In a quite, secluded, undisturbed, rural area located on the banks of the bayou Vermilion, just east of Maurice and west of Youngsville lies the community of Milton, Louisiana. The village is still there today but has grown considerable. At this time the subdivisions encircling the City of Lafayette are threatening to overwhelm the peaceful village.
This, the Milton settlement, dates back to 1765 when French settlers came down Bayou Vermilion by boat, traveling south of Lafayette. In 1887, a post office was built in the area through the efforts of Dr. Milton Cushman, a physician who supplemented his income by being physician-postmaster.
A spot on the map for many years, Milton is still an unincorporated town consisting of a school, a few grocery stores, and several other businesses and mostly residential area. In spite of not being incorporated, both the Milton Water District and the Milton Volunteer Fire Department have been formed, providing vital services to the community. Traveling east on Highway 92 through Milton, one negotiates an S-curve, where stands the parish church of St. Joseph Catholic Community.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church of Milton came into being through the efforts and energetic enthusiasm of two laymen: Joseph M. Hebert Sr., landowner and grocer and Oden Hebert, principal of the first Milton High School. These two laymen visited Fr. Johanne Rouget, the aged and ill pastor of St. Anne’s in Youngsville to ask for a mission church in Milton. He was not anxious to take on the extra burden of a “mission church,” therefore the two men used their ingenuity and visited Bishop Jules B. Jeanmard of the Dioceses of Lafayette. He was willing to help by soliciting a pledge of $500.00 from the Catholic Church Extension Society, through the Bishop’s friend, Archbishop William O’Brien. The donors of property to build the church were Joseph & Celima Baudoin Hebert who wished to have as patron St. Joseph. However, they agreed to yield to the donor of the $500.00, resulting in the name, Sacred Heart Chapel.
The first mass said in the Sacred Heart chapel was on November 15, 1926. During the first few years Mass was said regularly on Thursdays and every other Sunday. Since Fr. Rouget’s health continued to fail, he seldom came to say Mass in the St. Joseph Chapel. He depended totally on the assistants to do their best to minister to the mission community.
In 1933, Fr. Bernard W. Neyboer became the pastor of St. Anne’s. Masses were being said every Sunday in the mission. Fr. B. W. Neyboer’s reports always referred to the mission as Sacred Heart. After a few years the chapel was renamed St. Joseph in recognition of the donors of the property.
By April 28, 1941, the community had already outgrown the chapel. Father Neyboer commissioned a larger chapel to be built to accommodate the larger mission. The “little green church” was constructed on the north side of the first chapel. The smaller chapel was used as a parish hall until lightning set fire to the building during the summer of 1950. Eyewitnesses say it was a miracle that the newer church did not burn as well. This was attributed to the fact that since a number of women assembled to pray that the “little green church” would be spared, that God did spare their Church.
The pastors of St. Anne Church who served between 1926-1977 were as follows: Fr. Johanne Roguet (1926-1929), Fr. A.M. Rochard (1929-1933), Fr. Bernard W. Neyboer (1933-1967), Fr. John Windt (1967-1969), Fr. Fernand H. Gouaux (1969-1971), and Fr. Francois Bussiere (1971-1977).
The assistant pastors of St. Anne spent a great deal of time helping the mission churches. Some of the Assistant Pastors who helped St. Joseph were, Fr. J. William Ohlenforst, Fr. Marcel Dion, Fr. Alcide Sonnier, Fr. Bede Becnel, Fr. Rosaire Veillieux, Fr. Gerard Smit, Fr. Anthony Genna, Fr. Conly Bertrand, Fr. James Broussard, Fr. Richard Greene, and Fr. Richard Cachere.
The 1960s and the 1970s brought continual growth the typical mission chapel of St. Joseph until 1977 when the mission served by St. Anne’s of Youngsville became a church parish with Msgr. J. Albert LeBlanc as its first pastor.
Msgr. LeBlanc had been serving St. Anne’s parish of Mamou, Louisiana, for many years before becoming the first pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church of Milton, Louisiana.
When Msgr. LeBlanc arrived at St. Joseph’s, Milton, La., he found no rectory to make his home. He rented a small house in Milton until Azema Broussard’s house became vacant. She resided across the street from the “little green church.” Father LeBlanc was a very hardworking priest and a very holy person. He lived in Milton, Louisiana, for five years before moving to Charenton, Louisiana in October 1982.
