St. Gabriel Parish has had a rich and varied history. The community of St. Gabriel began in the later half of the eighteenth century by Acadian exiles sent by the Spanish Governor Dan Ontonio DeUlloa to settle in the coast of Iberville, known as Manchac. Fired with that spirit of patient perseverance and neighborly cooperation that had characterized the Acadians in their home land in Canada, residents of the east bank of the Coast of Iberville developed the land, and began an active community life. Since they were traditionally a religious people, they dreamed of a church to express their faith.
Made out of cypress from the nearby swamps, the church was built sturdy and solid, simple in design, but impressive. To this day this historic edifice still stands.
This church was placed under the invocation of St. Gabriel the Archangel. The Parish of St. Gabriel was served by both the Spanish and French priests during its history. Since France had ceded the colony to Spain, the first pastor was Father Angelus de Revillagodos, a Spanish Capuchin.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, the church had to be moved a little further away from the river to what is now its actual site. The timbers were found to be in perfect condition and in the tower is the original bell of the parish, which is still used. It bears the inscription, “Sancta Maria de la Merced, Ora Pro Nobis-Se Hizo-Commendodos-MRPI Ygnacio de Jesus Maria-Ano de 1768.”
The parish, which was granted for a period of 500 years, was incorporated under the laws of the State of Louisiana on August 7, 1895, during the administration of Father John Francois Raymond, under the title of “The Congregation of Saint Gabriel Roman Catholic Church.”
The affection and reverence for the venerable pioneer church, long deterred any movement that involved destruction of the ancient landmark. Father Vincent Isidore Kleinpeter (pastor from 1942-62) believed that a new church was needed, but that the old church should be preserved for future generations. Dedication of the new St. Gabriel Church was April, 19, 1953, 180 years after the inauguration of the venerable parish by Father Angelus De Revillagodos. It stands to the rear of the property (back from the river) overlooking the historic cypress-built St. Gabriel Church as a symbol of the deep faith that characterized the descendants of the Acadians and other pioneer settlers who developed the coast of Iberville.
St. Gabriel has been under the spiritual guidance of many impressive priests. Reverend Vincent Kleinpeter, Monsignor Louis Marionneaux, Reverends Gerald Lefebvre, Jon Koehler, Robert Marcell, Rubin Reynolds and Anthony ‘Tony’ Russo are just a few of the most recent dedicated clergy that have served our parish and contributed to its success.
The parishioners of St. Gabriel are committed to the support of our church in its growth, financially and spiritually. Each active and supportive area of ministry (grounds and maintenance, building, spirituality, youth, liturgy, outreach, education, etc.) is blessed and composed of people who are interested in the continuation and preservation of our church, expanding our faith community, and meeting the needs of the parish while continuing the dreams of our ancestors.In 2002, the dream of a Parish Hall was to become a reality under the early supervision of Father Rubin Reynolds. The dazzling Parish Activity Center was completed and dedicated in March 2004 under the strong leadership of Fr. Anthony ‘Tony’ Russo. To meet the growing needs of our parish community the building was built with the financial assistance of parishioners, loyal friends and funds from the annual Church Fair. With God’s guidance and the leadership of our pastors, the family of St. Gabriel Catholic Church continues to move forward.
Yet once again, in this new millennium, St. Gabriel has been blessed with the capable and strong leadership and guidance of our newest and current pastor, Father Charles Landry. Bishop Muench assigned Father Landry to this pastorate with St Gabriel in July of 2009. Father Charlie has brought a new vitality and infused a new spirit to our parish. While juggling the schedule and numerous demands of masses at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Facility, the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, and the Sacred Heart Chapel of Carville, Father Landry is still challenging the parishioners of St. Gabriel to a fuller, more devotional commitment to the Good Shepherd.