Holy Name of Jesus Church, towering in its Tudor Gothic magnificence on St. Charles Avenue at the front door of Audubon Park, has been described as the “Church on the Park.”
The parish, established in 1892 not long after the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition of 1884 and 1885, celebrated its 125th anniversary May 28.
Archbishop Gregory Aymond was the principal celebrant, and Jesuit Father Eddie Gros, pastor, and Jesuit Father Stephen Rowntree, parochial vicar, concelebrated.
Men and women for others
Father Gros said he was pleased about Holy Name’s rich tradition in training Catholics who have gone on to become city leaders.
“I’m happiest about the fact that so many leaders in New Orleans went through Holy Name School,” Father Gros said. “Their parents or they were married here, and there continues to be a Jesuit presence in this part of the city.
“I’m happy about all that the Jesuits stand for by way of education and training, to be men and women for others. Holy Name of Jesus has always done that, and I’m certainly making it my dream and my goal to continue doing that, to train and educate people to become holy participants in the reign of God.”
After the homily, Father Gros called up Mary Pinkerton, who won the contest to count how many angels are represented inside the church. There are 204 different images of angels, Father Gros said, and Mary’s guess of 194 was closest to the actual number. She won two tickets to a 2017 Saints game donated by Saints owners Tom and Gayle Benson.
Father Gros said Holy Name of Jesus has a thriving school with 500 students, all striving to become “boys and girls for others and then growing up to be men and women for others.”
The parish also has one of the few 24/7 perpetual adoration chapels in the archdiocese, with adorers coming from across the archdiocese.
Father Gros said he is excited about the parish’s Reverence for Life ministry, “because we not only stand up for life in the womb but we also stand up for the lives of those who might be vulnerable.”
“We’ve stood up for immigrants,” he added. “We’ve had someone speak to us about the death penalty. We also have looked at human trafficking. We have a special group called Angels for Life, which visits people in their homes and brings them to the grocery store, to the doctor and to church if they need help. And we work in collaboration with the Harry Tompson Center and any other shelters for working with the homeless because homelessness is such a big thing here.”
Incoming pastoral council president Stephanie Petras, who first came to New Orleans with her family in 2010, said she has been overwhelmed by the parish’s “depth of family and community.”
“For us, we’re certain if things are going bad, you know that you’ve got family here that’s going to support you,” Petras said. “We’re happy to bring people in and share our love and community with them.”
Mo Crain, the current pastoral council president, has a three-generation attachment to the parish. He and his family attended Holy Name School.
“It’s always been home – it’s comfortable,” Crain said. “When you have those issues in life that we all do – spiritually, emotionally, when you need to go back to your faith – this parish has been a constant. It’s always been here. It’s a fabric that runs through the generations.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.