By Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Clarion Herald Commentary
You were close to two women who died recently – former Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and FOX 8 news anchor Nancy Parker. Can you talk about each woman?
They were both women of deep faith, and I was privileged to have known them. I was not in town when Gov. Blanco served from 2002 to 2006 as governor of Louisiana, but she served with distinction during some of the darkest moments our state has ever experienced. Hurricane Katrina was a catastrophe for so many families and individuals in Louisiana, and Gov. Blanco was steadfast in helping the state and its citizens recover. Her life with God through the church was always first in her heart.
When I offered a prayer at the interfaith service for her last week at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge, I recalled that the cathedral was her parish while she governed the state through times of joy and peace, and through turbulent times of hardship and darkness. She never gave in to desolation but rather renewed her spirit through her great trust in God’s providence to make up for what was lacking in power and easy answers. We are grateful for her service and her strength, which gave hope to the people of our state at all those times when hope was needed the most.
As for Nancy, I must say I know many members of the New Orleans media on a personal level, but when I returned to New Orleans in 2009, she and I connected rather quickly and became friends. Like Gov. Blanco, Nancy was a woman of faith and family. She put faith and family first and then her profession as a journalist and TV anchor. We often had conversations about faith in God. I found her to be an incredible woman who had the ability to reach out to people and to help them more deeply appreciate themselves. I treasured our friendship.
Gov. Blanco died after a nearly two-year struggle with ocular cancer. That had to be difficult for her and her family.
It was, but was even more remarkable was the way in which Gov. Blanco bore her sufferings and connected herself to the sufferings of Christ. She always had her priorities straight: faith and family first, and her career was third. I spoke to many people who had worked with her during her tenure as governor, and they told me they appreciated her leadership and kindness to so many people. She was our state’s first woman governor, which is a tremendous distinction. Her husband Raymond, who everyone knows as Coach, has asked for our prayers and support. He was a faithful husband who stood by his wife throughout her life, and especially in her time of illness and death. The entire Blanco family gave us an example of how to journey to God as he calls us to himself. Although she was already the former governor when I became archbishop of New Orleans, I would see her at many functions, and she was always friendly and assured me of her continued prayers for the archdiocese. I ask everyone in the archdiocese to join together in common prayer to the one God for the sake of our country and our state. We lift up our sister to the mercy of God, which sustained her so deeply throughout her life. May she know the peace of God, which is beyond all telling. May she experience the fulness of God’s kingdom in heaven.
What impressed you most about Nancy Parker?
She was a very good storyteller. We thank God for the story of her life, for her family and for her faith and the many gifts that God gave to her. We’re still in shock because of her unexpected death. We’re still in pain. We miss her and we invite God into our pain. We surrender her to the Lord that she will have the fullness of eternal life in God’s kingdom, as the Lord has promised to those who are his disciples. Nancy’s story has an important chapter – faith. She had strong faith in God. She knew she was the beloved daughter of God, and that gave her life meaning. She placed herself, her husband Glynn and her family in God’s hands. In my conversations with her about God and faith, it was very clear to me that her questions and insights about God showed the depth of her desire to know God personally and to encounter the Lord Jesus. She inspired me with her faith. She often said her family was her all. Nancy’s gift of journalism serving as a TV reporter, combined with her personal warmth and charm, enabled her to bring light into the lives of others. In a world that we live in today, where we experience harsh words and judgments – that was not Nancy. She was a great gift of gentleness and hope.