Died at age 75 in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Lafayette, La.
Was born in Germany and came to U.S. in 1902.
Info from Crowley Daily Signal dated 28-29 and 31 July 1954.
Father Anthony Francis Isenberg was appointed pastor of St. John's in 1929. Parishioners remember him as a stately and handsome gentleman of German origin, a holy man of great integrity. He was also seen as a good business administrator and is credited with completing the interior of the Cathedral and achieving financial stability after years of building and growth.
Father Isenberg oversaw the interior refinements of the Cathedral in the 1930's. The installation of marble wainscot and floors and the magnificent and artistic decoration of the sanctuary were completed in 1936. In that same year Bishop Jeanmard personally donated a beautiful new marble altar. Parishioners gave the old altar, described as a hand carved Italian masterpiece purchased by Father Forge, to St. Peter's Church in Carencro. In celebration of the completion of the interior renovations, a solemn Pontifical Mass was offered by Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel of New Orleans in 1937.
There is no doubt Father Isenberg possessed good management skills; however, his debt reduction programs were seen as somewhat unconventional! Not only did he start an annual church bazaar, he also proposed the addition of an 11 o'clock Mass on Sunday morning, with a ten cent admission fee for all who attended. This was in the days of pew rentals, when each family in the conrgegation would rent a pew for an annal sum of $35.00 and would be entitled to sit in that pew for the entire year. Father Isenberg made it clear that at the 11 o'clock Mass, this arrangement would not apply -- you paid your dime to enter the church and you sat where you wanted. The skeptical congregation reacted just as intuitive priest expected, as recalled by a parishioner:
When members of the congregation and people in town heard of Monsignor Isenberg's plan, all said, "This will never work. People are too accustomed to going to Mass at earlier times, and who's going to pay a dime to go to church?" Well, he fooled everyone! The first Sunday, we had a packed church and each succeeding Sunday produced similar results. ... It wasn't too many years before we had the whole debt paid.
The refinancing and liquidation of the St. John debt was a huge task during the years of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, Father Isenberg, who was given the title of Monsignor in 1934, had the parish completely debt free in fifteen years. This accomplishment included payment for the interior renovations and the longstanding debt for the construction of the Cathedral. It is no wonder certain parishioners remarked that Monsignor Isenberg could have been a banker instead of a priest!
Tragedy struck the Monsignor in 1946 when he was injured in an automobile accident. He remained hospitalized for several months and was left with a lame leg. With characteristic determination, however, he turned his misfortune into good fortune for Lafayette when he spearheaded the drive to open a new hospital here. As a result of his efforts, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital opened on August 15, 1949, under the direction of the Franciscan Sisters of Calais.
In the 1940s, Monsignor Isenberg and his parishioners welcomed several dignitaries to the Cathedral. A gala was held in 1943 to celebrate the double silver jubilee of the founding of the diocese and Bishop Jeanmard's consecration and was attended by church and civic officials throughout the state. The first cardinal to visit Lafayette was Cardinal Samuel Stritch of Chicago who came in 1947 to preside at the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. In 1949, Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, then Apostolic Delegate to the United States, visited Lafayette for the dedication of Immaculata Seminary, a diocesan minor seminary opened by Bishop Jeanmard. Also in 1949, Bishop Joseph Bowers of Accra, Ghana, was the first black bishop to celebrate Mass in the Cathedral.
The last of Monsignor Isenberg's substantial projects was the construction of a gymnasium and parish hall complex at Cathedral School. The splendid $225,000 building was dedicated in October 1950 as Isenberg Hall, a wonderful testimonial of appreciation on the part of the parishioners of St. John to their pastor. The building has been in constant use by school children and by the civic community from the time of its opening.
Monsignor Isenberg retired in 1954 and died within a month of leaving the pastorship. His many years of service to the parishioners of St. John included not only building projects and good financial planning, but also the teaching of the faith and genuine devotion to the persons in his care. A tribute from one parishioner exemplifies the affection of the community for this good man:
His Latin Mass was so impressive, his singing Pater Noster (Our Father) left an indelible mark; sometimes I can still hear him... [After our marriage,] my affection for Monsignor grew stronger, and we named our second son Anthony for Monsignor.
Source: The Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist
Brenda Sibille Piccione
Jane Hundley Hebert
La 282.7634 Pic
RT REV MSGR A. F. Canon Isenberg
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