In the Year of our lord, 1920, Archbishop John W. Shaw, Ordinary of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, established the parish St. James Major in the Gentilly area of New Orleans. It was in that decade the great depression of 1929 began, and finally came to an end with the beginning of World War II. The Little Woods area of the Eastern segment of New Orleans had long
been a favorite place for campers, hunters, outdoorsmen. Preserving it's wooded area over the years, the area became a place of refuge from the city, a resort of the shores by the Lake, a home for a hard working sturdy class of people.
The Catholic faith was always a great part of the Little Woods Community. In as much as the area was part of the Gentilly section of New Orleans, the priests of St. James Major Church would come to minister to their spiritual needs. So in June of 1935, in camp of Emmet and Edna Faust the Holy Sacrifice of mass was offered for the first time by a priests form St. James Major.
Thus, was set into motion a series of events which were to lead ultimately to the founding of St. Maria Goretti Parish. During August of 1935, families were permanently residing in the Little Woods Area. Funds were raised by Corcoran and Wesner families. An amount of $500.00 was raised for construction fees of the Mission Church. During World War II no money was raised for the Mission Church.
St. Maria Goretti
On June 24, 1950 during the Holy Year, in presence of 500,000 people in St. Peter Square, Maria Goretti was proclaimed a saint a "martyr for purity" In attendance was the 84 Year Old Mother of Maria Goretti , The only woman in history who lived to see her daughter canonized.
The Monies Previously raised for the mission had been turned over in 1935 to Fr. Sidney Skiffington, who was pastor of St. James Major Church at the time. He was assisted in his pastoral duties by Fr. (Now Msgr.) Vernon P. Aleman.
With the cooperation of the priests , families again began to work very diligently toward getting a parish established.
St. Maria Goretti Parish
It was on January 2, 1965 that Archbishop Cody established St. Maria Goretti as a Parish, and appointed Fr. Edward Gautheir as founding Pastor. The first mass in the new parish was offered on January 3, 1965 by Fr. Gautheir.
With all the joy we experience in life, sometimes comes a bit of sadness, and on January 6, 1965 a parishioner, Bernard Henry Ohler was the first to be given a Christian burial in the new parish.
The first infant baptized in the newly established Parish was Edgar Alan Burgess, Jr on January 17, 1965. In that year sixty-two infants were baptized.
Then Church organizations started to form. In early February 1965 the Ladies' Altar Society was organized. The Holy Name Society was also formed this first year.
A New Pastor
On June 1, 1968 Fr. L. Earl Gauthreaux , J.C.L., assumed the pastorate of St. Maria Goretti Church.
At all the Masses, On Sunday June 2, 1968, Fr. Gauthreaux read his letter of appointment from Archbishop Hannan. His message to the people was that he came to build people first and then buildings. He immediately began to establish a Religious Education Board.
With rapid growth in New Orleans East it was obvious that the Church of St. Maria Goretti must expand its facilities. The existing Church could only seat 325 people and Classroom space became essential.
Shortly After Father Gauthreaux became pastor he established the St. Maria Goretti Playground, Now under the direction of the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD).
The New Church
On December 18, 1973 at 4:00pm Fr. Gauthreaux signed the contract for the construction of the new church at a cost of $636,000.00
After the contract had been signed, landfill was moved onto the site. At about this same time construction was going on to improve Morrison Road and the development of the I-10 Hwy. The fill for the property was hauled to the church building site for by Mr. Pierre Gaston.
On the cold Rainey day of December 20, 1973 the first pilings were driven, and the new church building was on the way to becoming a reality.
Two years later the new church was complete and Mass for the first time was offered at the new church of Goretti on April 12, 1975 at 6:00pm. The new church seats 950 people, also a day chapel that can seat 50 people. The structure also contains administrative offices and meeting facilities. The Blessed Sacrament was carried in procession to the new Church. The bells were pealing at both sites as the Lord and God of all moved again at their midst.
It was by coincidence on that very date, April 12, 1975, Pope Paul VI named Fr. L. Earl Gauthreaux, J.C.L., an Honorary Prelate, with the title Monsignor.