A grand old lady gets a brand new look

by John D. Fitzmorris III
President, Orleans Parish Division 1
Archbishop Hannan Division New Orleans

In a little park that of late has served as a haven for the homeless, a statue of a dumpy, elderly woman with her arm around a nameless child stands lonely sentinel in a gated garden beneath the approach to the Mississippi River Bridge.  The first public statue to a woman in the United States bears simply the name “Margaret” on its pedestal; and at one time, the citizens of New Orleans would not have needed anything else to know that this was a statue to Margaret Gaffney Haughery, the “Mother of the Orphans.”  When she passed away in 1882, the entire city mourned and even the governor of Louisiana joined the more than 10,000 mourners who paid respect as she lay in state in City Hall.

The legacy that Margaret gave to New Orleans and caused the local paper The Times-Picayune to trim its paper in black the day of her funeral is as profound as it was lasting.  Born in County Leitrim in 1813, the “Angel of the Delta” was orphaned herself as a child of nine after coming to America.  She moved to New Orleans in 1835 and there suffered the death of her own child and husband years later to a yellow fever epidemic.  Convulsed by grief, she chose not to wallow in despair but instead work among the poor and orphaned of the antebellum city.  She worked her way out the laundry at the St. Charles Hotel, started a bakery business, a dairy business, and then built four orphanages in conjunction with the Daughters of Charity.  In addition, she made generous endowments for seven other orphanages.  During the Union occupation of New Orleans, she even locked horns with Union commander Benjamin F. Butler over bringing relief to the starving of the city behind enemy lines.

And all this from a woman who could not even read or write her own name.

No wonder that so many mourners paid respect to her when she died, and the city commissioned a statue in her honor. Yet, the passage of time has erased many memories while grunge and grime began the slow process of covering the Mother of Orphans and obscuring her legacy.  The last cleaning took place in 1989 when CeCe Tudor, who wrote an M.A. thesis on Margaret, took it upon herself to restore some of Margaret’s former luster.  Since then, the statue accumulated the grime and soot from the thousands of vehicles that passed it each day for years.

In 2008, the Monumental Task Committee, Inc. collaborated with Mary Jablonski, a renowned architectural conservator from Columbia University, to do a preliminary assessment of many of the monuments in the City of New Orleans. From this assessment, MTC identified a critical need to conduct a professional conservation assessment report for the Margaret Haughery monument with treatment recommendations and an accurate restoration budget.  Led by Traci Birch and Linda Stubbs of the MTC, a drive began in 2013 to restore Margaret’s statue to its former beauty.  A grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation allowed them to make an assessment of the statue.  Stage Two then involved hiring a contractor to reinforce the crumbling foundation that had already caused irreparable cracks in Margaret’s pedestal.  Once the contractors solidified the foundation, expert restoration workers would clean the statue with meticulous care.  Abry Brothers of New Orleans reinforced the foundation at no cost—no easy or inexpensive task given the spongy and sinking nature of the New Orleans land.  A series of fundraisers and generous donations from the AOH and Ladies AOH, private citizens, and the Krewe of Muses—an all-women’s Mardi Gras parade organization—allowed workers to clean and polish the statue of the elderly woman giving the hand of charity to an unmade orphan child.  With the assistance of Rachel Howard, a graduate student at Tulane University in architectural restoration, Margaret now shines radiantly in the sun.  Stage Three of the restoration will focus on landscaping the garden that surrounds the statue, and Miss Birch and Miss Stubbs are already beating the bushes looking for more volunteers and donations.

If those who commissioned the statue in tribute to Margaret in 1882 were alive today, they would consider it almost as good as new.  Even the cracks in the pedestal are hard to detect unless one looks close enough.  However, those hairline cracks are a fitting reminder to those in the city and throughout the nation that forgetting the work of those like Margaret Gaffney Haughery comes at a great price and that our history is not something to be left to the grime and soot of ignorance and forgetfulness.


For those who wish to learn more about Margaret Haughery, the Mother of Orphans, please go to http://www.neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/477.

Those wishing to donate to the Restoration of Margaret should contact Monumental Task Committee, Inc. Attn: Margaret Haughery Restoration Fund, 1215 Prytania Street, Suite 333, New Orleans, LA 70130, or go to http://monumentaltask.org/margaret.html.

Louisiana News

Members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 1 – Orleans Parish, Division 1 – Jefferson Parish, and Division 1 – St. Tammany Parish, gathered between October 3 and 5 to say an emotional but thankful farewell to The Most Reverend Philip M. Hannan, the former Archbishop of New Orleans. Hannan, the namesake of Division 1 in Orleans Parish, served as the 11th Archbishop of New Orleans from September 29, 1965, to December 6, 1988.

