YOUNGSVILLE — Parishioners at St. Anne Catholic Church in Youngsville might expect a new place of worship with some well-worn foundation — the original church, which was built more than a century ago and which will remain part of the completed structure.
The Rev. Michael Russo, pastor at St. Anne for the past year, said that the church parish has moved forward with what was announced on July 26 — the feast day of St. Anne — as a “general conceptual plan” that will “incorporate the present church building as a narthex” or entranceway, where baptism and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will be held.
“I’m hoping that we will start seeing construction in about four years,” Russo said this week. “There’s plenty of work to do — primarily fund raising. Now is not the time to initiate a capital campaign; we need to return to some normalcy. But my goal is that within four years we will start seeing some movement.”
There’s plenty to do before then, said Russo, a Patterson native and former pastor at Our Lady of Fatima in Lafayette. That includes maintenance issues and a drainage project. But the path forward appears to be mostly set.
The church has been OK’d for restoration since 2003. Some of the delay has centered on questions about preserving the church, which dates back at least into the 1880s and perhaps the 1860s. Church records about the building are unclear, although the church parish itself predates the Civil War.
“The church we have now is simply not adequate with numbers and parking,” he said. “Something needed to be done. Parishioners knew something had to be done.”
That something meant preserving the present church, with its “rich sacramental history.”
That history includes portions of church territory that have been ceded to other area churches over the years. According to church history, they include Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, Broussard in 1883; Our Lady of the Lake Church, Delcambre in 1900; Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Coteau in 1934; and St. Joseph Church, Milton in 1977.
St. Anne Church staffed the mission church of St. John of the Cross in LeBlanc from 1952 until 1973, when it was transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Erath.
The church initially was dedicated to St. Etienne, but by 1869 was dedicated to St. Anne, patroness of, among others, unmarried women, homemakers, women in labor, women who want to be pregnant, grandmothers and educators.
Russo said it was important to parishioners to preserve the church, which holds about 450, even while they expand to about 14,500 square feet. He said Mass would be held in the new area of the church, which will seat some 750 to 800 people.
He said the architect will be Gossen Architects of Lafayette, which has worked with the church on the project for many years. The church will follow “the same lines” as the present church” and will accommodate what has been explosive growth in Youngsville, where population grew by more than 100 percent from 2001-2010 and then from about 8,000 residents in 2010 to more than 14,000 in 2018. About 1,500 families are registered at the parish, Russo said.
There is no set budget for the project — final plans will determine that — although the pastor suggested it will cost “in the millions.” Parishioners will help guide the project, which Russo said will be his first in 31 years as a priest.
“Never did I imagine I would be in charge of building a church,” he said. “It’s frightening but exciting, an honor and a privilege.”
Parking will expand to about 175 paved spaces. The grounds also hold a rectory and parish hall.
Plans for construction of a school have been set aside for the immediate future. Russo said he expects he will remain at St. Anne for as long as 12 years, and that the church, not the school, will be the focus during that time.