Parish History

Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis, a native priest of Langbroich, Germany was asked by Archbishop Jean-Marie Odin to come to New Orleans in 1867. The city was home to a large number of German immigrants. He was assigned to the Holy Trinity parish upon his arrival. On one of Fr. Thevis’ trips back to Germany, he persuaded some members of his family to come to Louisiana. In 1878, his brother Peter Joseph Thevis, his nephew John Gerhard Thevis, and a friend Herman Grein came to America. Because of the yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans, the three men, who landed on the East Coast, proceeded to Milwaukee and stayed there with friends until January 1880.

At this time a new railroad was being completed connecting New Orleans and Texas. It was on January 13, 1880 that Fr. Thevis, accompanied by his two kinsmen and Herman Grein, came on this railway to Rayne and later to the prairie land three miles north of Rayne to look over the area. The site selected for the future colony was known as “Roberts Cove” named for Benjamin Roberts, the original owner of a Spanish land grant. Thirteen families would join them in 1881. More came in the following years. These German Catholics were fleeing Germany to avoid religious persecution and military impressments.

Fr. Hennemann of the Benedictine order was a missionary to German-speaking Catholics in the United States. He was looking for a place to build a monastery when he met Fr. Thevis in New Orleans in the spring of 1883. They ventured to Roberts Cove where Fr. Hennemann purchased land that included a house which served as both rectory and chapel and another building which served as a school house. He brought with him a religious brother who was to run the school. Thus, only two years after its founding, the colony had acquired a German priest and a teacher.

The monastery never came to be, but the Benedictines helped to establish the parish of St. Leo IV in 1885. Throughout these past 125 years, St. Leo IV Catholic Church has been the heart of the Roberts Cove community. Parishioners maintain their German customs and traditions. Some of these include the singing of German hymns for special feasts and occasions throughout the year. Another unique celebration takes place for the feast of St. Nicholas. The St. Leo IV Choir accompanied by St. Nicholas and Santa Claus visit about a dozen homes where families gather to welcome the traveling caravan.

In 1995, the first Roberts Cove Germanfest was held. This began a wonderful new tradition in Roberts Cove. On the first full weekend of October, faith, family and local German heritage continue to be celebrated on the grounds of St. Leo IV Church where visitors are treated to local German food, heritage and genealogy.

In addition to the Pastoral Council, parish organizations include the St. Leo choir, Ladies Altar Society, Holy Name Society, Sodality of Mary, Catholic Daughters, JCDA and JCY, the Young Men of St. Joseph and the Ushers Society. The Holy Mass is celebrated with the able assistance of altar servers, lectors, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The unique history of St. Leo IV Catholic Church is cherished and protected by its parishioners. This, however, should not be confused with a simple nostalgia for the past. Rather, it consists in an acute sense of having received something beautiful – the Catholic faith – and of having the responsibility to pass that gift onto the next generation.

Fr. Sylvan Buschor, O.S.B.: 1885-1892 Fr. Jacobus Ziegenfuss, O.S.B.: 1892-1893
Fr. Felix Rumpf, O.S.B.: 1893-1897 Fr. Placidus Zarn, O.S.B.: 1897-1907
Fr. Leo Schwab, O.S.B.: 1907-1930 Rt. Rev. Msgr. Philip L. Keller: 1930-1941
Fr. Cosmas Schneider, S.V.D.: 1942-1943 Fr. Matthias C. Braun, S.V.D.: 1943-1952
Fr. Gerard Wolbers: 1952-1955 Fr. Alois Reznicek: 1955-1976
Fr. Stanley Begnaud: 1976-1982 Bishop Glen Provost: 1982-1985
Fr. Keith Vincent: 1985-1987 Fr. Daniel Picard: 1987-1992
Fr. Francis Bourgeois: 1992-2008 Fr. Kevin Bordelon: 2008-2011
Fr. Paul Broussard: 2011-