As we begin the celebration of the city’s Tricentennial, it’s hard not to consider the growth of the Catholic Church in New Orleans in conjunction with the growth of the city for the last 300 years.
Through many trials and tribulations, the city’s Catholic traditions have remained strong. It’s hard to picture the city of New Orleans and not think of St. Louis Cathedral or to give directions and not realize the influence of Catholicism with streets named after saints (St. Peter Street) or religious congregations (Ursulines Avenue).
Most poignantly, our beloved NFL team was officially born as the “New Orleans Saints” on All Saints’ Day in 1966, a Catholic holiday. Without the Catholic Church, there would be no Catholic schools. Catholic schools are a ministry of the church.
Included in that growth and tradition is Catholic education. If it weren’t for the 12 French Ursuline nuns, who in 1727 began educating girls in New Orleans, our schools may not exist today.
Our schools may not have risen to success if it weren’t for the courageous and faith-filled Ursuline sisters, Capuchins and Jesuits, who all played major roles in contributing to our educational institutions.
Therefore, for nearly 300 years, Catholic education has been an integral part of the fabric of New Orleans’ culture and society. Today, we build on that great legacy as our Catholic schools remain communities of faith where students know their dignity and value and are formed to be leaders of tomorrow.
I believe our Catholic ancestors would be proud of the schools we have built and the values we continue to instill in students across the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In our schools, we serve a diverse student body, encompassing children from all walks of life, including Catholic and non-Catholic students, and those with identified exceptionalities and learning differences.
We strive to help each individual reach his or her God-given potential. We strive to make each of our schools welcoming and safe, places where God is present and children know they are loved.
Our success can be measured by the success of our students; our first goal is to prepare our children for heaven. In the meantime, our graduates are ready for college. Our schools produce religious leaders, National Merit finalists, Ivy League students, government officials, medical professionals, globally known athletes, artists, educators and more.
Most importantly, our schools produce students who are taught to treat others in a sacred way, because they know that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Our students leave with an exceptional education, steeped in Catholic values, where they are taught to know, love and serve the Lord, and that is something I know our Catholic ancestors would be proud of.
In reflecting on the successes of our Catholic schools through the years, I invite you to celebrate Catholic Schools Week with us. The nation will celebrate Catholic Schools Week Jan. 28-Feb. 3.
We will begin our celebration of Catholic Schools Week with the “Champions of Catholic Education” second collection at all Masses the weekend of Jan. 28. I thank you for having faith in Catholic schools and for your generosity in the past years.
Today, I ask for your continued financial support. Because of your donations, we are able to grant more children the gift of Catholic education.
I also invite you to join us as we continue to celebrate Catholic schools throughout the week with art displays and performances from our schools at Lakeside Shopping Center Monday, Jan. 29 through Thursday, Feb. 1.
We will conclude our celebrations with an all-schools Mass on Feb. 2 at 10 a.m. at Divine Mercy Catholic Church in Kenner (4337 Sal Lentini Pkwy.), where we will continue to give thanks for our rich history and bright future.
Dr. RaeNell Houston is superintendent of Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.