St. Frances Cabrini Church

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St. Frances Cabrini Church was a Roman Catholic church in New Orleans, Louisiana; the heart of the parish of the same name in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The parish was an area bounded by Lake Pontchartrain, mid-city,and two major canals. The parish was carved from St. Raphael Parish in 1953 and the original church was but a small quonset hut built by the men in the parish. They later added an extension wing to it, to make the quonset hut L-shaped to accommodate the growing neighborhood and population in the parish. The quonset hut was accidentally burned to the ground one early morning in 1961.

The parish had also built a parochial grammar school for grades kindegarten through eighth grade on the same campus grounds as the church quonset hut and rectory house. Years later, a second building on the campus grounds was built, called the towers, which provided for additional classroom facilities for the grammar school.

Years later with more growth the parish and the archdiocese contributed to building a parochial high school across the street from the campus. It was an all-girls academy called St. Joseph Academy for grades 9 through 12.

Plans for a new church were already underway when the quonset hut had burned down. The gymnasium of St. Joseph Academy was temporarily used to conduct Masses and other church services until the new church was built. In 1963, the new church structure was completed; it was a masterpiece in architectural design and modernity. The modern stained glass and sweeping arcs of the white roof curved up to the tallest white steeple and steel cross ever seen in this part of the residential lakefront section of New Orleans. The altar of the church was an enormous and masterful single carving in one piece of marble, commissioned in Italy. The altar crucifix was similarly imported. It was a three-dimensional wooden image of the resurrected Christ that was suspended by steel cables that appeared nearly invisible to the naked eye. This very large statue of the risen Christ with flowing robe ascending above the altar provided a unique and reverential atmosphere from all other churches in the city of New Orleans. The pews were made of blanched wood, and the floors a white terrazzo which all further lightened the atmosphere to an almost ethereal quality within the church, especially when reflecting sunlight through the stained glass around the roof's modern arcs. The bottom of the church's great steeple dove past the roof down into the church as four curved pillars and represented structural yet graceful markings bounding the altar area.

After Hurricane Katrina[edit]

The church suffered great damage from hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, including wind damages and flood waters and from standing in nearly 10 feet (3.0 m) of water for many weeks before the city authorities could drain the flood water from the city. The damages were so extensive that the Archdiocese of New Orleans decided not to try and refurbish the church or demolish it and rebuild anew. The decision was partly because the church's roof was very challenging and costly to maintain requiring constant repairs which often went beyond the parish's means. For some years prior to Katrina, the parish itself had undergone somewhat of a transformation since time necessitated that the great generation of members who founded the parish and built the churches pass on the torch to lead the parish to a new generation that was less engaged and smaller in population. The parish was gaining new and younger families to the area when hurricane Katrina devastated all the surrounding neighborhoods as well as the parish causing the entire parish to be displaced.

Sale to Holy Cross High School[edit]

Since Hurricane Katrina, the neighborhoods in and around this parish have been slow to repopulate for the many reasons other New Orleans neighborhoods similarly affected have been slow. The parish members who could attend met several times with the Archdiocese of New Orleans to discuss its rebuilding plans. The Archdiocese declared that it was not planning on bringing the two schools on the campus grounds back to life since they had not yet seen sufficient population in the area to justify this very expensive endeavor. The parish members finally decided to vote and the majority voted to sell the parish campus grounds to Holy Cross High School, formerly located in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans. The Archdiocese agreed and supported this decision. This school is a parochial all (and only) boys school for grades 5 through 12.

Holy Cross plans to tear down St. Frances Cabrini church to make room for the relocation of Holy Cross High School (relocating from their 100 year old historical building and campus grounds on the Mississippi river levee in the lower 9th ward that was severely damaged due to Hurricane Katrina).

Controversy[edit]

A Tulane University professor and some other preservation advocates appealed to the U.S. Federal Preservation authorities to prevent Holy Cross from demolishing St. Frances Cabrini Church citing its historical significance and magnificence for modern architecture of that era. Holy Cross's plans were in jeopardy for a period of time while the preservation review took place. Subsequently, the review resulted in acknowledging the historical significance and magnificence of the church's architecture and history, but stopped short of requiring that the church must be preserved. Holy Cross is now proceeding with its plans and committed to place some sort of memorial where the magnificent Church once stood. The Archdiocese of New Orleans intends to store any items from the Church which are salvageable given the parish member's intentions to restore the parish and build a new church on nearby grounds sometime in the future.

Coordinates: 30°00′51″N 90°04′32″W / 30.0141°N 90.0756°W / 30.0141; -90.0756