Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 1, 2000

ANNA MONICA / L’Observateur / March 1, 2000

It’s called St. Mary’s Assumption Church and is located at 2030 ConstanceSt. in New Orleans. Some services in this St. Alphonsus Parish, run by theRedemptorists, are held in St. Mary’s Chapel on Jackson Avenue. I went tothe church for the first time a week ago. Then, we went back this pastSunday.

My mom, Vita, is having her 84th birthday on March 5, but that is a busy carnival weekend so we decided to get together to take her out a week early.

The “we” were family members Phyllis and O’Neal, Maria, Linda, Sunny and Macky, our friend Dana Troxclair and me. It was our plan to start the daywith mass at St. Mary’s. This is where the Rev. Francis Xavier Seelos, aCatholic priest the church is working to eventually declare a saint, is buried.

There are plans to build a monument for Father Seelos, and his beatification, the step before sainthood, will take place in several months.

Some people come to this church seeking miracles through this priest’s intercession. When my family first took me there, surely my continuedhealth was a major issue. It indeed was a local woman’s testimony about herhealing of lung cancer that is one of the major testimonies attributed to the priest. Each time we have been there the church seemed to have only a fewlocals, but visitors are more obvious and it is also obvious that most who come there are seeking healings.

The story of Father Seelos is indeed important and noteworthy. The churchitself is something else, really, really something else. I have absolutely nohistorical facts about this structure to share with you. I can share my viewthat this is the most awe inspiring church building I have ever been in.

Perhaps the churches in Europe are as magnificent, but I haven’t been there.

I do agree with my sister, Maria, that to walk into St. Mary’s has to be likewalking into heaven.

This is an inner city church, and like others of its kind which have managed to survive demolition there isn’t enough congregation to support all that it needs. A Redemptorist brother of the church told us it took seven years toraise even a quarter of a million dollars to fix it, and a now-deceased benefactor had bequeathed a million. It needs so much more, and weunderstand plans are not final as to what they will do. But to do anything tothis magnificently beautiful church except preserve it would be an absolute transgression upon architecture, artistry and history.

It would take many more visits to the church to realize all of its beauty, intrinsic artwork and sculpture. The entire front altar is made up ofgorgeous statues, and there are statues everywhere. The ceiling has to beat least 30 feet high and the carvings go on and on. The very narrow pews tosit on may not be the most comfortable, but the wood they are made of is thick and exquisite with spiral wood edgings that are probably hand-carved.

Anyone who likes antiquity could happily spend a couple of weeks there.

The first week we went my friends, Dee and Don Tregre of Destrehan, joined us there so we could all enjoy the blessings after mass. Father Seelos’ owncross is used for this. You can get prayer cards and relics.This was a good start to my mom’s birthday event. Then we all went toHarrah’s to see it and to have the buffet. Dana kept a close eye on mebecause I have no sense of direction. Actually, maps would be a good idea inthat place. It was a very nice day and we had started it off in a very fineway! And yes, when leaving, we were held up by a parade.

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