Updating St. Joseph Cemetery

by Randy Tiller

In 2023 we will be commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic of 1873. This is not only significant for our diocese, but of importance to St. Joseph Cemetery. Never during the epidemic was Shreveport left without a priest to administer the sacraments and the last rites to approximately 25% of the population that was wiped out by the fever. Before a priest fell ill and succumbed to the fever, another priest was there to care for the people.

Since November, The Catholic Connection has been printing articles and a comic strip story about these five priests who ministered to those who succumbed to Yellow Fever in Shreveport (see page 17 in this issue). Additionally, our own Diocesan Administrator, Fr. Peter Mangum, recently traveled to France to conduct more research on these five men and has continued to share their stories.

You may not know though, that some of these priests were originally buried in the basement of Holy Trinity Church in downtown Shreveport. Fr. Isidore Quemerais, Fr. Jean Pierre and Fr. Francois LeVezouet were originally buried at Holy Trinity Church and moved in 1884 to St. Joseph Cemetery. Fr. Jean Marie Biler was originally buried in the Daughters of the Cross cemetery on Fairfield Ave., and exhumed and moved to Forest Park in the 1960s. Fr. Louis Gergaud was buried at St. Matthew’s Cemetery in Monroe.

With the approaching 150th anniversary, it affords us a fantastic opportunity to reconsider and restate the corporal work of mercy to bury and care for the dead. St. Joseph Cemetery is the only Catholic cemetery in the Shreveport/Bossier area. In conjunction with this anniversary, we will also complete necessary updating, uplifting, renovating, landscaping and beautification.
Some of our updates will include new registers for the tops of the graves of the three priests who died in the Yellow Fever epidemic, as well as pouring a concrete form around the crypts to seal them and keep water from seeping in. The calvary monument will also be restored. This includes cleaning and correcting the plaque, as well as reworking the steps and the landings. We will also be installing a new flag pole in front of the mausoleums, continuing the task of cleaning and straightening various monuments, replacing the fence at the back of the cemetery, widening streets, investigating stained glass windows in the chapel mausoleum, landscaping and adding statuary. Adding restrooms to the grounds is also a possibility.

All of these updates and changes will prepare the cemetery for visitors who will travel there from across the globe in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Shreveport Yellow Fever epidemic. In order to do this important work, we will happily accept donations to the Cemetery Fund. If your family has monuments and tombstones that need renovation or crypts that need to be painted and cleaned, we have professionals available to handle those repairs and renovations for the family. We can facilitate having the work done if families notify us and are willing to pay for the renovations. If you know of families with historical ties to the cemetery, please share this with them. There are still plots available for purchase.

Keep looking for more updates as we continue refurbishing the cemetery. We will also be establishing a Cemetery Board to look into long range plans to build an additional mausoleum and columbarium.

Our Immediate Projects:

New granite tops on the crypts of the three priests who gave their lives in the Yellow Fever epidemic
$5,000 each installed

Wrapping the crypt walls with wire mesh and a concrete formto stop water seepage
$7,500

Repairing the steps and landings of the Calvary monument
$ 5,000

Re-fencing the back of the cemetery with 6’ black vinyl fencing
$12,000

Landscaping
$15,000

Future projects include stained glass in the chapel mausoleum, extending the irrigation system and establishing a priests’ section at the cemetery to encourage our diocesan priests to be interred in our historic Catholic cemetery.

Other projects will include building an additional mausoleum with 200+ crypts and adding several small columbarium around the cemetery. We are also looking into securing additional contiguous property. Donations can be made to Diocese of Shreveport St. Joseph Cemetery Fund and are tax deductible.

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