To know Rev. Francis Carabello, is to love him! And the proof was in the pudding when hundreds of people attended his Mass and reception that celebrated his 50th priestly ordination.

Father Frank, as he's called by locals, was the pastor of St. Joseph's from 1980 until his retirement in 2009. After almost 30 years as pastor, it wasn't surprising that current Pastor Gary Copping, Deacon Jerry Labadot and Deacon Len Enger and the St. Joseph Women's Club would plan a nice event.

What's so commendable is that although he has been away from St. Joseph's for nine years, so many people came forth to honor him. There were parishioners, clergy from all over and non-Catholics who remembered his good deeds in the community over the years. He served as chaplain for Gretna Police Department, David Crockett Steam Fire Company No. 1, Knights of Columbus Council 1905 and still today remains chaplain of the Italian-American Society.

St. Joseph Church was filled to capacity with some standing in the aisles as Father Frank celebrated the Mass, assisted by six other members of the clergy. His brother Paul Carabello and his wife, Rosemary traveled from Redding, Pennsylvania and his cousins Ron and Juanita Jordan came from Houston to enjoy the celebration.

A reception followed at the complex gymnasium that was decorated with fresh flowers, gold balloons and a "Memory Lane" area. There was a DJ, a photo booth, a chocolate table and huge cake trimmed with a picture of the church in Messina, Sicily where he was ordained and a picture of St. Joseph Gretna. Guests enjoyed meatballs and spaghetti and other scrumptious food and wine.

Deacons Enger and Labadot presented Father Frank with a framed Papal blessing from Pope Francis, a gift from Rev. Copping who was unable to attend.

"A good root system makes for a strong tree. Older roots can reach depths that newer roots can only dream of reaching. Without the roots that Fr. Carabello has planted, I, as the new pastor, cannot extend as well my branches out in the community so that St. Joseph can flower and bring forth fruit in our city. I am grateful to Fr. Carabello for being a guide and a help as St. Joseph fulfills her ministry for God in Gretna LA," Rev. Gary Copping said.

Mayor Belinda Constant and Police Chief Arthur Lawson presented a Proclamation from the City of Gretna and Debbie Swiler, president of the St. Joseph Women's Club presented from the club a bronze plaque to be installed in the church garden.

"When I arrived at St. Joseph on March 17, in 1980, I said my first Mass for all the school children on March 19, St. Joseph Day. At that time we had about 500 children in the school," he said.

"Everett F. Gauthreaux, a parishioner and community organizer for the senior citizens, as well as the founder of the Gretna Food Bank gave me a book with newspaper clippings that had been collected by Judge John Fleury.

"It contained articles regarding St. Joseph's since 1900. I was fascinated with the historical importance of St. Joseph Church Gretna. I used the information for future restoration projects. Just before my retirement, I donated that collection that had material about 8" thick to the Gretna Historical Society to be archived.

"When I arrived the interior of the church had been changed substantially from its original design. There was a great need to repair peeling paint from moisture and leaks. The exterior was suffering from fissures in the exterior columns and walls. The original roof, built in 1926 was leaking because felt paper beneath the terracotta tiles was now over 50 years old, badly needed replacing. Atlas Tile Company, who put the roof on in 1926 was still in existence and chosen to refurbish the roof in 1982.

"In 1970, to conform to changes brought about by Vatican Council II, the 1947 interior renovation was altered with modern additions that did not fit with the Romanesque style of the church interior.

"With material from the Fleury collection and a booklet compiled by Roger Boudeier, historian for the Archiodese with information supplied by Msg. Bernard Hammerstein for the Centennial celebrated in 1958, I set out to restore the church.

"I remembered reading that after a fire in the sacristy at Mardi Gras in 1947 the Conrad Schmidt Studios of Milwaukee were the liturgical designers and artisans of the fire renovation.

"While visiting my sister in Milwaukee at Christmas 1980, I visited the studio and met Bernard Gruenke, the designer and supervisor of the 1947 renovation. He still had those plans and I commissioned him to design a future restoration.

"The first major interior changes that were made in the 1980's was to relocate the tabernacle to the center and to install a Holy Spirit stained glass window behind it.