Our Lady of Prompt Succor

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For the former city in Quebec with the same French name, see Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, Quebec.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor
The Madonna of New Orleans
Patroness of Louisiana
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Patroness of Louisiana.JPG
The Canonically crowned image enshrined in the high altar
Location Louisiana, United States of America
Date 1810
Witness Mother Saint Michel
President Andrew Jackson
Type Golden wood image
Holy See approval Pope Pius IX
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Pius XI
Shrine The National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor
Patronage Louisiana (1928)
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans
against hurricanes

Our Lady of Prompt Succor (French: Notre Dame du Prompt Secours) is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary associated with a wooden devotional image enshrined in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America. The famed image is closely associated with Mother Saint Michel, the Mother Superior of the Ursuline Order who also survived the French Revolution.

Pope Pius IX authorised the public devotion to the Marian title on 21 September 1851 and designated the 8th of January as its feast day of thanksgiving. Pope Leo XIII granted a Canonical Coronation to the image through Archbishop Francis Janssens on 10 November 1895.

The image is also known by its connection to President Andrew Jackson who was present before the controversial image during and after the Battle of New Orleans against the British invasion. Under this Marian title, the Virgin Mary is designated as the Principal Patroness of Louisiana and the Archdiocese of New Orleans dating from a 1928 Papal bull from the Sacred Congregation of Rites. The image is presently enshrined at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor while her feast day is celebrated on 8 January.


French Ursuline nuns first arrived in Louisiana in 1727. The nuns established a convent and founded what is the oldest school for girls in the territory of the modern-day U.S., Ursuline Academy, which educated the children of European colonists, Native Americans, and those of the local Creole people, slave or free. Spanish sisters came to assist the growing school in 1763 after Louisiana fell under Spanish control.[1]

In 1800 the territory came back under French possession, and in 1803, most of the sisters, fearing the anti-clerical sentiment of the French Revolution, fled to Havana, Cuba. When Louisiana passed into the control of the United States, the sisters sent President a letter asking if their property rights would be honored by the new government. The response from President Thomas Jefferson is still kept at the convent to this day:

...I have received, holy sisters, the letter you have written me wherein you express anxiety for the property vested in your institutions by the former governments of Louisiana. The principles of the Constitution and government of the United States are a sure guarantee to you that it will be preserved to you sacred and inviolate, and that your institution will be permitted to govern itself according to its own voluntary rules, without interference from the civil authority.... Be assured it will meet all the protection which my office can give it.[2]

Short of teachers, Mother Saint Andre Madier requested sisters from France to come to America to aid the struggling convent. She wrote to her cousin, Mother Saint Michel Gensoul, who was running a Catholic girls boarding school in France at the time. The Catholic Church was suffering the wrath of the revolution under Napoleon. Mother Saint Michel, knowing that the Church was in distress in both her homeland and abroad, approached Bishop Fournier of Montpelier to request a transfer. Bishop Fournier felt unable to afford the loss of another nun, as many had been killed or fled during the revolution, and advised Mother St. Michel that only the Pope could give this authorization.[1]

Pope Pius VII was a prisoner of Napoleon at the time, and Mother St. Michel knew the unlikelihood of the Pope even receiving her letter. She prayed before a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and said: "O most Holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain for me a prompt and favorable answer to this letter, I promise to have you honored at New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor."

Sending her petition on March 19, 1809, Mother St. Michel received a letter from the Pope granting her request on April 29, 1809. Mother St. Michel commissioned a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Infant Jesus. Bishop Fournier blessed the statue and the Mother St. Michel's work.[1]

Mother St. Michel arrived in New Orleans with the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on December 31, 1810, with several postulants. The statue was placed in the monastery chapel of the Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street in the French Quarter.

The Ursuline Convent, Chartres Street. Circa 1902.