A native of Washington, D.C., Hannan studied at Catholic University and later at the North American College in Rome, where he witnessed the rise of fascism in both Italy and Germany. After his ordination in 1939, he served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington until the outbreak of the Second World War. He then served his country as a member of the United States Army Chaplain Corps. Assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, Hannan participated in numerous airborne operations, including Operation Market-Garden and the Battle of the Bulge. He returned home and later was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop, where he became a close confidante of the Kennedy family and delivered the sermon at President Kennedy’s funeral Mass.

When Hannan arrived in New Orleans in 1965, Hurricane Betsy had just ravaged New Orleans, and the Archbishop made his impact immediately felt by riding in a boat throughout the flooded Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish and offering comfort to all those afflicted.

Hannan also displayed the true Irish spirit of inclusion and diversity by continuing the desegregation of Catholic schools during the height of the Civil Rights era.

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, he personally arranged for the emigration of thousands of Catholic South Vietnamese refugees, who settled in New Orleans and quickly became an active and integral part of the community. His frequent outreach to Catholics and non-Catholics alike made him one of the most popular figures in New Orleans, and non-Catholics throughout the New Orleans area frequently referred to him as “their Archbishop” and were profuse in their praise.

The crowning achievement of Archbishop Hannan’s episcopate was the three-day visit of Pope John Paul II to New Orleans in 1987. He retired as Archbishop in 1988, but remained active in ministry, especially at his beloved WLAE-TV and FOCUS television syndicate.

Finally, Hannan — long a supporter of the New Orleans Saints NFL franchise and who often led the invocation for the team — was present when the Saints at long last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy upon winning the Super Bowl in 2010.

Archbishop Hannan passed away on September 29, 2011, at the age of 98 and on the 46th anniversary of his consecration as Archbishop of New Orleans. New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond (himself ordained by Hannan) set aside several days to honor the Archbishop.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians mustered on Monday, October 3, to receive the casket carrying Archbishop Hannan’s remains. With the bagpipes playing “The Minstrel Boy” and appropriate spiritual tunes, the Hibernians stood at attention as their beloved leader and friend was carried into the Oratory of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. After three days of visitation at Notre Dame Seminary, where an estimated 50,000 people passed by to view the Archbishop, Hannan’s casket was transferred in a procession from Notre Dame to the St. Louis Cathedral.

For the procession, Archbishop Aymond arranged a special, five-mile parade along which more than 7,000 New Orleans area Catholic school students (all of whom were born after Archbishop Hannan was well into retirement) stood quietly as Hannan’s casket passed by in a special horse-drawn carriage. The Hibernians, bearing the AOH and Archbishop Hannan Division banners, stood beside the Vietnamese-American Community from Mary Queen of Vietnam Parish as the casket was placed in the black carriage. Leading the procession was the famous St. Augustine High School “Marching 100” Band (another testament to Hannan’s spirit of inclusion and diversity) followed by the Archbishop, Bishops, members of the clergy and seminarians. Members of Catholic Charities of New Orleans followed the clergy; and last, but certainly not least, came the Hibernians bringing up the rear. In three silent rows, led by their banner bearers, the Hibernians marched solemnly but proudly in honor of their deceased Brother and Archbishop who always embraced his Irish heritage.

At the conclusion of the five and a half mile route, the Hibernians marched slowly into Jackson Square to the front of the St. Louis Cathedral where several thousand adults and Catholic school students stood silently as the piper played “The Minstrel Boy” and “Danny Boy,” which was the Archbishop’s favorite Irish tune. Hannan’s casket was brought into the Cathedral, and again the Hibernians marched silently inside to pay their last respects. Upon conclusion of the processional ceremony, Archbishop Aymond, as well as former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Lindy Boggs and members of Hannan’s family thanked the Hibernians for adding such dignity and grace to the ceremony and helping people understand the great faith and spirit of the Irish as evidenced by the life of Archbishop Hannan.

For our part, the Hibernians were both honored and humbled to have played even a small part in offering a fitting tribute to such an esteemed friend and leader. One Hibernian remarked that while the events were certainly emotional, they were not occasions for sadness but thanksgiving. “Anyone like our Archbishop, who lived such a full and complete 98 years,” he said, “merits thanksgiving rather than sadness. I mourn the loss of a friend and mentor, but I celebrate a great life lived in the spirit.” The Ancient Order of Hibernians shares that sentiment and wish eternal rest and perpetual light upon a man who truly “uncovered the light of his Irish spirit” for all to see.

