Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana

Coordinates: 31°17′34″N 92°27′33″W / 31.29278°N 92.45917°W / 31.29278; -92.45917
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Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana

Diœcesis Alexandrina in Louisiana
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryParishes of Avoyelles, Rapides, Vernon, Natchitoches, Winn, Caldwell, Madison, Franklin, Tensas, Concordia, Catahoula Parish, Lasalle, Grant
Ecclesiastical provinceArchdiocese of New Orleans
Area28,780 sq mi (74,500 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2012)
44,600 (11.3%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
CathedralSt. Francis Xavier Cathedral
Patron saintSt. Francis Xavier
Current leadership
BishopRobert W. Marshall
Metropolitan ArchbishopGregory Michael Aymond

The Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana (Latin: Diœcesis Alexandrina in Louisiana) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or diocese, of the Catholic Church in central Louisiana in the United States. It is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of New Orleans.

The diocesan cathedral is St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Alexandria, Louisiana. It also has a former cathedral and minor basilica: the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, in Natchitoches, Louisiana. The current bishop is Robert W. Marshall.


Since 1853, this diocese has undergone four name changes:

  • Diocese of Natchitoches (1853 to 1910), defunct
  • Diocese of Alexandria (1910 to 1976), defunct
  • Diocese of Alexandria-Shreveport (1976 to 1986), defunct
  • Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana (1986 to present)[1]


The Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana has a total area of 27,810 km2. It covers the following civil parishes:

Avoyelles, Rapides, Vernon, Natchitoches, Winn, Caldwell, Madison, Franklin, Tensas, Concordia, Catahoula, LaSalle, and Grant.[2]

As of 2023, the diocese had a Catholic population of 37,816 in 50 parishes and 21 missions. It had 65 diocesan priests, 13 extern priests and 4 religious priests. The diocese also had 31 permanent deacons and 17 nuns.[2]


1700 to 1800[edit]

Reverend Antonio Margil was the first Catholic priest in what is today the Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana. At the time, all of Louisiana was a colony of the Spanish Empire. In 1717, Margil made contact with Adayes Native Americans living near Spanish Lake in what is now Sabine Parish. He founded the mission of San Miguel de Linares. Leaving a Reverend Gusman in charge of the mission, Margil journeyed on foot to Natchitoches to minister to the French Catholics there, then returned to Texas.

In 1718, during a brief war with Spain, French soldiers plundered the Adayes mission, stealing the church vestments and scaring off the congregants. When Margil returned in 1721, he persuaded the Adayes people to return to the mission and rebuilt the church, dedicating it to Our Lady of the Pillar. Franciscan priests operated the Adayes mission after that. By 1725, there were 50 Catholic families living in Natchitoches. The French established a mission near Natchitoches around 1782.[3]

The Vatican in 1793 established the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas, covering a large sections of land in the American South.[3]

1800 to 1850[edit]

After the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, this region because part of the new United States. In 1817, the St. Xavier Chapel was constructed in Alexandria, its first Catholic facility.[3]

In 1829, a Reverend Martin of Avoyelles visited Catholics living along the Red, Black and Ouachita rivers in Louisiana. By 1840, Reverend John Timon, then prefect apostolic of the Republic of Texas, was making regular visits to missions in northern Louisiana.

During this time period, a Reverend O'Brien, a Dominican priest from Louisville, was visiting Catholics living along the Mississippi River every year. These Catholics periodically drifted on barges to New Orleans to have the priests there bless their marriages and baptize their children.

1850 to 1910[edit]

Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Natchitoches[4] in 1853, taking most of the State of Louisiana from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He appointed Augustus Martin from the Diocese of Vincennes as its first bishop.[1] After taking office, Martin had one priest to cover the entire diocese. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart operated a convent at Natchitoches, and the Daughters of the Cross ran several convents in the diocese. During his 22-year-long tenure, Martin recruited priests and religious from Europe for the diocese, established a seminary to train native clergy, founded numerous missions, and erected a cathedral. Martin died in 1875.[5]

The second bishop of Nachitoches was Reverend Francis Xavier Leray, appointed by Pius IX in 1876. During his short tenure, Leray created two new parishes and ordered the use of English instead of French in all church homilies and other instruction. After only two years in Natchitoches, the same pope named Leray in 1879 as coadjutor archbishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.[6] [7]

There would be no bishop in Natchitoches for the next five years, until Reverend Anthony Durier of New Orleans was named by Pope Leo XIII in 1884.In 1886, Durier ordered every parish in the diocese to establish a parochial school, and in 1889 he organized the first Catholic school board.[8] He invited several religious orders to the diocese, such as the Sisters of Divine Providence, the Carmelites, and the Jesuits, who established schools in Alexandria, Mansfield, and Shreveport, all in Louisiana. He opened six schools for African-American children, with a total enrollment of more than 300 pupils in 1894.[8] Durier also established seven new parishes and finished construction on the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches, which he consecrated in September 1892.[8] After Durier died in 1904, Pope Pius X named Reverend Cornelius Van de Ven as the next bishop of Natchitoches.

