteriorated past the point of repair.

“I have not received an official request to build a new church,” Jarrell said in the prepared statement. “However, Father Jason Mouton did speak with me several weeks ago. He requested my permission to form an exploratory committee and I agreed. I regret any confusion caused by my earlier statement, which was incomplete.”

Efforts to reach Jarrell for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Mouton’s early efforts to construct a new St. Anne building, an estimated $8 million-plus endeavor that would almost double the capacity of 450, have ignited the ire of some longtime parishioners.

A quickly called meeting last week inside St. Anne pitted impassioned foes of a new church building against Mouton and his assistant, Wynard Boutte. Almost all in the group were elderly and objected strongly to the prospect of demolishing the church building, which is estimated at 80 to 100 years old.

“I’m for keeping this church,” one woman said. “This is my church.”

O.C. Guilliot Jr. also was at the meeting last week. He said Wednesday that he doesn’t oppose building a new church. But he strongly opposes tearing the old one down.

“It has a lot of meaning for a lot of people. Those people, their parents and their grandchildren, … went to communion there, they were baptized there, married there. I was one of those,” Guillot said. “It has a special place in my heart, the church does, and I would not like to see it torn down.”

Mouton said he and others would form an exploratory committee composed of parishioners to look into building a new St. Anne. Mouton also said he’d organize meetings for all parishioners where opponents and proponents can speak.

“We will continue to explore it,” Mouton said. “We’re moving forward.”

Some on the St. Anne Advisory Pastoral Council have felt the heat. At its meeting in August, all 12 members of the Pastoral Council agreed to move forward on the first stages of the project. On Monday, at the September meeting, two of the 12 council members had changed their minds, Mouton said.

The debate goes back at least 10 years, when former St. Anne Pastor Louis Lam Vu proposed a new, bigger church that could accommodate Youngsville’s growing population

Jeannette Broussard, 75, has been a parishioner at St. Anne for more than 50 years. She said she was among those who 10 years ago opposed new construction. Broussard said Wednesday she’s changed her mind due to the building’s deterioration and because it’s too small to accommodate the growing Catholic community in Youngsville.

She said there is regularly standing room only at 11 a.m. Sunday Mass and at other church services, and that the building is not the church.

“If, God forbid, lightning would strike and burn the church, the only thing we need to get out of there is the tabernacle and the body of Christ,” Broussard said.

Philip Cabrol, 80, who has attended St. Anne for 80 years, said he leans toward new construction. His main worry is moving St. Anne to another part of Youngsville.

“As long as it don’t move locations, I don’t care. I’d much rather have a new one, because I think that one is not repairable,” Cabrol said.