By Christine Bordelon
“What name do you give your child?” asked Father Luis Rodriguez June 17 to new parents Jenna Bullard Bird and Geoffrey Bird.
“Kathleen Olivia,” they said.
“What sacrament do you want for your child?” Father Rodriguez asked.
“Baptism,” they answered in unison as he traced the sign of the cross on Kate’s forehead at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Louisiana Avenue.
“This is the first, most important gift you are giving her,” Father Rodriguez, pastor of St. Clement of Rome and a family friend, said about baptism.
Over four generations, many Catholic sacraments have been celebrated by the newborn’s family at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church (OLGC), beginning with her great grandfather Harold Eck and his baptism at the church in 1926.
“OLGC holds a special place in our hearts as my father was not only baptized there but also attended school and was an altar boy there for many years,” said Maria Eck Bullard, grandmother to the newly baptized “Kate.” “He married my mother (Genevieve “Jenny” Trenticosta Eck, 89), and they raised us in the parish, with my mom teaching at the school (sixth grade and resources) and my father being on the parish council for many years.”
Family roots at OLGC
Eck celebrated all of his sacraments at Our Lady of Good Council and also was an usher, decorated the church at Christmastime, organized school fairs and bingos and was active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society. When he retired, he became an extraordinary minister of holy Communion with his wife Jenny, bringing Communion to the homebound and at Touro Infirmary, Bullard said. The parish bestowed on him one of the first archdiocesan St. Louis medals for his service in 1978.
“He was a larger-than-life character, and anyone who attended Mass at Our Lady of Good Counsel knew Harold Eck,” Bullard said.
When Hurricane Katrina hit, he and Jenny evacuated with Bullard to Arkansas, where he remained until his death in December 2015. Bullard knew his final journey had to be back home and arranged for his funeral at Our Lady of Good Counsel, one of the first funerals in the church after its closure and renovations.
“We believe it was no coincidence it worked out that way,” Bullard said. “Many priests, because of his many years of service at OLGC, con-celebrated his funeral. … Although the family moved out of the geographical parish, this is our home church, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Just like her father, Bullard was baptized at Our Lady of Good Counsel in 1964, graduated from the parish elementary school, made her first Communion, confirmation and was married there in 1986. She baptized all of her children at Good Counsel except for her last one, Emma, due to the church’s closure.
“It is a long, strong family history of memories in the church dating back over 90 years,” said Bullard. “We couldn’t be happier that Good Shepherd Parish has arranged for us to have Kate baptized. The place holds a special place in our hearts ranging from memories of baptisms, Sunday Masses, school Masses, first Communions, confirmations, marriages and sadly even my father’s burial not long ago.”
Bullard’s brother Patrick continued the family tradition by baptizing his daughter Jennifer Eck Frederickson, now a resident of Baton Rouge, at Our Lady of Good Counsel. Frederickson said she was married here and baptized her daughter, Kay Genevieve, here on Bacchus Sunday in 2008.
And, both of Kate’s godparents, Olivia Bullard and Trent Bullard, were baptized at Our Lady of Good Counsel in 1991 and 1993, respectively.
“I wanted my kids to have a connection here because we don’t live here anymore,” Frederickson, said. “I wanted my kids to feel the same way about New Orleans as I do,” remembering many Sundays in church with her grandparents and even losing a ring in the iron floor vents.
Bird, who was baptized at Good Counsel in 1987, said she would have had her wedding at Our Lady of Good Counsel, but the church was closed for renovations two years ago. It’s not that she didn’t try, though. She was willing to have the ceremony when the floors were ripped up. But when she had heard it had reopened, she didn’t hesitate to baptize the newborn Kate there.
In addition to a common location, another special element of the baptism was Kate’s christening gown. Jenny Eck made it with a hand-stitched German design and all of Bullard’s children, including Jenna, wore it. Hurricane Katrina almost destroyed it.
“My children’s christening gown that they all wore at Good Counsel went through Katrina when we lost our house,” Bullard said. “We salvaged it from the mess.”
“I’m hoping, one day, my daughter will get married here,” Bird said about her newly baptized daughter.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.