The next pastor, Fr. David Primeaux, built a rectory on Edith Road on land that Lee & Rex Hebert had donated to the church. The building housed 3 offices, a meeting room and the priest’s residential area. Fr. Primeaux left to continue his studies on the East Coast in April 1985 and did not return to the parish.
Fr. Allen Breaux replaced F. Primeaux for a few weeks and Fr. Edward Fruge’ became administrator of the parish of St. Joseph for a very short time.
Fr. Charles Zaunbracher became the new pastor of St. Joseph on August 24, 1985 until May 7, 1986. He arrived at a time when priests just did not seem to be staying very long in Milton. He stayed among us for one year working to advance the well being of the parish.
On June 8, 1986, Fr. Jean Marie Jammes, a French priest, became administrator of St. Joseph Parish. He spoke French fluently, sang French hymns, and said many of his masses in French. After a bit over a year, Fr. Jammes moved back to St. Martinville, Louisiana on October 14, 1987.
After Fr. Jammes moved to his old parish in St. Martinville, Fr. Louis Richard arrived at St. Joseph to become the new pastor. The parish of St. Joseph had had 5 priests in two years. The burning question was how long Fr. Louis would be with the community. Reversing the trend, Fr. Louis would be with the parish for some 9 years. During his stay as pastor of St. Joseph, he organized the parish very well, establishing new ministries and initiatives. During his tenure, he also led the parish in building a new church to replace the “little green church” which had become too small to meet the needs of St. Joseph parish. The new church was dedicated on March 19, 1994 (The Feast of St. Joseph).
Yes, Fr. Louis Richard organized things so well that the parish was able to manage without him during the fall of 1996, when he was away on sabbatical leave. When Fr. Richard returned in December, 1996, he was given a new assignment as pastor of St. Michael Church in Cowley, La. St. Joseph was to remain without resident pastor for several months.
During the fall and spring, several retired priests were prevailed upon to provide services for the parish. They were Fr. Charles Mallet and Fr. Henri-Paul Chaisson as well as Msgr. I.A. Martin. Others came periodically, including Fr. Fred Reynolds, Fr. Joseph Stemmans, Fr. John DeLeeuw. During the time, the assistance of Deacon Cody Miller and Sister Carmelita Latiolais and many others in providing Communion Services was invaluable. The parish staff, which had grown over the years, as well as the parish council and other volunteers, continued to serve their parish faithfully.
It was in mid-June 1997 that St. Joseph gladly welcomed Fr. Mario Romero to the parish, moving to Milton from Leroy. Unfortunately, Fr. Romero’s stay was to be a short one, ending with his move to Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Scott later that summer.
On October 10, 1997, Fr. Michael Keith LaBove arrived to assume the pastorship of St. Joseph in Milton. Having spent six years in ministry as a chaplain at Lafayette General Medical Center, Fr. LaBove was somewhat known to the parish through having celebrated Mass there periodically, as well as having preached the parish mission two years previously.
After approximately nine years of service to St. Joseph’s, Fr. Keith was reassigned to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Lafayette. Fr. Randy Barras, was then assigned to the parish very briefly, and replaced by Fr. William “Bill” Gearheard. Fr. Bill’s enriching service to our community was four years long. Father Aaron Melancon was then appointed by Bishop Michael Jarrell in June 2010 and he was here at St. Joseph’s until June 2014, and was then assigned to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette. Our current Pastor is Father William Schambough who began his assignment with us on July 1, 2014.
Just prior to Fr. Louis’ departure from the parish, the former Bank One building across the street from the church became available and was purchased by their parish. This building, now known as the St. Joseph Life Center, serves as a multi-purpose facility, housing variety of educational and spiritual activities. In February of 1999, the parish also acquired two acres of land adjacent to the church, between the cemetery and the highway. This property will provide space for the future growth in the years to come. In the Fall of 2009, construction and renovation on the Life Center began expanding by adding 4 new CCD classrooms and the renovation of the St. Vincent de Paul building as another classroom/meeting room.
Over the years, two boys (now men), from St. Joseph parish Community have become priests, Fr. Henry Bordeaux, the son of John and Mable Bordeaux, became a Carmelite Priest. He is presently serving the area around Little Rock, Arkansas. Fr. Jason Mouton, son of Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge Mouton is presently a diocesan priest, ably serving the Diocese of Lafayette in parish ministry.
We end by quoting Fr. Louie Richard who is describing this vibrant community, said, “St. Joseph’s of Milton a jewel, a treasure, a pearl of great price, a paradise, an oasis of peace, all of this and more: a rich, Catholic Community.”