1910 to 1976[edit]

On August 6. 1910 Pope Pius X renamed the Diocese of Natchitoches as the Diocese of Alexandria.[1] St. Francis Xavier Church became the new diocesan cathedral. Van de Ven recruited the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word to the diocese, where they established North Louisiana's first Catholic hospital (Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport) and St. Joseph's orphanage.[9] He promoted lay organizations and served as state chaplain of the Knights of Columbus.[9] During his tenure, new churches and parochial schools were established for African-American Catholics in Marksville and Mansura, Louisiana. Van de Ven died in 1932.

The second bishop of Alexandria was Reverend Daniel Desmond from the Archdiocese of Boston, named by Pope Pius IX in 1932. Desmond established ten new schools, 22 parishes, and 35 churches. He died in 1945. To replace Desmond, Pope Pius XII appointed Reverend Charles Greco of New Orleans as the next bishop of Alexandria. During his tenure, Greco established 33 parishes, over 125 churches and chapels, 100 convents and rectories, and seven health-care facilities.[10] In 1954, he also founded St. Mary's Residential Training School in Clarks, Louisiana, and Holy Angels Residential Facility for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Shreveport.[10] Greco resigned in 1973. Pope Paul VI appointed Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Graves of the Diocese of Little Rock as the next bishop of Alexandria in 1973.[11]

1976 to 1986[edit]

In 1976, Paul VI renamed the Diocese of Alexandria as the Diocese of Alexandria-Shreveport to reflect the population growth in Shreveport. [1] The Church of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport was designated as the co-cathedral in the diocese. During his tenure, Graves established or improved continuing education for priests, offices for religious education and youth ministry, permanent diaconate program, and the communications apostolate in newspaper, radio, and television. Graves died in 1982. [11] The second bishop of Alexandria-Shreveport was Auxiliary Bishop William Friend, named by Pope John Paul II that same year.

1986 to present[edit]

In 1986, John Paul II suppressed the Diocese of Alexandria-Shreveport and created two new dioceses: the Diocese of Shreveport and the Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana.[1] The pope appointed Friend as bishop of Shreveport and Reverend John Favalora of New Orleans as bishop of Alexandria in Louisiana.

After three years, John Paul II in 1989 named Favalora as bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. To replace him in Alexandria in Louisiana, the pope selected Reverend Sam Jacobs of the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana. After becoming bishop, Jacobs held town meeting in every parish in the diocese to meet parishioners and hear their concerns. Under Jacobs, the diocese inaugurated the Steubenville South Youth Conference and constructed a new youth center at the Maryhill Renewal Center in Alexandria, to accommodate youth retreats.[12] In 2003, John Paul II named Jacobs as bishop of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux.

In 2004, Monsignor Ronald Herzog of the Diocese of Biloxi was appointed Bishop of Alexandria in Louisiana by John Paul II. In 2016, Pope Francis named Auxiliary Bishop David Talley of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, as coadjutor bishop in the diocese to assist Herzog. When Herzog retired in 2017, Talley automatically became bishop. Two years later in 2019, the pope selected Talley as the new bishop of the Diocese of Memphis.

The current bishop of Alexandria in Louisiana is Robert W. Marshall of Memphis, named by Francis in 2017.

Sexual abuse[edit]

A 2002 article by the Dallas Morning News revealed that in 1998 Bishop Jacobs received an allegation of fondling against John Andries, a parish priest in Natchitoches Parish. Jacobs suspended Andries and removed him from his parish. However, after Andries received counseling and testing, Jacobs returned him to the same parish. Jacobs did not notify authorities about the accusation.[13] In 2002, Andries was charged with touching and masturbating onto a sleeping boy at the family's house in Abbeville. The boy's family sued Jacobs and the diocese [14][13]In May 2003, Andries pleaded guilty to charges of molestation of a juvenile and was sentenced to five years in prison, with three years suspended.[15][16]The Vatican laicized him in 2007.[17]

The diocese in 2006 suspended Reverend Frederick Lyons, a retired priest, from ministry after receiving allegations from two individuals that he sexually abused them as minors.[18] In November 2023, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith ordered Lyons to follow a life of prayer and penance and stripped him of this title of protonotary apostolic supernumerary.[19]

The diocese in March 2013 removed Reverend Jamie Medina-Cruz from his post at St. Mary's Assumption Church in Cottonport after he was arrested on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor.[20] Medina-Cruz was found dead in a motel room in Alexandria in June 2013.[21][22]

