Father Fred Julien, M.S. spent nine years in the land of pine forest and caring people…years of hardship and privation..of work and worry. They were also golden years of developing fierce friendships and finally fulfilling the daring dreams Father Fraher had for a new St. Patrick parish. In 1951 Father Julien went to Houston with a 5 point plan he had lined out for St. Patrick. He sought the Bishop’s permission to:
- Convert the youth center into thirds with temporary church, living quarters, and parish office
- Raze the old church and rectory, salvaging as much as possible for future structures
- Build a two story brick rectory
- Construct a Catholic school for Lufkin and surrounding areas.
- Erect another rectory, turning the two story building into a convent for nuns who would come to staff the school.
At the time Father Julien only had three hundred dollars to start these projects. With the enthusiasm of the people in the parish and their willingness to share skills and labor, he assured the Bishop that they could do it. The Bishop signed off on the plan and wished him well. Soon after, the interior of the two story was framed, but without sheet rock. A parish member, Ed Farley, who was employed as superintendent at Southern Pine Lumber Company came to visit the priests living there and believed that they were living in unfavorable conditions. He knew that Arthur Temple Jr. (the owner of the lumber company) was a fine and fair man and decided to go talk to him about the situation. Two days after seeking Mr. Temple’s support, a long trailer pulled onto the property loaded with boards and paneling. Mr. Temple instructed them to clean out the lumber yard if necessary and only asked for five hundred dollars for repayment. They were able to complete the interior of the building with only one lone board remaining. Bricks were purchased for the exterior with a donation of $2500 and the building was finally completed.
Father Julien sought to purchase the Perry building, and old hotel located in downtown Lufkin that was set for demolition, from Ernest L. Kurth who was a business rival of Mr. Temple’s. Mr. Kurth agreed to let Father Julien have it for $15,000. Three months later, wanting to sell the building, Mr. Kurth again made an offer to sell for $5,000. When Mr. Kurth realized it would be better for tax purposes t0 give the building to Father Julien, and understanding was made that all debris be removed within three months. After Mass each Monday through Sunday, Father Julien and members of the parish worked to clear away debris. The unbroken bricks saved from the building were not used to build the new school. Instead, each family of the parish agreed to clean and scrape 1000 bricks each. These bricks were sold to a wealthy man in Nacogdoches and they were able to buy two new bricks for each of the old bricks. What was saved and sold from that building was worth $20,000.
Fill material was needed to fill the the foundation sites for the school and rectory. Norris Gipson owned a large gravel hill four miles from the parish property. He allowed Father Julien to tale whatever was neeeded. Just short of 300 loads of gravel were dumped and spread across the building sites. With two paid carpenters, the school and rectory were started. Once again they found themselves financially flabbergasted and decided to use the church’s $752 bankroll to purchase a $700 ad in the Catholic newspaper asking for help. To their great satisfaction, $3,000 was received, although it was not nearly enough. Checking the Official Catholic Directory, Father Julien learned that there were 45,000 priests in America. A plea for help letter was sent to each one of those to priests requesting one dollar to help build the only Catholic school within a 10,000 square mile area in East Texas. Over $20,000 was received through this plea. Although nuns were unavailable and the four classrooms plus two covered playgrounds were not completed, it was decided to open the school in 1955 with only a kindergarten. It took the assistance of a California who sent $500 and a parish member’s daughter, Naomi Fleming, who agreed to teach in exchange for living rent free in the two story building to begin the school year. St. Patrick continues to thrive because of the hard work and dedication of the people who love it and believe in the importance of Catholic education in East Texas.