A communion press circa 1870 was loaned to the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Natchitoches by the family of Harold and Matilda Andries of Many.
The family is rich in oral history thanks to Harold. His story about his Aunt Mary Andries is the only history the family has left regarding the communion press, but like all of his stories, there are precious details that are better than any illustration.
Two of the five Andries children, Mary Beth Andries Tarver of Many and Margaret Andries Preston of Dallas, brought the press to the church July 26. Their siblings who couldn’t be present include Jo Anne Andries Boydstun and Bill Andries, both of Many, and the late Catherine Andries Rankin.
The kids looked forward to Saturday nights when Aunt Mary baked the hosts for Sunday mass. She never married so she lived with her brother Henry and his wife Lizzy. The kids would make their way through the pasture, cross Phillips Creek on a foot log and arrive at Uncle Henry’s in time to gather around the kitchen and watch Aunt Mary work. She mixed the batter, poured a little into the press, closed it shut and placed it in the fireplace coals.
Oh that smell of baking bread!
It only took a few minutes to bake. Then she pulled the press from the fire, trimmed around each host and repeated the process. While the kids never knew how many hosts were needed for the next morning, those trimmings were tasty.
At the time the press was used at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Many, the parish was in the Diocese of Natchitoches. Mary Andries was born in 1870 and died in 1934, although her tombstone indicates her death as April 29, 1933. Her nephew Harold, who shared this story, was born in 1915. The first Catholic Church was built in Many in 1871. From these dates the family supposes that the press it’s loaned to Immaculate Conception was used in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Mary’s older brother, The Very Reverend Andrew Andries, was the second Vicar General of the Diocese of Natchitoches and rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He is buried just outside the main door of this now Minor Basilica.
Pictured from left are Margaret, Mary Beth, Father Blake Deshautelle, Kathleen Hicks, Katie Maggio and Adele Scott.