Roberts Cove Germanfest ~ 06 & 07 October 2018
Welcome to Roberts Cove and this ‘St. Leo IV Church Tour from the Pew!’
My name is Anna Bernadette Monlezun-Ponton and I am a direct descendant on my maternal side of two Roberts Cove pioneer families…the House of Hensgens and Reiners! My father is French Basque from the Gers Region of the Pyrenees in southern France and I am marred to a retired US army officer from Puerto Rico who is of Spanish Basque descent from San Sabastian, Spain!!! We have lived mostly in Central and South America and Washington, D.C. retiring to SWLA, my homeland of origin.
This holy ground of 20 acres … 360 days of great tranquility and then there is our Germanfest celebration and you are with us. Danke Schoen! Mil Gracias! Merci Beaucoup! Thank you for your presence.
Once upon a time in 1880 a New Orleans priest initiated a mission that was to change the agricultural picture of the SWLA parishes. Rev. Peter Leonhard Thevis of Germany came to America in 1867 to serve in New Orleans; he made two trips to the fatherland to recruit members of his family and friends for this German colony in LA.
Ten families of German Catholics, fleeing religious persecution and military impressments, left their homeland of Geilenkirchen, Germany and established a strong rice farming community deeply rooted in religious faith and German traditions on these very grounds.
Roberts Cove is an unincorporated rural community where 41 pioneer families gathered from numerous different hamlets in Germany settled on this sacred ground between 1880 & 1910…98 original colonists. The area of Roberts Cove was named for Benjamin Roberts who was the original owner of a Spanish Land Grant.
The German settlers established their own congregation in 1883 and in 1893 built the first church which was used for 60 years followed by the construction of the school, cemetery and convent. To complete your orientation Germany is 5,121 miles that-a-way!
Fr. Charles Zaunbrecher was a native born priest who first connected us to our heritage with research and numerous trips to Germany searching it all out! He organized the first ‘Roberts Cove Heritage Tour’ to the German homeland in 1965! The very popular Tour continues to this day, every five years, expertly organized by Father’s cousin, Dr. Philip Fabacher, M.D. retired who also travels to all parts of Germany during the year gathering more and more data! He is one of the genealogy and heritage experts in The Cove and is in the German Heritage Museum right now along with docents giving tours and explanations of the wonderfully informative exhibits!
The ‘Cove’ is formed by bayous and woods and is a collection of farms and homes scattered over an area of several square miles. But, its heart and soul beats in the form of a cross.
üNorth ~ St. Leo IV Cemetery which predates the formal establishment of the church…1882 on one of the oldest graves.
üSouth ~ the Pilgrimage Chapel which is used for certain feast on the church liturgical calendar. This was the sacred spot for our massive centennial celebration in 1980 where over 6,000 descendants gathered for an outdoor Mass under the majestic 450 year old Oaks! Kegs and kegs of happy beer were sold that day, we have the exact number…but not for expounding on in church!!
üEast ~ German Heritage Museum which commenced with our first Germanfest in 1995 which began in the converted parish hall which is now the gift shop filled with items from Germany. The present building was constructed in 2002 … you simply must go to both locations past the beer tent all on the right!!
üWest ~ This loveliest of churches …St. Leo IV Catholic Church which seats 300 souls was consecrated in 1956 when the Blessed Sacrament moved from the old church to this new one..
vSince 1893 this painting of our Church Parish Patron St. Leo IV has graced the sanctuary of the original church and moved here for the 1956 consecration of this brick church of German architecture.
vAlso preserved: two stained glass windows depicting the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ and the Most Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary crafted in the studios of the Oidtmann Family of Linnich, Germany … distant maternal relatives! My parents visited this studio which led me on an investigative quest with exquisite results…the 12 stained glass windows of St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans came from this studio! I served 27 years with a Diocesan Catholic Television segment entitled, “Lead, Kindly Light!”
vThe Statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, Most Sacred Heart (from the old church) and St. Anne, mother of our Blessed Lady.
vThe crystal chandelier was donated by my maternal great-grandparents Franz Anton and Veronika Knoben-Reiners; they purchased it while on their last trip to Germany. Great-grandfather died three days after returning to the Cove! It was later converted to electricity; again the theme of light!
vThe Sacred Heart Baptismal Font from the old church was restored in 1987 as well as the decorative scrolls above the side altars which originally were part of the old confessionals with wonderful hand craftsmanship of an original pioneer descendant. My mother was baptized in this font…a beautiful work, font.
vThe two church bells have also been converted to electricity and their sound daily continues to fill the beautiful countryside of Roberts Cove.
vThe stained glass windows depicting the 12 apostles were added in 1967 and the Casavant Pipe Organ was dedicated during our centennial celebration 1985 as gift from the parishioners and friends of this parish. Also dedication of the Gangelt coat-of-arms, featuring the lion, was adopted as the emblem for the parish. This logo was adopted not only because it fit the name Leo (Latin for ‘lion’) but also because it emphasized the Germanic background of the parish. It is our official church parish flag comprising the three colors of the German flag emblazoned with the St. Leo IV church parish symbol of the rampant lion framed by the Sacred Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
v"Flags and Banners” consist of the sixteen flags of the German states as well as the German National Flag and the State of Louisiana Flag. The Banners on display in the Sanctuary are from every Saint Leo IV Church Parish Organization.
vThe St. Benedict Annex was commissioned in 1996 and hosts small receptions, church offices; chandelier and various articles from the original convent, pictures of native priests and sisters. An illuminated glass showcase bears artifacts and sacred vestments, chalices and holy objects.
vThe Celebration of St. Leo’s Day 2010 was highlighted by the blessing of the new Prayer Meditation Garden. The wrought iron, originally used at the entrance of the former Baptistry now the Confessional, graces the entrance to the Prayer Garden. You can enter the Garden going around to the back of the church annex.
vAs you depart looking across at our Cemetery you will be standing on the St. Leo IV church plaza blessed and dedicated 1 October 2012 to our German ancestors who came to this great country for religious freedom. May all faithful souls who traverse this sacred plaza remember the sacrifices our forebearers made so that we may visit God’s Holy House as a Sanctuary from the world.
vThe German flags connote the original pioneers and American flags connote our Veterans of which there are more than110 here and 9 veterans buried throughout SWLA as of 2010. Cemetery burials predate the formal establishment of the church. One of the oldest marked graves…John Peter Gossen…1815-1882.
In 2009 the Acadia Genealogical and Historical Society published a Acadia Parish Cemetery Listing St. Leo IV Roberts Cove by section, row, number, name and date.
vThe children and grandchildren of the original pioneers come “home’ to The Cemetery in this Cove each year on All Saints’ Day to pay respect and offer prayers for their deceased loved ones.
Thank you for your sojourn with me back in time to the history of our ancestors but today in real-time, Roberts Cove time!
Danke schoen and May God bless you all the days of your life!