A friend of mine called the other day to make arrangements to get together. She told me to meet her on the corner of Nuns and Religious. Any place besides New Orleans and I would have thought she was just joking around. But, sure enough, down here such streets exist along with Ursulines and Dominican.
To the Northerner, New Orleans is another country, seductive and disorienting. To the Southerner is part of the family; a little eccentric; French and very Roman Catholic even in the midst of a very Anglo-Saxon culture.
New Orleans is celebrating its tri-centennial this year, and the connections this city has with all things Catholic are legion. Beginning with the arrival of the Jesuits in 1725, Ursulines in 1727, the Daughters of Charity in 1820, the Dominicans in 1860 (and many others) and continuing to the present with the many religious orders that joined in the recovery efforts after Katrina, the city has maintained a Catholic culture that might be hard to find in a lot of places. The people living in the neighborhood around the Peace Center are always telling us stories about the Sisters who used to live in the area and visit with them before Katrina.
Many saints and blesseds have ministered to the people here: St. Frances Cabrini, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Blessed Henriette Delille. They have left schools and medical facilities in their wake that continue efforts to minister to the poor and the marginalized. Xavier University is a Catholic all Black institution of higher learning founded by Saint Katherine Drexel, and the Peace Center has the honor of working with many students from there who volunteer in our After School program.
Even Mardi Gras has tried to honor the role of the Catholics in this town. In 2017, in honor of their 175th Anniversary, the Sisters of the Holy Family had their own float in one parade. In 2018, in honor of the tri-centennial, the Krewe of Rex provided floats decorated with figures of Blessed Henriette, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the Ursuline Sisters and St. Louis Cathedral.
In his reflection during our celebration of Consecrated Life in the Archdiocese, Archbishop Aymond shared that recently someone had said to him that religious women were a total part of the history of this city. He responded no; they had actually written the history of this city.
Is this a super holy city? Nope. Is it a city filled with evil? Nope. But it is filled with folks who have been helped by Sisters, Brothers, Nuns and Priests for 300 years and more. God is good! All the time!