There were very few Catholics in the Picayune area in the early part of the 1900's. A Benedictine priest from Covington, Louisiana, used to come periodically to offer Mass for the people in their homes. Some of the earliest Catholic families in the area were Cressionne, Fluke, Lombardo, Oatis, Patterson, Puyper and Turgeau.
More Catholic families moved into the Picayune area. They were the Simonds, D'Antoni, White, Triplett, Martinez, Grice, Haydel, Cuccio, Farrel, Marcel, Attaya, Neiymeyer, Richter, Schwiejohn, Seals amd Goellner families.
Fr. Bernard Keating, O.S.B., from St. Joesph's Abbey in Covington, Louisiana, used to come offer Mass in the Seneca and Ozona area. In 1913-1914, he wrote Bishop Gunn asking him to come to Picayune for Confirmation. He wanted to build a church in the area, and enlisted the help of the local people.
On March 2, 1917, Mr. Robert J. Williams, a lumberman of Picayune and Wilco, who was Protestant, donated to the Catholic Diocese of Nachez a lot 50 x 140 feet reserving 8 feet for a sidewalk, and making the following restrictions: "It is agreed that the title to this parcel of land is to revert back to the grantor in the event that the same is not used for church building." The lot was at the Northeast corner of West Canal and Rester Streets, in the city of Picayune.
Under the leadership of Mr. Charles Mertel, Catholics and some Protestants, with the help of the Catholic Extension Society, raised enough money to build a church. Some of the building supplies were donated by the Thigpen-Whitfield Hardware Store.
A church was built and was dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo on November 4, 1917 (November 4 being the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo). This church building was used for the next 34 years until 1951, when a new church was built.
Fr. Keating also had a church built on Ozona in 1918. It was in very bad condition. On the advice of Bishop Gerow, it was torn down in the early spring of 1931, and the congregation, then comprising of six people, was asked to attend Mass in the nearby Picayune church. Fr. Keating served the area until 1921.
In 1922 Fr. Joseph Schermesser was appointed pastor of Seneca and also of its mission Chruch, St. Charles Borromeo, Picayune. His appointment came at the request of Mrs. M.L. Turgeau who advised the Bishop that the community had been without a priest for six months. Fr. Schermesser celebrated his first Mass in Picayune on January 2, 1922, and came twice a month by train. Later, when the road was built, he made the 50 mile trip by automobile. He did this until September 1950, when St. Charles Borromeo was made a parish.
The church building was unfinished and generally in bad condition, so it was remodeled in 1931. Mass was offered at this time, the Altar Society was organized by Mrs. T.S. Ross. Members were Simonds, Triplett, George Davis, M.F. Byrd, Mykleby and Charles Cressionnie. They took care of the business, since the pastor resided in Seneca (Lumberton). As the years passed, improvements were made on the church. Financial help came from L.O. Crosby, Jacob Carp, C. McDonald and many other Protestant families.
More Catholic families moved into the area: Lee Fuente, Cester Travirca, Ed Leleux, Meyers, Des Dronet, Cecile Brown, Tom Metcalfe, Fred Litchliter, H.A. Brondum, Robert Higgason, Sidney Dubuisson, Edward Dunn, Gene Nestler, T.H. McCarroll, A. Lombardo, Lloyd Cagnolotti, M.A. Roper, Bruce Cagnolotti, Paul Garner, Knights, Kents, Kriers, Camerson, Rileys, Millers, C.E. Perkins, Mauffrays, Joseph Johnsons, L. Bean, Rene Galmiche, Moody Genin, Edward Rechard and Mrs. J.R. Loeffler families.
In 1941, Mr. Robert H. Crosby suggested, through Mr. H.A. Brondum, that the congregation buy Victory Bonds toward the building of a new church, with Mr. Crosby matching the bonds. This plan was accepted and Lloyd Cagnolotti was appointed Treasurer. At this time the Catholic Men's Club was organized.
Lloyd Cagnolotti was succeeded by Gene Nestler. In turn, he was succeeded by Robert Higgason, who served in that capacity until the arrival of Fr. John Niemeyer in 1951. Through the supervision, inspiration and untiring efforts of the pastor, Fr. Joseph Schermesser, and the finance committee, there was a sizable amount in the building fund. In 1947, the congregation had collected $5,000, and, at the suggestion of Fr. Schermesser, it was sent by Bishop Gerow to the Catholic Extension Society to be used for Picayune at a later date. The Extension Society promised to give another $5000 when the time came.
Picayune continued to grow. On May 5, 1946, Bishop Gerow confirmed a class of 19. The site on which the Church was built was small, so another site on which to build a large church was being sought at the time.
On February 20, 1947, a plot of land 300 x 750 feet (5.16 acres) was deeded to the "Most Reverend Richard D. Gerow -- Trustee --" by Mr. Crosby (who was Protestant). The plot was two city blocks, and the road dividing them was closed.
