On Aug. 2, we celebrated the Feast of St. Mary of the Angels and the 95th anniversary of the founding of our church in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. It was an event to remember with an uplifting feeling that will last a long time.
St. Mary of the Angels Church community was blessed in so many ways. Blessed to have a decorated altar in honor of St. Mary of the Angels. Blessed to have lively musicians and choir making a spirit-filled celebration. Blessed to have our highest turnout since the beginning of the pandemic and the presence of people we have not seen in a few months. Blessed to have messages of congratulations coming in from our twin sister church communities.
We were blessed with special visitors like our Franciscan Bishop Fernand Cheri, who presided and delivered the inspiring homily. Blessed by the presence of Maronite Sr. Marjorie Hebert, who taught at SMA School and now is the CEO of Catholic Charities in New Orleans.
A special tribute during the occasion was given by Dr. Julie Morial, Chief Medical Officer of United Health Care, who presented a plaque to SMA Church community for opening our community center so that free virus testing could be provided to the public.
We were also blessed to have “take-and-go”, a treat of sliced cake and juice that guests could enjoy at home with family.
May this blessed celebration deepen our faith into being witnesses, “living stones built into a spiritual edifice with Jesus as the cornerstone.”
(Joe Hund is pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in New Orleans, La.)
How it all began
In 1925 the tradition and spirituality of the Franciscan friars and the contributions and skills of local people were combined to establish the church community of St. Mary of the Angels in the Upper Ninth Ward. It was named for the simple, neglected chapel in the woods near Assisi that was so loved by St. Francis. The original wooden church, completed in 1927, was destroyed by fire, and the next church was destroyed by Hurricane Betsy. Our present church, dedicated in 1966, survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and will survive our current crisis, the coronavirus. Many changes have taken place in these 95 years, not only with the church building but also with the church community, but the friars continue to minister today.