The university parish of St. Thomas Aquinas was founded in 1970 as a “personal parish” to serve the students, faculty, staff and administrators of Nicholls State University and their spouses, children and dependents. Over the years, our Parish has been enhanced by all of those that have been involved in its evolution–our priests, nuns, campus ministers, students, families, and the general congregation. We are a strong, compassionate people that have demonstrated what it means to be “A Community of Believers.” We welcome all to become members in our parish and to be apart of our family.
St. Thomas has been blessed with phenomenal pastors since it’s founding in 1968, by Rev. Wilmer Todd. Father Todd was most instrumental in designing and building the beautiful stained glass window found inside the church. He served St. Thomas until 1979 and since then, there have been ten priests to serve our parish.
Rev. Etienne LeBlanc, 1980-1986. Father LeBlanc brought the Awakening Retreat to St. Thomas. In doing so, Father LeBlanc was about to bring countless college students into an encounter with Christ and so inspire in them a fervent love for the Gospel.
Rev. Scott Dugas, 1986-1988
Rev. Charles Perkins, 1988-1994. Father Perkins dedicated himself to the development and structure of St. Thomas. Some of his contributions include the installation of the patio canopy and the glass partition wall between the church and the auditorium.
Rev. Alexander Francisco, 1994-1997. Father Francisco introduced a once-a-week free meal called “Not on Bread Alone”. This free meal was served to students, faculty and staff by various parishes in the Diocese, and continues today on a monthly basis. He also repainted and waterproofed the buildings.
Rev. Jay Baker, 1997. Father Baker cared greatly for the appearance and overall atmosphere of St. Thomas. He wanted St. Thomas to be a welcoming and beautiful place. To achieve this he built a storage closet, and improved the upstairs living quarters.
Rev. Vincente DeLa Cruz, Judicial Vicar of the Diocese, 1998-2002. Father DeLa Cruz was responsible for improvements and upgrades of the building. During this time, the community purchased a 100-year-old Stations of the Cross which is currently housed in the Library. The sound system and light fixtures were replaced in the Church. He had great affection for the children of parish and so began a Children’s Nativity Play and the Parish Family Fun Day.
Rev. James Morrison, 2002-2007. Fr. Jim Morrison reinvigorated the Catholic Student Organizations and grew student participation by 200%. He built the Common Grounds Café, replaced the kitchen, renovated the office spaces and improved the outside appearance of the building and grounds with the help of the Knights of Columbus Council.
Rev. Joseph Pilola, 2007-2013. Fr. Pilola added the Vocations Office to the facility which brought additional staff such as the Vocations Administrative Director who moved to the new Diocesan Pastoral Center in May 2010.
Father-André Melançon, 2013-present. Father-André Melançon was appointed to St. Thomas in his first pastoral post in June 2013. A former “Colonel Catholic,” Melançon attended Nicholls State University during the spring and fall of 2003 and recognizes that year as one of the best years in his life. St. Thomas Aquinas was his home for that year and the friends that he made are still some of my best friends today. His time as a student at St. Thomas gave him the direction he needed to pursue his vocation to the priesthood.
Spotlight in History
In August of 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, St. Thomas Aquinas opened its doors to evacuees with pets, who had no other options for shelter. Within a few hours of the first evacuee’s arrival, our Parish came alive. Parishioners volunteered in masses with donations of supplies, clothes, time, talent and treasure. Anyone with a special skill went right to work. We had doctors, nurses, cooks, veterinarians, plumbers, electricians, social workers and case managers working 24/7 to assist these evacuees with meeting their most basic needs and reuniting them with their loved ones. Our students and parishioners worked hand in hand, developed lasting relationships and formed solid bonds that would strengthen our community for years to come. Media coverage referred to the facility as Noah’s Ark. Letters of gratitude and monetary support came pouring in from animal lovers all over the world, which made it possible to help some of these families get back on their feet.
The Catholic Student Center at St. Thomas has also been blessed by Campus Ministers who truly lived out and encouraged authentic Christian living. They developed many programs and provided the students with a variety of activities to be a part of and events to attend. They cared greatly to foster rich relationships with everyone :
Tina “Tiki” Vial, 1988-1994
Lisa Waguespack, 1995-1996
Madeline Cheramie, 1997-1999
Roch Gernon, 2008-2010
Monique Legendre, 2010-2012
Cissy Atzenhoffer & Focus Missionaries 2013-present