THE FOUNDING OF F.O.S.A.
The Friends of St. Alphonsus, Inc. is a grass-roots organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the former St. Alphonsus Catholic Church now known as the St. Alphonsus Art and Cultural Center. Our mission is to develop multiple venues of adaptive reuse for this endangered and irreplaceable, historical architectural asset, thereby insuring its preservation and producing a resource for the community.
St. Alphonsus, located at 2025 Constance Street, was originally built in 1855 by the Redemptorist Fathers to serve the religious and social needs of the Irish Catholic immigrants who began settling in an area upriver from the French Quarter known as Lafayette City in the 1840s. It was one of a number of buildings forming a religious complex that once occupied five adjacent city blocks. Often referred to as “Ecclesiastical Square”, the complex included an orphanage, nine school buildings, a gymnasium, three churches, the priests’ residence and gardens, two convents, stables, a laundry and other supporting buildings.
The post-World War II migration to the suburbs, in addition to the development of low-income housing within the neighborhood, diminished the church’s congregation. Steadily rising operating and maintenance costs led the Redemptorists to close St. Alphonsus in the late 1970s.
The Friends of St. Alphonsus (FOSA) was formed in 1990 after a small group of concerned citizens entered the abandoned church to view the splendid F. X. Zettler stained glass windows (c. 1870). Noting the serious deterioration and benign neglect of this magnificent and beautiful historic structure, Blanche Comiskey and Susan Levy successfully petitioned the Archdiocese of New Orleans to lease the building to the newly formed FOSA. Since that time, FOSA has held a number of successful fund raisers that have included concerts, auctions, and tours of the building.
In 1996, the building was declared a National Historic Landmark through efforts of the Friends, helping to insure its survival.
Because of the efforts of FOSA, the building has been made available to the community once again, albeit on a limited basis. Collaboration of these dedicated volunteers with other civic and private organziations has yielded a number of activities which have benefitted the community.