The Josephites, ordained to serve the African- American community, have been working in the vineyard of the Lord since 1893. Father John Plantevigne was the first ordained African American Josephite priest in this area. He was a native of Chenal, (near Lakeland) Louisiana.

The history of St. Augustine Catholic Church had its beginning in 1922 when Father Edward Hartnett, first priest of the parish, arrived from Baltimore, Maryland. Upon his arrival, he discovered that there was no Catholic Church for African Americans.

He established a temporary church known as the “St. Augustine Mission” housed in the old Simeon Parent General Store, located near Texas and Richey (Richy) Streets. This site was near the Texas and Pacific railroad depot which no longer exists. The very first Mass at the St. Augustine Mission was celebrated by Father Hartnett in that same building in 1922.

This temporary building stood until early in the 21st century. It had been built in 1905 as a Baptist church and was acquired by the Paul Family after it had been used as the St. Augustine Mission.


In August 1922, the congregation of St. Mary Catholic Church in New Roads donated a portion of their church-owned property to erect a permanent church for the parishioners of St. Augustine Catholic Church. The church was constructed by Barbay Construction Company of Baton Rouge for the sum of $8,900, borrowed from the Josephite Fathers and repaid with the help of members of the church community taken from their limited financial resources. The exterior structural design is basically the same as the original structure with some changes throughout the history. The interior saw some changes with the opening of the sacristy on each side of the sanctuary for the choir on one side and to provide additional seating for the growing congregation.

The early history of St. Augustine would not be complete without the mention of Father Hoes, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, who assisted Father Hartnett in establishing St. Augustine. Upon his arrival, Father Hartnett conducted services for the “Coloreds” in St. Mary’s Church, including marriages, funerals and baptisms, before the St. Augustine was built.

The first Mass in the new building was celebrated on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1923. The church was dedicated on May 23, 1924, when195 boys and 115 girls received the sacrament of Confirmation. Among the first to be baptized at St. Augustine were Marie Viola Ellois, daughter of James and Viola Ellois, Matthew Kenneth Powell, son of Jessie and Ophelia Powell, and Agnes DeRogers, daughter of Phillip DeRogers and Mary Edith Jacque DeRogers.

The first couple to be married in the church was Oliver Phillip and Mary Smith on February 2, 1923. The first funeral recorded at St. Augustine was that of Victoria Jacque on March 17, 1924. The last couple to be married during the 100th year history was Mark Twain Forest and Monica Marie Batiste on October 13, 2018. The last child to be baptized during the 100th year history of the church was Demi Leigh Cobb, child of Darryle Lee Cobb, Jr., and Jamie Platt Cobb on December 30, 2023. The last person to be funeralized at St. Augustine during its 100 years was C. Jerome “Jerry” D’Aquila, buried in False River Memorial Park in New Roads, October 24, 2023. The last person to be funeralized at St. Augustine and buried in St. Augustine cemetery was Lawrence Norman Myer, October 23, 2023.

During the early history of the church, the priests in residence resided in an old building located at 809 New Roads Street until a new two-story rectory was constructed on that same site in 1962. The old building was then purchased by the August Saizon family and moved to the corner of New Roads and 13th Streets. The house still stands today!

At the beginning of the church history, Mass attendance averaged 500 to 600 persons. Approximately 100 African Americans continued to attend St. Mary’s of False River. They were allowed to sit in the upper galleries of the church. When the galleries were removed in 1925, African Americans were assigned special seating along one aisle of the church. All members of the congregation were charged bench rent to occupy seating in the church, as was the custom of all Catholic churches during that time. This money provided a source of income for the church. All Masses were said in Latin until 1963. The altar was built against the wall and the priest celebrated Mass with his back turned toward the congregation. In the mid 1960’s the Vatican changed provisions and another altar was built in the center of the sanctuary which allowed priests to begin celebrating Mass facing the congregation. The choir sang from the choir loft located at the top entrance of the church. In later years the organ was repositioned on the floor near the altar where the choir took part in the musical liturgy. During the 1990’s, the Mass was broadcasted live on radio station, KCLF, owned and operated by Roosevelt Gremillion, one of our parishioners. This medium was utilized to accommodate the many parishioners who were unable to attend Mass. Presently, St. Augustine has a little more than 700 families, with an average of 250 in attendance at week-end Mass. Saturday vigil Mass is celebrated at 4 p.m., and Masses on Sundays are celebrated at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Week-day Masses are now celebrated each day at 9 a.m.