Louisiana News

The officers of the newly elected Louisiana State Board are, from left, Matthew Ahearn (Secretary), Joseph Casler (President), Kenneth Farrell (Vice President) and B.J. Eckholdt, Jr. (Treasurer).

The Louisiana Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Ladies AOH held their bi-annual State Convention on Saturday, July 23 at St. Dominic’s Church and School in New Orleans. The event was well attended by members from the five Divisions throughout the state. The convention was chaired by Past State President Patrick Sens.

Outgoing State President Richard Burke gave a report on the current state of the organization along with a summary of the highlights from his tenure. Despite many challenges, the Louisiana AOH has grown, prospered and has made many charitable contributions to the community over the past several years.

National Treasurer James McKay III was also in attendance and gave a report on the current state of the National AOH. Other highlights from the day include many spirited and productive committee breakout sessions and a joint session with members of the Ladies AOH for a presentation by Keynote Speaker, author Mary Lou Whidmer, who discussed the history of the Irish in New Orleans and Margaret Haughery, an Irish immigrant widow who championed the cause of orphans in the New Orleans area in the 19th century.

After the business of the convention was completed, elections for state officers were held and newly elected officers were chosen as follows:  Joseph Casler (State President), Kenneth Farrell (State Vice President), Matthew Ahearn (Secretary) and B.J. Eckholdt, Jr. (Treasurer).  At the conclusion of the elections, an installation mass was celebrated by Father Neal McDermott and the aforementioned officers were duly sworn in to their respective offices. The day concluded with a deliciously prepared steak dinner enjoyed by the membership.  Many toasts were made to the outgoing State Officers, incoming State Officers and to all things Irish and Hibernian. A good time was had by all.

Louisiana News

Tom Connolly, Chair of the Veterans Committee for the AOH in the New Orleans Area, organized the creation and shipping of 71 boxes of cookies, candy bars, and Ramen noodle packages to Father Fintan Kilmurray, a military chaplain in Afghanistan.  Fr. Kilmurray is an Irish-born priest from the Diocese of Biloxi who requested the items for distribution to the soldiers he serves in Afghanistan. The Louisiana had overwhelming response to a modest call for donated items.

Pictured with the gift boxed are Lance Uhde III AND Tom Connolly.


Cronin Named Man of the Year

Louisiana Irishman of the Year, Joseph James Cronin Sr.

The Louisiana Board of the AOH, Philip M. Hannan, Cardinal Gibbons, Acadian, and Republic of West Florida Divisions named Joseph James Cronin Sr. as Irishman of the Year for 2010.  A retired longshoreman and veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, Mr. Cronin was born in New Orleans in 1924, the son of the late Michael R. Cronin and Alice McMullen Cronin.  He is a native of the Irish Channel neighborhood where he attended Redemptorist School, and was a 1943 graduate of St. Aloysius High School where he was named second team All-Prep as a member of the football team.  Cronin then went on to serve during the Second World War for the United States Navy Seabees from 1943-46.  Upon his return from the war, Cronin joined the Clerks Local Longshoreman’s Union Number 1497 and then graduated from the New Orleans Police Academy in 1946 where he served both as a patrolman and as a special member of the Federal Narcotics Enforcement taskforce.  Upon his retirement from the Police Department, he has continued to serve on the board of the Police Federal Credit Union.  Cronin is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6640 and American Legion Post 267.  He is a parishioner at St. Benilde Church in Metairie where he was recently honoured as a senior great-grandfather.  Cronin was married to the late Hilda Conzonire Cronin from 1942 to 1960 and is currently married to the former Judy Whitney since 1963.  He is the father of six children, twelve grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.  He will be honored at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Mass on Wednesday, March 17, 2010, at St. Patrick’s Church at noon and at the annual AOH Banquet held at the Downtown Sheraton Hotel in the evening.

The AOH also held its first “A Night in Ireland” on January 30, 2010, at the St. Dominic Parish Centre in New Orleans.  A packed house enjoyed night of Irish cuisine, music, and fellowship at tables marked and arranged with the thirty-two counties and four provinces of Ireland.  Entertainment was provided by the New Orleans Irish Harpists, the Muggivan School of Irish Dancing, and the main performance with noted Irish guitarist Eugene Byrne.  Proceeds from the event will go to the local AOH charities.

Members of the Louisiana AOH stand with Eugene Byrne at the first “A Night in Ireland” held January 30 at St. Dominic Parish in New Orleans. (L to R) Patrick Dorion, Judge Henry Sullivan, David Waller, Eugene Byrne, State President Richard Burke, Steve Murphy, Cardinal Gibbons Division President Dennis Quinn, and State Treasurer B.J. Eckholdt.