Images of the Month
December 1997

As we head into the Christmas season, criticized by many of late for being more of a commercial enterprise than a religious celebration, it is interesting to look back on the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe's observations on religion in the New Orleans of 1819. Latrobe wrote that,

"Sunday in New Orleans is distinguished only,
  1. by the flags that are hoisted on all the ships,
  2. by the attendance at Church (the Cathedral) of all the beautiful girls in the place, & of 2 or 300 quateroons, negroes, and mulattoes, & perhaps of 100 white males to hear high Mass, during which the two bells of the Cathedral are jingling,
  3. by the shutting up of the majority of the shops & warehouses kept by the Americans, &
  4. By the firing of the guns of most of the young gentlemen in the neighboring swamps, to whom Sunday affords leisure for field sports.
  5. The Presbyterian, Episcopal, & Methodist churches are also open on that day, & are attended by a large majority of the ladies of their respective congregations."

Latrobe goes on to (very) briefly note the efforts of local clergymen to make the Crescent City a less frivolous and presumably more religious community. In Latrobe's spirit, perhaps, our Images of the Month Gallery for December singles out eleven men among the thousands of clergymen who have helped to make New Orleans something more than the "city that care forgot." They and their colleagues, living and dead, have served the city in many ways; it is surely a better place for their efforts.


Theodore Clapp (1792-1866), a native of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a graduate of Yale, came to New Orleans in 1821 as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. After a dozen years in that position he gathered a new flock of followers and established the First Congregational Church. Parson Clapp, as he was known to the Crescent City, was famous for his moderate, if not downright liberal, beliefs as well as for his efforts on behalf of yellow fever sufferers. [Cohen's New Orleans Directory for 1854]


One of Parson Clapp's successors in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church was the Reverend Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818-1902). He came to New Orleans from South Carolina during the 1850s and is perhaps best known for his 1860 sermon, on Thanksgiving day, calling for Louisiana to secede from the Union. Rev. Palmer is remembered by Palmer Avenue, and Palmer Park, but not by Palmer School which recently was renamed in honor of Lorraine Hansberry. [Jewell's Crescent City Illustrated (1873)]


The Episcopal Church traces its local origins back to the year 1805. Bishop J. N. Galleher (1839-1891) was the third leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. A native of KentuckyLorraine Hansberry he came to Louisiana in his teens and began the study of law. After service in the Confederate army he switched to theology and was ordained to the priesthood in 1869. He served as rector of Trinity Church and other parishes prior to his consecration as bishop in 1879. Shown here is a bookplate used by Bishop Galleher. [Louisiana Division Bookplate Collection]


Maximillian Heller (1860-1929) served the Reform Jewish community of New Orleans as the second rabbi for Congregation Temple Sinai. A native of present-day Czechoslovakia, Rabbi Heller came to the U.S. as a young man and began studies at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. After brief tenures in Chicago and Houston, he was called to the Crescent City as the successor to James K. Gutheim, Temple Sinai's first rabbi. A noted writer and lecturer, Rabbi Heller also held a professorship of Hebrew and Hebrew Literature at Tulane University. [The Israelites of Louisiana (1904)]


Dr. Calvin S. Stanley, pastor of the Wesley M. E. Church in 1922. The Wesley church, then located on South Liberty between Perdido and Poydras Streets, dated back to 1844, making it the oldest African American place of worship in the Crescent City. The site is now occupied by City Hall. Dr. Stanley was a graduate of the Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta. He died at Baton Rouge in 1932. [Colored New Orleans: High Points of Negro Endeavor (1922)]


James Hubert Blenk (1856-1917) came to New Orleans from his native Germany as a young boy and soon converted to Catholicism. Ordained a priest in 1885 he taught at Jefferson College in Convent, Louisiana and later served as its president. In 1899 he was consecrated bishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Eight years later he succeeded Placide Chapelle as Archbishop of New Orleans. Archbishop Blenk played a prominent role in the development of Catholic educational facilities in the Crescent City. He is remembered today by Archbishop Blenk High School in Gretna. [Metropolitan Edition, The Morning Star (June 1, 1914]


Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel (front, center) prepares to enter St. Louis Cathedral for the consecration of Bishop Robert Emmet Tracy, May 19, 1959. Archbishop Rummel (1876-1974) was born in Germany and came to the U.S. as a child. He grew up in the New York area and in 1902 was ordained in Rome, where he had been sent to study for the priesthood. Rummel became bishop of Omaha, Nebraska in 1928 and, in 1935, was elevated to the position of Archbishop of New Orleans. [Louisiana Division Photograph Collection, Bishop Robert E. Tracy Album]


Archbishop John Patrick Cody (seated at left) and Father Francis G. Boeshans look over a model of the proposed new facility for Resurrection of Our Lord parish, ca. 1963. Standing is the project's architect, J. Buchanan Blitch (far left) and contractor, Lionel F. Favret. Cody actually held the title "Coadjutor Archbishop" at the time; he continued in that position until the death of Archbishop Rummel. In 1965 he became Archbishop of Chicago, a position that he held until his death in 1982. During his Chicago years, Archbishop Cody was elevated to the College of Cardinals. [Louisiana Division Photograph Collection, General Interest Collection, Churches---Catholic]


Monsignor Henry C. Bezou (1913-1989) is shown here at Mayor Victor H. Schiro's 1965 prayer breakfast, seated to the right of Police Superintendent Joseph I. Giarrusso. Father Bezou, a native New Orleanian, was ordained in 1938 and five years later was appointed Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In addition to his position with the school system, he also served as pastor of St. Patrick's, Our Lady Star of the Sea, and St. Francis Xavier parishes. Father Bezou's lifelong interest in history culminated in the 1973 publication of his Metairie: A Tongue of Land to Pasture. [Louisiana Division Photograph Collection, Municipal Government Collection, Mayor Victor H. Schiro Collection, Prayer Breakfasts]


Rev. Willie Earl Hausey (1909-1996) was a native of New Orleans and a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute and of the Union Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as pastor of the St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church from 1950 until his death. Rev. Hausey's service to the community extended well beyond the pulpit, however. He was the first African American to serve of the Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University; he also served on the Housing Authority of New Orleans and on the Audubon Park Commission. [Louisiana Division Photograph Collection, Portraits]


Father Francis Xavier Seelos (1819-1867) came to the U.S. from his native Bavaria in 1843. In the following year he was ordained to the priesthood as a Redemptorist. Father Seelos performed missionary work in various locations around the country and in 1866 was assigned to New Orleans, where he served at his order's three Irish Channel churches--St. Alphonsus, St. Mary's Assumption, and Notre Dame de Bons Secours. He fell victim to the yellow fever during the following year and died on October 4, one of 3,107 to succumb to the 1867 epidemic. In recognition of his saintly life, Father Seelos has been under consideration for canonization since the early part of this century. [From a Father Seelos "holy picture" in the Louisiana Division's vertical file]


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