For many years, Jesuit Father Edwin Gros, the pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Church, has had a strong personal devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, always depicted with a sash tied around her waist – a sign that she is pregnant.
At the annual Mass of Thanksgiving Jan. 8 on the Solemnity of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Father Gros tied together the two images of Mary, one for Latin America and the other for the Mississippi Valley.
Just as the pregnant Virgin of Guadalupe whose appearance in 1531 “gave birth to her precious child, the Catholic Church in the Americas today,” Father Gros said in his homily that Our Lady of Prompt Succor became a similar force for the entire Mississippi Valley.
Father Gros recounted for the congregation at the National Votive Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor that when the Ursuline superior, Mother St. Michel, obtained a prompt answer to her request to lead a small group of Ursuline nuns to New Orleans in 1727, she had a statue crafted and painted gold “to honor Mary’s queenship and shipped to New Orleans along with the arriving sisters.”
Two miracles had impact
The two miracles attributed to Our Lady of Prompt Succor’s intercession left an indelible mark on New Orleans, Father Gros said. The first came after the sisters’ prayers were answered to spare their convent on Chartres Street from a raging fire that consumed much of the French Quarter.
The second, celebrated every Jan. 8 since 1815, was the victory of the American troops over a much stronger British force that “outnumbered us almost 10 to 1.”
Father Gros said beyond the Americans’ unlikely triumph, what impressed him most was the sisters’ ministering in the aftermath to both the wounded U.S. and British troops.
“The sisters turned their classrooms into hospital rooms and showed the city that the British, though an enemy in this conflict, were still made of the same flesh and bones as we were, and were thus in need of compassion,” he said.
Father Gros said the Catholic education the Ursuline sisters brought to New Orleans “laid the foundation for the unity” Gen. Andrew Jackson was able to bring about.
“The sisters made no distinction between races and nationality and communicated a constant message throughout New Orleans that we were all brothers and sisters and that we needed to work together,” Father Gros said. “Did you know that at the time of Battle of New Orleans, the city of New Orleans had one of the highest literacy rates for women in the country?”
Father Gros said the final words of St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline community, were similar to Jesus’ farewell discourse in John’s Gospel: “That all of you live in harmony, united together, all of one heart and will. Be bound to one another by charity, esteeming each other, helping each other, bearing with each other in Jesus Christ.”