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Parishioner pleased with outcome of church protest

A Brookhaven resident said parishioners “got everything wewanted” in negotiations to reopen the historic St. Augustine Churchin Treme, La.

John Powell, a church member who now resides in Brookhaven butmaintains a home in the Treme area, was one of several parishionerswho shuttered themselves inside the rectory three weeks ago toprotest Archbishop Alfred Hughes’ decision to merge the St.Augustine Church parish into neighboring St. Peter Claver Parish.Services were held at the church on Sunday after Hughesreconsecrated the church following negotiations withparishioners.

Powell said he was still shuttered in the rectory Saturdayduring the negotiations. However, he did not stay for Sunday Massbecause he had pressing needs here and with the rebuilding of hisLouisiana home.

He said the negotiations went very well for theparishioners.

They were asking for nine months to prove they could enroll newmembers and maintain a successful church, Powell said, but Hughesapproved an 18-month trial period.

The parishioners have 12 goals to meet during the trial period,including the addition of at least 300 to 400 families, theinstitution of religious education and a balanced budget by Oct.1.

Powell said the church can meet the goals set by the archbishop”without a doubt.”

The church has already begun adding new members by signing upmany of the students and relief workers who helped in the protest,Powell said.

“The students and relief workers really helped push this overthe top,” he said. “They have been a great help and are a welcomeaddition to the church.”

In addition, two donors have offered $1 million each to helpkeep the church operational and assist in balancing the budget,Powell said.

Much of the controversy centered on the historical value of thechurch. St. Augustine Church was founded by slaves and free men ofcolor in 1841 with the blessing of the archdiocese and produced thesecond order of black nuns in the United States in 1842. It waslargely a parish of Italian immigrants in the early 1900s, butreverted to a predominantly black church in the 1960s as whiteresidents left the Treme neighborhood.

The aborted closure was part of an effort by the archdiocese toconsolidate as it attempts to deal with $84 million in uninsuredlosses from Hurricane Katrina.