The Catholic Commentator  

 St. Louis King of France Church in Baton Rouge will close at the end of November and the school at the conclusion of the current school year, Father Michael Alello, pastor of SLKF announced.  

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Father Michael Alello, pastor at St. Louis King of France Church in Baton Rouge, blows bubbles with students on the first day of the 2016-17 school year. On the weekend of Sept. 22-24, closing dates for the school and church were announced. Photo by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator 

 

Father Alello, on Sept. 22, announced the school would close June 30. Two days later, he announced the parish would cease to operate effective Nov. 26, which is the Feast of Christ the King as well as the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  

SLFK will be amalgamated into St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge, meaning STM will include the former boundaries of St. Louis King of France. Its registered parishioners, assets, liabilities and properties will be transferred to STM. 

“I think it’s a beautiful time to finish the church year together and begin to journey as a new community during Advent, using Advent as a chance for us to come together, pray together,” Father Alello said following the 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Masses on Sept. 24. “When we get to Christmas we will have something beautiful to celebrate, the birth of something.”  

He admitted that whenever there is change, struggles are certain to follow, but added he and parochial vicar Father Pat Broussard will work with the community and various ministries to explain the process.   

“I know this is not an easy process and in some ways very difficult for some of you,” Father Alello who is the administrator of STM said. “I truly believe it is the Spirit leading us through this.”   

He noted that the St. Louis King of France community, which has always had a fierce pride of its diversity since being founded in 1966, has unique gifts to bring to STM.  

“And (the STM community) has a gift to give us,” Father Alello said.  

“If your heart is heavy, just sit with the Lord,” he added. “We are still going to serve you, just making it more sustainable.”  

The closing was one of many recommendations of the Diocesan Pastoral Planning Task Force, which was established in 2015 to address issues of long-term renewal within the Diocese of Baton Rouge. In 2016, the Task Force recommended to create a “shared pastorate” with SLKF and STM because of the changing demographics and a lack of clergy to serve both communities. It was recommended the parishes be amalgamated no later than June 30, 2018.  

Bishop Robert W. Muench, after much prayer and reflection, said he accepted the recommendation and made the final decision the week of Sept. 18.   

“We are attempting to best serve the people with the resources that we have so that’s why these decisions are being made,” Father Alello said Sept. 22. “Not just for us but across the diocese so that we as priests can better serve our people.” 

Earlier this year, St. Pius X Church, inBaton Rouge was amalgamated with St. Isidore the Farmer Church in Baker. However, the office of the Hispanic Apostolate remains at St. Pius and the church is being used to celebrate a Hispanic Mass on Sundays.  

Father Alello said the enrollment at SLKF School is not the issue, with enrollment holding steady at 283 students. But he noted that without the church parish, the school cannot exist.  

According to canon law, Father Alello said, all of the assets of the school belong to the parish.   

“When that parish is amalgamated, temporal goods of the church are amalgamated into the other parish,” he said. “All of that transfers. There is no way for (the school) to be independent of the parish.”  

He said every effort will be made to help students, the majority of whom are state voucher students, apply to other Catholic schools. Those decisions as to who is accepted will be up to the individual principals.  

Father Alello added that assistance will be given to current staff members and teachers to apply at any of the other Catholic schools in the diocese.   

Bishop Robert W. Tracy established SLKF Church on Oct. 1, 1966, appointing Father John McNamara as its first pastor. Prior to the construction of the parish family center, Sunday Mass was celebrated at Red Oak elementary School and daily Masses celebrated at the priests’ residence.   

Construction of the church began in January 1972 and the first Mass celebrated Dec. 3 of the same year. Local artist Frank Haydn designed statues of St. Louis and the Risen Christ as well as the Stations of the Cross.   

The school was completed in 1982 and the gym and activity center completed in 1998.