The Our Lady of Lourdes Oyster Festival began over 30 years ago as a sort of parish picnic. It was held in the strip of land across the street from the old Church on St. Bernard Highway, and some of the people who helped put on the Oyster Festival then are still working on it now. Over the years, it’s grown into a very nice festival, with seafood and Cajun food, raw and grilled oysters, good music, and rides and games. However, it’s also grown as an important part of Our Lady of Lourdes Church and St. Bernard Parish.
It’s always been an important community function and fund raiser for our Church, but it’s as important today as ever. First of all, because many of our parishioners, as you well know, were scattered to the four winds by hurricane Katrina and her aftermath. Many of those people have returned, but many have put down roots in their new homes. We should be glad to see so many of those old friends return to join us in our festival, but we should also remember that we also have many new faces. Many people, especially young families, drawn by the relatively cheap land prices and growing job market, and by the atmosphere of St. Bernard Parish, have joined our community, and the Oyster Festival is a way to welcome them, get to know them, and integrate them into our Church family.
The other reason why the Oyster Festival is so important to us is that it’s helping us to pay for our new Parish Community Center and reception hall. The new building has been a great benefit to the Our Lady of Lourdes. It helps the office to function more efficiently, allows us to improve the programs we offer, like the Parish School of Religion, and offer new programs, like the Bible Study, and allows us to have parish socials, like the Luau Dance. We were able to pay for half of the cost of the building with money saved during Fr. Luke’s time here and we borrowed the rest from the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Most of our annual payment on that debt comes from the Oyster Festival.
A great way to help the parish and to grow closer to the community is to help the Oyster Festival. First, you can help by telling people about it, especially family and friends who’ve moved out of the Parish, and invite them to attend. Many of you already help by donating supplies monthly, which saves us a lot of money and time. You can also help by volunteering. We currently need volunteers to help with set up and clean up, selling food tickets, working in the various food and game booths, and many other things. If you’re interested in helping, please contact the parish office. Finally, you can help by coming to the fair and having a good time. The food really is excellent, and the people are even better.
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Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.