Saint Philip Parish

Belle Fontaine

 Saint Philip Neri Parish traces its origins to the 1700s. Mass was celebrated occasionally in local homes on makeshift altars. In 1854, Jesuits and diocesan priests began visiting the area regularly. Priests from the Cathedral or Bayou La Batre served the Belle Fontaine community throughout the late nineteenth century.

 

In 1904, Josephite Fathers took charge of the pastoral care of both sides of Mobile Bay. Father Joseph van Baast, assigned to the missions, quickly realized the need for a church in Belle Fontaine which became a mission of Mon Luis Island. Catherine Bourdan, Eugenia LaLande and Emile LaLande donated the land. With donations, the raffle of an ox, and parishioner labor, St. Philip the Deacon Church was dedicated on May 28, 1908. The building, damaged in the 1916 hurricane, was quickly repaired.

 

In 1939, Edmundite priests replaced the Josephites at Mon Luis Island and had St. Philip Church renovated.

 

In 1956, St. Philip became an independent parish with Father Joseph Walsh, S.S.E., as the first pastor. On April 28, 1957, a new wood frame church with brick veneer was dedicated under the new patronage of St. Philip Neri. A rectory and parish office were completed in 1958.

 

The new 1977 community center became the headquarters for relief efforts after Hurricanes Frederic (1979) and George (1988).

 

On October 7, 1983, the parish celebrated the 1908 church’s 75th anniversary, renovating the building and erecting a plaque to honor the original families.

 

In 1995, multi-talented decorators, a local artist, and volunteers remodeled the sanctuary. One gift painting portrays Mary holding the Infant Jesus with Mobile Bay in the background; the other, Mary Magdalene witnessing the Risen Christ amid a bank of azaleas.

 

Archdiocesan priests replaced the Edmundites in 2001. During the pastorate of Father James Montini-Coleman (2005-2010), the church was again updated. On October 5, 2008, the parish celebrated “one hundred years of worshiping God and service to God and neighbor.” Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi celebrated the centennial Mass “in thanksgiving for all of God’s blessings.”

 In May 2011, Father James Carlsen succeeded Father Johnny Savoie as pastor of the still thriving parish.  Most recently Father Daniel Good was appointed pastor in January 2018. The ethnic makeup remains quite diverse with the Creole people and many others, walking the way to the praise and glory of God.

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