New Orleans — It wasn’t a beautiful New Orleans Ash Wednesday morning at The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.
The sun was trying to peek out from behind the clouds and scattered drops of rain fell on the artists and street vendors of the square.
The brothers of the James Cardinal Gibbons Division and the Archbishop Philip M. Hannan Division, both from Louisiana, alongside Kinght of the Holy Sepulchre, Sir Patrick Allen of Francis P. Beirne Division 9 in New York, gathered in the side alley of the church to lead The Most Reverend Gregory Michael Aymond, the 14th Archbishop of New Orleans, into the cathedral.
Every pew was full and people lined the back and side walls. The archbishop’s sermon focused on doing things for God which seemed so fitting since the AOH was in attendance to protect the church, the archbishop, and his parishioners from the agitators who year after year gather to cause commotion and slander the Catholic faith.
As the mass ended and the church bells rang, parishioners poured out of the church, contemplating their Lenten promises.
Members of the AOH soon followed and surrounded the front steps where Archbishop Aymond would soon bless his congregation. When the archbishop reached the door, screams of “crucify the archbishop” and “you are an abomination, shame on you” filled Jackson Square.
The bagpiper started to play and blasphemous words were counteracted with “three cheers for the archbishop”, a chant led by the AOH members.
The people in the streets joined in, proving to these hecklers that their message was not welcome.
The Hibernian brothers stood shoulder to shoulder to ensure that these radicals were kept in their place, away from the archbishop and away from the faithful community.
The archbishop had a chance to greet every one of his parishioners with the beautiful music of bagpipes and joyous cheers from faithful Catholics encompassing him.
The clouds finally parted and the sun shone down, as if God himself was thanking the AOH for a job well done.
Editor’s note. Megan O’Sullivan initially filed this report for circulation among AOH members. The photos accompanying her report show hecklers and Hibernians performing guard duty akin to their 19th century forebears on what some in New Orleans now call “Bash Wednesday.”