Archeveche: The Archbishop’s Palace.
We have one.
Here in New Orleans.
Today it houses the Catholic Cultural Heritage Center for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Today it’s quiet, and clean, and pretty, and quiet.
Well, that’s a different story.
Built in 1732 as a convent for the order of Ursuline nuns, it has seen the ravages of pestilence & wars, heard the proclamations of countries & Kings, and heard the sobs of orphans & wayward souls.
I had never visited until the other day (looking for some Super Bowl fun I braved the crowds and found an open parking spot across the street. Eureka!)
Locking the car and looking up, I said,
“Well, hello there pretty building with a ticket office.” (my foray into the wilds of a testosterone forest would have to wait).
Five dollars later, I marveled at the work of ancient skilled artisans, solid gold accouterments, glorious gardens, and the story of one particular Ursuline nun that had me shaking my head and mumbling, “figures.”
Young, pretty, Cornelia Peacock marries young, handsome Episcopalian priest Pierce Connelly. They move to Natchez, Mississippi (where Pierce has accepted a post) and quickly have two children.
Pierce resigns his post to explore Catholicism. They travel to Europe so that Pierce can talk to old order priests with large pocketbooks about lining his pockets. Upon their return to the United States, they move to Grand Coteau, Louisiana where he teaches English at the Jesuit School and she music at Sacred Heart. Two more children now make four.
Two of their four children die- a daughter within the year and a son by infection after having been mortally scalded by a pot of boiling water.
Cornelia finds solace in the teachings of the Perpetual Mother of Sorrows playbook (wouldn’t you?)
Pierce declares he is abandoning the family as he wants to be a Catholic priest. Cornelia asks how this is possible when she is pregnant with their fifth child and he shouldn’t be able to eat his cake and have it too. He leaves for Rome on the first boat- nibbling cake the entire way.
Pierce continues to love sweets, but is having a harder time swallowing after being advised that it will be difficult obtaining ordination as a father of four with a bun in the oven. He communicates to Cornelia, that it would go better for him if she takes a vow of chastity and formally enters a religious order. She agrees- if she is allowed to take the children. An order in England agrees to accept Cornelia and her brood.
Cornelia, and children, move to Derby, England.
Pierce is ordained in Rome.
Cornelia begins to organize her own order, The Society of Holy Christ Child, in St. Leonards-on-the-Sea, England. She is very successful. The Society is growing by leaps and the bounds of the pregnant bellies of other young women done wrong. Children welcome.
Pierce hears of her success. Pierce is pissed. Pierce travels to England, takes her children, leaves the priesthood, resumes his position in the Episcopal church, and begs her to return to him. She declines and only visit’s with two of her children again- in adulthood, and they both hate her.
Cornelia dies leaving a lasting legacy as a founding nun of the Ursuline Order which dedicates themselves to the care of children. Pierce dies- who cares.
Pope John Paul II declares Sister Cornelia Venerable, which is the fast track to sainthood.
My question is, “Can we book her a first class ticket on Air Roma, and…
|Old Ursuline Convent
1727 Chartres Street
|The sublime statue of
Sister Cornelia Connelly
found in the back garden at
Old Ursulines Convent
|This is a detail of the amazing alter.
All the wood is gold wash.
|When was the last time you saw a 300 year old
wood plank ceiling with original painted adornment?
|The gold gilt stairway to Heaven|