The waxen figure
of a young girl within the reliquary contains a part of the arm of St.
Valerie, Virgin-Martyr, a native of Rome who was beheaded during the
Christian persecutions in the latter part of the second century.
Charles M. Menard, pastor of St. Joseph’s church then located in the
eastern outskirts of Thibodaux on Highway One, obtained the relic on a
trip to Rome in 1867 in order “to increase among his parishioners, the
spirit of piety and religion.
reliquary arrived in Thibodaux on a steamboat from New Orleans by way of
Donaldsonville on April 28, 1868. It
was placed on an altar in St. Joseph’s church with elaborate and
solemn ceremonies attended by 4000 people.
All business places were closed for this occasion.
Valerie became the patroness of Thibodaux.
A Confraternity of St. Valerie was organized to include all the
young girls of the parish of St. Joseph who had made their Solemn
Communion. The feast of St.
Valerie, April 28, was celebrated annually with solemn High Mass and a
procession led by the reliquary carried on the shoulders of men of the
congregation followed by the clergy:
members of the Confraternity dressed in white dresses trimmed in
red, wearing wreathes of red and white flowers;
members of church organizations; the pupils and faculties of the
Catholic schools; the St. Joseph brass band; Thibodaux volunteer fire
companies; and members of the congregation.
The procession was held on the church grounds.
St. Joseph’s church burned on May 25, 1916 the reliquary was one of
the few items salvaged through the heroic efforts of Thibodaux citizen
volunteers and volunteer firemen. The reliquary was kept in the Mt. Carmel convent chapel until
April 28,1940 when it was placed on a fire truck and transported in
solemn procession to the new St. Joseph’s church which had been
dedicated in 1931.