St. Louis Cathedral’s bells tolled as the black carriage driven by four white horses carried the body of Archbishop Philip M. Hannan down Chartres Street to his final resting place at the cathedral.
Street performers, school children, elderly residents, Catho
lics and non-Catholics alike lined Jackson Square to share a solemn day that honored a man who has made an enormous impact on the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
The throngs witnessed a procession complete with St. Augustine High School’s band and seminarians leading Archbishop Hannan’s family, priests and deacons, and Archbishop Gregory Aymond and Auxiliary Bishop Shelton Fabre.
‘It’s being a part of history,” St. Dominic Catholic School seventh grader Shelbi Copain said. “He is going to be a part of history.”
St. Dominic brought approximately 200 students in fourth through seventh grade to Jackson Square to view the procession. Earlier in the morning, sixth and seventh graders paid their respects to Archbishop Hannan while he laid in repose at Notre Dame Seminary Chapel, each taking a commemorative prayer card with them.
“It looked like he was at peace,” Copain said about seeing Archbishop Hannan in repose. “You knew that he went straight to heaven,” Copain said.
Fellow student Colin Graham experienced mixed emotions from the procession.
“It’s kind of sad because death is sad, but it’s also a happy occasion because he lived a long life – he was 98 years old. I didn’t know him, but my parents and my teachers said he was a great man for what he did. You have to remember he’s in heaven now.”
Seventh-grade social studies teacher Jeanne Guillot was grateful students had the opportunity to participate in the day.
“He did so much for schools,” Guillot said. “Even though most of these kids weren’t born when he was archbishop, he had so much impact on schools, and they benefitted.”
They knew him in different ways
Others waiting in Jackson Square for the procession included a busload of 50 residents from Colorado, several whom were Catholic. They said they cancelled their previous plans to pay tribute to Archbishop Hannan.
“It’s a very historical day for us,” said Margaret Faron, 72, from Center, Colorado. “It feels so special.”
26-year-old Michael Deris from River Ridge took time off from work to see the procession. He said he first met Archbishop Hannan while hawking programs at football games for a Baptist church in the Superdome when he was age 10. He said he had a stomachache one game and went into a suite where Archbishop Hannan was.
“He put his hands on my stomach and said a prayer and I felt instantly better. I’ve always remembered that.”
New Orleanian Paul Evans, 44, wanted to pay his respects and bid Archbishop Hannan farewell.
“I’m not Catholic but I know he helped a lot of people,” Evans said. “He didn’t care where you came from. That’s the kind of man he was.”
He married her
As she waited for the procession to reach Jackson Square, Roanne Langlinais of Lafayette recalled a “down-to-earth” man – not a formal archbishop – that she was fortunate enough to love.
Her first encounter with Archbishop Hannan was at 16 years old in 1975 while on a European trip with her grandmother Anna Greene and her 13-year-old sister Jeanette. Archbishop Hannan was a guide on the trip, and she vividly remembered him running after a purse snatcher on a motor scooter who had just grabbed her grandmother’s purse carrying their passports, transportation tickets and identification.
“I feel like I’m back in World War II in my paratrooper days,” he told her after the incident. (He didn’t catch the thief.)
Langlinais said her family and Archbishop Hannan had stayed in touch all these years. He was the celebrant at her 1977 wedding at St John’s Cathedral in Lafayette and later married Jeanette at the same cathedral. He visited Lafayette several times to visit her family and even attended her son Brady’s third birthday party – he’s now 28 – where he commented that he couldn’t remember the last time he was at a children’s party or when he had eaten hot dogs.
“I am going to miss him dearly,” Langlinais said. “I know he is smiling down on the city and all the people who came out to see him. He always talked about his city and ranted and raved about the people. I know he was tickled to death that the people of New Orleans honored him in this way.”