Dr. Jack Andonie received the Pope John Paul II Award from Archbishop Gregory Aymond at the annual Catholic Foundation dinner Nov. 8, but the real story was Andonie’s recounting of his courtship of his wife Priscilla and their 50 years of marriage.
Andonie, a former member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, praised his wife for her faith and lifetime of support.
“It’s the ‘50s – the 1850s – and I’m a medical student,” Andonie said, laughing. “She’s a student nurse at Charity Hospital. I see her walking toward an elevator, so I chase her into the elevator, and, as she says, we’ve been going up and down ever since.
“She finally accepts an invitation for a date, so I say, ‘This has got to be special date.’ We were allowed to go to one football game a year at LSU when I was in medical school. It was 1959, and I picked the LSU-Ole Miss game. Picture this – I’m a conservative Catholic and she’s a Southern Baptist from Mississippi. I’m an LSU fan, and she’s an Ole Miss fan.
“We got to the game, and Billy Cannon does his magic – a punt return for a touchdown. And as we’re walking out of the stadium, Priscilla is now an LSU fan. Every time I see Billy Cannon, I thank him.
“The really important aspect of this occurred several months later. She said to me, ‘Jack, I want to go see a Catholic priest.’ She converted to Catholicism. I have frequently heard that converts to Catholicism make the best Catholics. In this case, that’s very, very true. Her philosophy of life is very simply to love your neighbor. As a result of that philosophy in her life, I tried to emulate her so that one day by following her example I hope to get to heaven.”
The Pope John Paul II Award is given to honor a person of the Archdiocese of New Orleans who has given exemplary witness and service to the Catholic faith.
Andonie, an obstetrician-gynecologist, has served on the boards or been a member of the Catholic Foundation, Catholic Charities, Our Lady of Holy Cross College, St. Vincent de Paul, Pontifical Mission Societies, Rebuild Center, Serra Club, Ozanam Inn, Family Life Apostolate, WLAE, Cristo Sana and Chateau de Notre Dame. He delivered more than 10,000 babies during his medical career.