History of Saint Augustine Catholic Church
In Historic Faubourg Treme
The property on which Saint Augustine Church stands was part of the original Claude Treme plantation estate. Treme, a Frenchman, subdivided his estate and sold off large tracts to free blacks and others on a first-come, first-serve basis. In 1834, Jeanne Marie Aliquot purchased the immediate property of the Treme home from the City of New Orleans and became a major catalyst in the development of Saint Augustine. Jeanne Marie sold the house, which was built by the Company of the Indies in 1720, as the office for a tilery and brickyard, to the Ursuline Sisters in 1836. They, in turn, sold the property to the Carmelites in 1840, who then took over the little school for colored girls and used the Treme home for their motherhouse until 1926 when they moved to Robert E. Lee Boulevard.
In 1841 when the free people of color got permission from Bishop Antoine Blanc to build a church, the Ursuline Sisters donated the property at the corner of Bayou Road and Saint Claude, on the condition the church is named Saint Augustine, after one of their patron saints. And so it came to pass. In the midst of all these things, Henriette Delille, a free woman of color, and Juliette Gaudin, a Cuban, began aiding slaves, orphan girls, the uneducated, and the sick and elderly among people of color in 1823. Their particular concern for the education and care of black children, aided greatly in the founding the city’s early private school for the colored. At the urging of Jeanne Marie Aliquot and the wise counseling of Pere Etienne Rousselin, the two women knelt in Saint Augustine Church on November 21, 1842, and pledged to live in community to work for orphan girls, the uneducated, poor, sick and the elderly among the free people of color, thus founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the second-oldest African American congregation of women.
A few months before the October 9, 1842 dedication of Saint Augustine Church, the people of color began to purchase pews for their families. Upon hearing of this, white people in the area started their campaign to buy pews. Thus, the War of the Pews began and was ultimately won by the free people of color, who bought three pews to every one purchased by the whites. In an unprecedented political and religious move, the colored members also bought all the side aisle pews. They then gave those pews to the slaves as their exclusive place of worship. This mix of pews resulted in the most integrated congregation in the country: one large row of free people of color, one large row of whites with a smattering of ethnic folk, and two outer aisles of slaves. Except for a brief six month period when its sanctuary was being enlarged and blessed in time for Christmas, Saint Augustine Church has been in continuous use as a place of worship. We celebrate the 175th Anniversary in October of 2016.