Many miracles have been attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Two historical events are especially associated with the Virgin. The first occurred in 1788 during the eruption of a great fire in New Orleans devastating the Vieux Carré. The Ursuline convent was facing imminent destruction as the winds blew the terrible fire toward the Plaza de Armas. An order was given to evacuate the convent, however at that moment, a nun named Sr. St. Anthony (Marthe Delatre, daughter of Antoine Delatre)[3] placed a small statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor on a window seat and Mother St. Michel began to pray aloud, "Our Lady of Prompt Succor, we are lost unless you hasten to our aid!" Immediately, the wind shifted direction, blowing the flames away from the convent allowing for the fire to be extinguished.[2] The Ursuline convent was one of the few buildings spared from destruction.

The second major miracle occurred in 1815, twenty-seven years after the disastrous fire. General Andrew Jackson's 6,000 American troops faced 15,000 British soldiers on the plains of Chalmette. On the eve of the Battle of New Orleans, New Orleans residents joined the Ursuline sisters at their convent in the French Quarter to pray throughout the night, imploring the help of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.[4] On the morning of January 8, the Very Rev. William Dubourg, Vicar General, offered Mass at the altar on which the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor had been placed. Cannon fire could be heard from the chapel. The Prioress of the Ursuline convent, Mother Ste. Marie Olivier de Vezin, made a vow to have a Mass of Thanksgiving sung annually should the American forces win. At the very moment of communion, a courier ran into the chapel to inform all those present that the British had been defeated. They had become confused by a fog and wandered into a swamp.[2] The Mass ended with the singing of the Te Deum.[1] An annual Mass of Thanksgiving has been held January 8 ever since.[4] The 200 anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans will occur in 2015, and commemorative events are planned.

Pontifical approbations[edit]

A mosaic of Our Lady of Prompt Succor at the Old Ursuline Convent complex, French Quarter, New Orleans.
  • On 21 September 1851, Pope Pius IX authorized the devotion and celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor and the singing of the yearly Mass of Thanksgiving on January 8.
  • In 13 June 1928, Pope Pius XI declared the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor as the Patroness of Louisiana.[6] The request was granted from a petition by Archbishop of New Orleans, John William Shaw, Bishop of Alexandria, Cornelius Van de Ven Jules B. Jeanmard, Bishop of Lafayette. The papal decree was executed and signed by Cardinal Camillo Laurenti of the Sacred Congregation of Rites.


According to Michael Pasquier, promotion of devotion to the Marian title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor was an attempt by the Catholic hierarchy to ease tensions in a Catholic population divided over a French Creole Catholicism and an Anglo-Catholic hierarchy in Baltimore.[6] He maintains that the devotion never garnered a widespread following like due to its "lack of multi-ethnic appeal" to minority groups at the time. The cultus of Our Lady of Prompt Succor was a devotion particular to the French Ursulines, which involved neither a miraculous apparition nor a particular message to engage the imaginations of the laity.[6]


Pious believers of New Orleans pray before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, asking for her intercession whenever a hurricane threatens the city. During hurricane season, prayers are said at every Mass in the city during the Prayers of the Faithful requesting Our Lady of Prompt Succor's intercession and protection. After Hurricane Katrina, prayers were made to Our Lady of Prompt Succor asking for the quick recovery of the damaged city and surrounding area.

National Shrine[edit]

The statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor was moved from the Old Ursuline convent in the French Quarter to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, located on the State Street campus of Ursuline Academy and Convent. The National Votive Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor was constructed during the 1920s and consecrated on January 6, 1928. The Shrine is the responsibility of the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union, Central Province.[7]

The Old Ursuline Convent is located at 1100 Chartres Street in the French Quarter. The attached chapel is now known as St. Mary's. The church and the convent are open for tours daily.



  • Cruz OCDS, Joan Carroll. Miraculous Images of Our Lady, TAN Books and Publishers, 1993, ISBN 0-89555-484-4
  • Cormack, Margaret Jean - Saints and Their Cults in the Atlantic World - University of South Carolina, 2007. PP- 128-146

External links[edit]