JEFFERSON PARISH, LOUISIANA: A beloved pastor was found dead Tuesday morning, November 29, after succumbing to injuries from a woodworking accident, church officials said.
Rev Jimmy Jeanfreau Jr, the pastor of Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Marrero, lost his life in a “tragic accident” at a carpentry workshop on the church’s campus. Authorities responded to a call at around 9 am about a medical emergency on campus and arrived to find Jeanfreau unresponsive. He was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.
As reported by NOLA News, the Jefferson Parish Coroner’s Office said that the 60-year-old pastor is suspected to have died at some point on Monday night, November 28, after sustaining traumatic injuries while working with a lathe, a stationary tool used to shape wood. Jeanfreau, in addition to being a pastor, was described by church officials as an experienced carpenter, per WVUE-DT. A spokesperson for the coroner’s office confirmed that “there is no suspicion of foul play.”
RIP- Fr Jimmy Jeanfreau pic.twitter.com/6LUwSHl2LM
— Father Jim Sichko (@JimSichko) November 29, 2022
The church campus houses the Immaculate Conception School, which was reportedly in session when police arrived at the scene. School officials told students in grades third through seventh of Jeanfreau’s death during an assembly at 2 pm, per a letter sent to parents by Principal Kim DiMarco. “It is with great sorrow that I share the news of Father Jimmy Jeanfreau Jr.’s death. Our beloved pastor died in a tragic accident sometime last night and was found this morning by ICS staff,” DiMarco wrote. Another message posted on the church’s website read, “This is indeed a shock. Please know you are in my prayers as I ask you to join me in prayer for the repose of Fr. Jimmy’s soul and for his family.” A prayer vigil for the beloved pastor was scheduled at the church at 6 pm. School officials arranged for counselors to be made available for faculty, staff, and students for the rest of the week.
According to NOLA News, Jeanfreau was ordained as a priest in 1992 and served at a number of churches in the New Orleans area, including Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Belle Chasse, St Catherine of Siena in Metairie, St Luke the Evangelist in Slidell and St Jerome in Kenner in Metairie. His grieving friend Amy Dudgeon told the outlet that she got to know him through her work with the nonprofit New Neighbor Project, which taught English to non-English speakers who were new to Immaculate Conception. “He had this gentleness and this compassion that just radiated from him,” Dudgeon said. “He was a light, and such an advocate for the Hispanic community.”
Jeanfreau, who was assigned to St. Jerome in 2006, served not only as the pastor there but also the resident handyman, often working with parishioners to repaint the church, replace the carpet with tile and wood floors, and refinish the pews. A 2013 report by the Clarion Herald, the Archdiocese of New Orleans newspaper, noted how Jeanfreau “also created a side chapel dedicated to Mary by taking out a wall between the church and the parish hall, doing the carpentry work himself.” Furthermore, the pastor was also the executive director of the Missionary Childhood Association, through which he led trips to Bolivia and Nicaragua, Dudgeon said.