The body of Archbishop Philip M. Hannan was returned to St. Louis Cathedral for a final time Wednesday night, and there to pay her final respects was his dear friend, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Lindy Boggs.
At 95, the former Congresswoman from Louisiana walked slowly up the main aisle at St. Louis Cathedral and prayed briefly at his open casket, which arrived at the cathedral following a five-mile horse-drawn procession from Notre Dame Seminary. Boggs was Vatican ambassador from 1997 to 2001.
Archbishop Hannan’s funeral Mass will be celebrated Thursday at 2 p.m. at St. Louis Cathedral, and he will be buried in a crypt to the right of the altar.
“I think he will be remembered mostly for being a man of his times,” said Boggs, who moved from New Orleans recently to reside with family in the Washington, D.C., area. “He was apparently heaven-sent to take care of problems confronting us.”
Boggs was the wife of former House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, D-La., who died in a private plane crash in Alaska in 1973. His body was never found, but during the month-long search she leaned heavily on Archbishop Hannan for advice and spiritual comfort.
Boggs assumed her husband’s vacant seat in 1973 and then was re-elected to Congress for eight full terms before retiring in January 1991 and moving back to New Orleans. She lived in a beautifully restored former ironworks shop on Bourbon Street, just a few blocks from St. Louis Cathedral, which became her home parish.
Archbishop Hannan first met Boggs when she and her husband attended Mass at St. Patrick’s Church in Washington, D.C., and they formed a fast friendship. Archbishop Hannan’s niece, Peggy Hannan Laramie, worked as an assistant to Boggs for many years.
“Living in Washington and seeing his influence and living in New Orleans and seeing his influence just filled me with more and more respect for him,” Boggs said, sipping a glass of water in a side pew after praying for Archbishop Hannan.
Asked how difficult the loss of Archbishop Hannan was for her, Boggs replied: “I won’t have a singing partner anymore.”
The arrival of Archbishop Hannan’s body at the cathedral capped a joyous procession from the seminary down South Carrollton Avenue to Canal Street and then into the French Quarter. Students from Catholic schools and even public schools lined both sides of the streets, waving to the horse-drawn carriage and making the sign of the cross as it passed.
More than 7,000 Catholic school students attended the procession, and the crowds were thick on each side of the street the entire way.
Aloysia Everett stopped her car in traffic on the other side of the procession on Carrollton Avenue and knelt down on the grassy neutral ground, taking a picture withy her phone camera. She was crying.
“Philip Hannan was actually at my first Communion and at my confirmation, so this was very touching,” Everett said.
Asked what he meant to her, Everett replied: “Peace, peace.”
Another woman, Theresa Ripberger, snapped off a salute to Archbishop Hannan, as did Ralph Bertheaud, 92, who like Archbishop Hannan, served in WWII.
“He flew into Normandy – I floated into Normandy,” Bertheaud said, making the sign of the cross, then bowing toward the hearse and finally giving him a salute. “He was an Army officer, commission. You’re darn right I saluted him.”
Leo Valeary, a parishioner of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in New Orleans, came very prepared. He had not one cell phone camera, but two – one for each hand.
“This one’s for a friend,” Valeary said. “This man was a big help to the community. I’ve found out a lot more about him since he died.”
Longtime New Orleans funeral director Garic Schoen, 90, coordinated the last funeral for a New Orleans archbishop – Joseph Francis Rummel in 1964. That funeral also included a procession from the seminary to the cathedral, but it was all by automobile and went quickly.
With members of the Hannan family and Archbishop Gregory Aymond walking behind the hearse the entire distance, this was quite different, Schoen said.
“We got to have contact with the people this time,” Schoen said. “It was an incredible crowd. They had all the high school kids out on the neutral ground. This showed the love people have for him. He was so friendly, and they recognized it. That was his personality. He also had a willingness to help others. He showed it, and they showed it.”