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History

Under Spanish rule, land was granted by the King of Spain for a church and cemetery near the Avoyelles Post in 1784.

When the first child was baptized in Avoyelles Parish in 1796, George Washington was president of the United States and the young country was about to hold its first real election. The baptism in the predecessor of St. Paul's Catholic Church in Mansura was held in a church built of split logs and was conducted in Spanish, making it the last parish established under the Spanish regime. Bishop Luis Penalver y Cardenas, the first Bishop of Louisiana and the Floridas, visited the post in 1796. He ordered the erection of a new parish to serve the posts of the Avoyelles, Rapides and Ouachita regions.

The new parish was dedicated in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Fr. Juan Maguire, an Irish Discalced Carmelite from Spain, was appointed as the first pastor.

He was succeeded by Fr. Juan Brady who built the first church building. Fr. Brady served the parish until the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Between 1803 and 1824, the struggling church went through a dark period of neglect and the faith all but withered away. Visiting priests administered to the sacramental needs of the growing population periodically but with little regularity.

In 1824, Fr. Jean Emile Martin was appointed pastor. He rebuilt the church and struggled to rebuild the parish but he faced many difficulties and much opposition. Dissension reached such a point in 1832 that Bishop de Neckere, Bishop of New Orleans, was forced to place the parish under interdict after the trustees locked the pastor out of the church and rectory. In 1834 the interdict was lifted and Fr. Martin returned as pastor.

In 1841, the ladies of the parish formed the first altar society under the direction of Fr. Nicolas Francais. In 1845, under the direction of Fr. Charles Dalloz a new church was built and dedicated in honor of St. Paul the Apostle.

In 1869, the church was destroyed during an electrical storm and the decision was made under the leadership of Fr. Jean E. Chauvin to rebuild the church in the incorporated town of Mansura. A new church was completed and dedicated in the fall of 1871. Fr. Chauvin spent 38 years in Mansura adding to the beauty of the church he had built. He imported from France the crystal chandelier, the hand-painted Stations of the Cross, the large statues of Mary and Joseph as well as the ornate high altar that can still be found in the church today. Fr. Chauvin died in 1906 and is buried together with his successor, Fr. Achilles Anseeuw, under the main aisle of the new church that was built in 1950 under the direction of Msgr. Michael Paul Nothofer. The new church was dedicated by Bishop Charles Greco on February 15, 1951.

A new rectory was built in 1962 by Msgr. Terrance Lennon. In 1974, Fr. Armando Fuoco renovated the church and erected the large 40 foot tall campanile. In 1996, Fr. Russell Lemoine was instrumental in organizing a full restoration of the church interior in honor of the 200th anniversary of the church's establishment. In 2003, Bishop Sam Jacobs designated the Church of St. Paul the Apostle as a ‘Proto-parish' in the Diocese of Alexandria, meaning it was one of the original parishes existing when the diocese was created. In 2008, the former convent was renovated as a parish hall and dedicated in honor of Msgr. Earl Provenza and in 2009, a new porcelain tile floor was laid throughout the church.

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Map Info: St. Paul the Apostle Church 31.0607727 -92.0494845