On May 8, 1950, Bishop Gerow gave the Sacrament of Confirmation to a class of 21. Catechists for the class were Ms. Helena Fuente, Corrine Higgason and Bernice Riley. Sponsors were Mrs. Lee Fuente (godmother) and A.E. Nestler (godfather). The Bishop later met with parishoners who expressed the desire to build a new church. On September 23, 1950, the new parish in Picayune was established and the boundaries set. Fr. Daniel O'Hanlon was appointed Pastor on September 29. The building of a new church was the top priority for everyone.
The Building Committee consisted of A.E. Nestler, Fred Litchliter, Ed Leleux, Robert Higgason, Paul Garner, Rene' Galmiche, Des Dronet, R. Smith, L. Bean and H.K. Knight. It was decided to purchase all materials locally, employ local labor, and utilize as many volunteers as possible.
The church was designed by William Burke and Son, architects of New Orleans. He donated his services since his sister, Mrs. Litchliter, was residing in the parish.
Funds for the new church came from various sources. In 1951, the Catholic Extension Society sent $10,000 and wrote: "This donation includes $5000 which you yourself sent us some time ago to be used toward the building of this chapel as per our agreement".
Sixteen lots in Gulfport, MS, which were given to Fr. O'Hanlon, were sold and the proceeds were donated to the new church. People from other faiths also donated, namely L.O. Crosby Sr., Jacob Carp, Claiborne McDonald, F.G. McDonald, the Crosby family and others. Work got underway on the construction of the new church on November 7, 1950. Against the advice of the architect, no experienced contractor was engaged, and also, without the architect's knowledge, the plans were essentially changed. The trusses for the roof were inadequate. Signs of weakness in the roof showed up immediately. This had to be rectified by installing four posts in the church.
Constructed of rose-colored brick veneer over hollow tile, the inside of the building was finished with 48-inch Central American mahogony wood. The altars, pews, communion railing and credence table were all made in matching style, finished in white oak. The Sanctuary floor was an overall subdued green polished terrazo, while the rest of the church had terazzo of natural stone color. The paneling for the interior of the church was donated by Mr. F.G. MacDonald, Picayune Veneer Plant. The doors were donated by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Crosby.
The debt on the church was practically paid in full by July 1951.
On August 19, 1951, the new church on Goodyear Boulevard, was dedicated by Bishop Gerow. High Mass was celebrated with Fr. John Niemeyer, Pastor, as celebrant, Fr. Joseph Schermesser of Lumberton as Deacon, Fr. Charles Tierney, Hattiesburg, as Subdeacon, and Fr. Hoseph Koury, Jackson, as the Master of Ceremonies. The choir was the all-male graduate members of the LSU Catholic Student Center Choir of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The old church on West Canal Street was now being used for catechism classes, meetings of Church Societies, etc.
On March 17, 1953, Bishop Gerow blessed the Rectory, which was built at a cost of about $10,500. The cost was kept down on account of donations of materials and labor.
On August 21, 1955, Bishop Gerow blessed the new parish hall. Since the old church on West Canal Street was no longer necessary for Mass, classes or meetings, it was decided to sell the property. Dr. J. Austin Polk wanted to purchase it. However, since there was a clause in the deed stating that the property had to be used for a church building or the parcel of land was to revert back to the grantor, it was decided on October 21, 1959, to sell the property to the Williams heirs for $1,000.
On September 18, 1955, the Parish at Picayune was transferred from the Deanery of Hattiesburg to the Deanery of Bay Saint Louis.
On September 18, 1958, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine was established as per Canon 711, and on January 27, 1961, the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrement was set up.
In 1965-1966, St. Charles Parish sent $823.36 Cathedraticum to the Diocese. As time went on, new classrooms were added to the Parish Hall for the purpose of teaching the religion classes and for meetings.
In November 1983, a new Rectory was blessed by Bishop Joseph L. Howze. In 1990, the church and parish hall were remodeled. In 1991, a grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary was dedicated, a religious book store was opened, a Healing Ministry was established, and Masses are offered at regular times and prayers for healing. The year 1993 marked the ordination of Harold Gaule to the permanent diaconate and the addition of a canopy to the front of the Church. On February 14, 1994, Perpetual Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament was started (and remains until this hour). During the same year, the Chapel of the Angels was renovated and a new parking lot in front of the Parish Hall was built. In 1995, the Secular Franciscan Order Fraternity was established, a video library was opened, savings for the building of new church was started, and bells and a tower were installed.
The first Mass offered in the New Church on November 4, 1999, the Feast of St. Charles Borromeo. The second Mass offered in the New Church was on December 12, 1999, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The current Church opened for daily Mass on March 17, 2000, the Feast of St. Patrick. and was dedicated on March 28, 2000, by Bishop Joseph L. Howze, Ad Majlorem Dei Gloriam, Bishop of Biloxi.