In June 1964, Archbishop John Cody canonically erected St. Angela Merici Church and assigned Father Joseph J. Calato as first pastor.
On May 31, 1964, Fr. Calato mailed his first message to the parishioners and with infinite tact and a sure touch, he quickly rallied the 900 charter families of the new parish. These are families now settled on the once raw and wet backlands of the Chauvin, Arnoult, and Bonnabel tracts along Bayou St. Louis, Indian Bayou, Bayou Labarre, and "Gallagher's Canal".
At the start, the parish had a piece of undeveloped property and a pastor; nothing else: no money, no place to assembly. On June 7, 1964, one short week after his first letter, Father Calato began offering Sunday Masses in the generously loaned banquet hall operated by Mr. and Mrs. Marion Leon and Family located at 706 Phosphor St. Here was the first cenacle, and on that initial Sunday, 1400 persons assembled. Perhaps never before in the annals of our archdiocese did so many come together for the introductory Eucharistic celebrations of a fledgling parish. It was an auspicious start even for persons residing on a street called Phosphor, which means the "morning star"; and for other parishioners who came afoot or by car from such streets with mythological names like Helios (god of the sun), Orion (a constellation on the equator), Hesper ("the evening star"), and Aurora ("the dawn") in classical mythology.
Throughout its lengthy history, the Archdiocese of New Orleans, along with its forerunner, the diocese of Louisiana and the Florida’s, could list perhaps a mere handful of parishes which experienced as widely extensive and deeply intensive a growth as did St. Angela Merici within its first formative years.
Father Calato was anxious to build a place of assembly for the community as well as to help develop the characters, ideals, dispositions, attitudes and spiritual sensitivities of those who made up the assembly. He knew the parish would increase in numbers as more homes rose to the north, south, east and west of the plot of ground acquired for the parish plant.
During that same month of the first mass, June 1964, Fr. Calato hired architects to begin drawing the plans for the place of assembly. He also contacted the Ursuline Nuns, whose foundress was St. Angela, to staff the school he could visualize to be ready in 15 short months. Before June ended, organizational meetings, one attended by 97 men, another by 122 women, had been held.
A campaign to raise funds started in September and by the 27th of that month and the seemingly staggering sum of $700,000 was set as the cost of the place of assembly. 135 men began soliciting funds, which soon surpassed $200,000 in gifts and pledges. More importantly, the parish, still assembling in a restaurant and worshipping without benefit of kneelers or other conveniences, had its trained ushers, mass readers, organist, acolytes, altar society and traffic ushers.
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