St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church
7300 Crowder Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70127
(504) 242-7554 | smgnola.com
Although St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church began as a mission chapel in Gentilly, it was moved to New Orleans East in 1962. Three years later, it was officially established as the parish church for the Little Woods neighborhood and now embodies a contemporary-style church and a community center with classrooms, spread across several acres of land, along with an enthusiastic congregation.
The current parish pastor, Monsignor Earl Gauthreaux, arrived on June 1, 1968, and has been a part of the church and its surrounding community ever since.
“I’ve been out here for a little over 50 years, so I’ve seen the growth of this entire area — and also the regrowth after Hurricane Katrina,” said Gauthreaux. “This area was completely flooded by Katrina, and so we had to rebuild everything.”
The church complex was gutted and restored within a year.
St. Maria Goretti’s church seats close to 900 people; the chapel, which is where daily services are held, can accompany nearly 100 people. The adjacent community center — the Msgr. Gauthreaux Center — comprises twelve classrooms, surrounding an open space with a fountain. The buildings are bordered by vast grassy areas.
Gauthreaux explained that nearby residents reserve the community center for neighborhood gatherings, meetings or recreational activities.
“We open it up to everybody, and we don’t charge them anything,” he said. “It’s open to them for their use.”
Gauthreaux, who turned 88 in November of 2018, was born in Plaquemine, Louisiana, as the third of six children; he spent most of his childhood and adolescence in this city.
In 1956, Gauthreaux was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop L. Abel Caillouet in St. Louis Cathedral. He was named a prelate of honor by Pope Paul VI in April of 1975, with the title Monsignor.
The seasoned pastor and his clergy host masses, provide sacraments to Catholics within the area, and take care of the sick inside the comfort of their home or in the nearby nursing home.
But any person, regardless of his or her background, is welcome to visit the center, Gauthreaux emphasized.
“We serve people of all denominations…our center is open to them,” he said.
St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church hosts an assortment of ministries, organizations and outreach programs.
The Just Faith group prepares and delivers meals to the homeless. Members of the Altar Societies help maintain the church and offer altar assistance during mass. The Lay Carmelites, “a very prayerful group,” helps the community however necessary.
“We have a very active CYO — a Catholic Youth Group — which reaches out to the poor during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they also do many other projects, besides the athletics that they are involved in,” said Gauthreaux.
“We also reach out to people in the neighborhood who are poor and neglected,” said Gauthreaux. “It’s done on a regular basis, even on a weekly basis… our people are very generous and loyal to their church, and very supportive of the activities of the church.”
The Haitian Partnership committee helps a “poor parish” in the Caribbean country of Haiti, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. And since Gauthreaux has an assistant priest who hails from Uganda, his congregation has been able to offer direct support to the communities within that African country.
The church also sponsors bingo nights, and a free picnic each year.
“We prepare all the food and distribute it to the congregation,” said Gauthreaux. “It’s our way of thanking them for their loyalty and generosity towards the parish, and also towards the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”