In February 2019, the diocese released the names of 27 diocesan clergy who were accused of committing sexual abuse.[23] Two clergy on this list were convicted while three others gave financial settlements to their victims.[24] Three more names were added to this list in June 2019.[25] Reverend Theodore Lelieveld was added to the clergy list in September 2019 after sex abuse allegations against him from the 1960s were deemed credible.[26]


Bishops of Natchitoches[edit]

  1. Augustus Marie Martin (1853-1875)
  2. Francis Xavier Leray (1876-1879), appointed Coadjutor Archbishop and later Archbishop of New Orleans
  3. Anthony Durier (1884-1904)
  4. Cornelius Van de Ven (1904-1910), title changed with title of see

Bishops of Alexandria[edit]

  1. Cornelius Van de Ven (1910-1932)
  2. Daniel Francis Desmond (1932-1945)
  3. Charles Pasquale Greco (1946-1973)
  4. Lawrence Preston Joseph Graves (1973-1976), title changed with title of see

Bishops of Alexandria-Shreveport[edit]

  1. Lawrence Preston Joseph Graves (1976-1982)
  2. William Benedict Friend (1982-1986), appointed Bishop of Shreveport

Bishops of Alexandria in Louisiana[edit]

  1. John C. Favalora (1986-1989), appointed Bishop of Saint Petersburg and later Archbishop of Miami
  2. Sam G. Jacobs (1989-2003), appointed Bishop of Houma–Thibodaux
  3. Ronald Paul Herzog (2004-2017)
  4. David Talley (2017-2019; coadjutor 2016–2017)
  5. Robert W. Marshall (2020–present)

Coat of arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana
Arms was designed and adopted when the diocese was erected.
The coat of arms contains a silver cross, four silver bells and a black and gold crescent on a red background
The red background represents the Red River, which runs through Alexandria. The cross with the four bells comes from the arms of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt. The crescent represents Saint Francis Xavier, titular patron of the diocese.


As of 2023, the Diocese of Alexandria had three high schools and seven elementary schools with a total student enrollment of approximately 5,000.[2]

High schools[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Alexandria (Diocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  2. ^ a b c "Diocesan Statistics – Diocese of Alexandria". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  3. ^ a b c "History – St. Francis Xavier Cathedral". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  4. ^ Greg Erlandson, Editor in Chief, Catholic Almanac, 2015 Edition, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, IN, 2015, p. 374.
  5. ^ "Bishop Auguste Martin, 1st Bishop of Natchitoches – Diocese of Alexandria". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  6. ^ "New Orleans". Catholic Encyclopedia.
  7. ^ "Bishop Francis Xavier Leray, 2nd Bishop of Natchitoches – Diocese of Alexandria". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  8. ^ a b c "Bishop Antoine Durier, 3rd Bishop of Natchitoches". Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana.
  9. ^ a b "Bishop Cornelius Van de Ven, 4th Bishop of Natchitoches and 1st Bishop of Alexandria". Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria in Louisiana.
  10. ^ a b "Bishop Charles P. Greco". Knights of Columbus Assembly 2161. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13.
  11. ^ a b "Bishop Lawrence P. Graves, 7th Bishop of Alexandria – Diocese of Alexandria". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  12. ^ "Bishop Sam Gallip Jacobs, 10th Bishop of Alexandria – Diocese of Alexandria". Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  13. ^ a b "Priest Pleads Guilty Andries Faces up to 10 Years in Prison, by Louisiana Gannett, Daily Town Talk, May 3, 2003". Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  14. ^ "Two-thirds of bishops let accused priests work, Morning News investigation revealed in 2002". Dallas News. 2018-08-19. Retrieved 2021-11-11.
  15. ^ "Priest Pleads Guilty Andries Faces up to 10 Years in Prison, by Louisiana Gannett, Daily Town Talk, May 3, 2003". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  16. ^ "Ex-Priest Admits Molestation, by Bruce Schultz, Gets Prison, Advocate, May 21, 2003". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  17. ^ "Diocese releases names of Clergy – Diocese of Alexandria". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  18. ^ "Alexandria Diocese Suspends Retired Priest, KLFY, January 20, 2006". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  19. ^ "Alexandria Priest Imposed Life of Prayer and Penance, Roman Catholic Diocese of Alexandria, November 8, 2013".
  20. ^ "Avoyelles Parish Priest Placed on Leave, Town Talk, March 13, 2013". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  21. ^ "Alexandria priest, on leave pending investigation, found dead". 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  22. ^ "Priests Body Found in Alexandria Motel, KSLA, June 10, 2013". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  23. ^ "Diocese releases names of Clergy – Diocese of Alexandria".
  24. ^ "Accused -".
  25. ^ "Diocese of Alexandria releases names of 3 former clergy accused of sexual abuse".
  26. ^ "Diocese of Alexandria releases another name of clergy with credible allegations of sexual abuse".

Sources and external links[edit]

31°17′34″N 92°27′33″W / 31.29278°N 92.45917°W / 31.29278; -92.45917