Archdiocese to sell Our Lady of Lourdes Church, N.O.

The former Our Lady of Lourdes Church and rectory on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans, closed since Hurricane Katrina, will be offered for sale in the near future, Archbishop Gregory Aymond said Dec. 5 after meeting with the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council.

The sale will not impact Holy Rosary Academy and High School, which occupies the former Our Lady of Lourdes School at 2437 Jena St., said Father Dennis Hayes, pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish, the parish created after Katrina in a merger of Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Matthias and St. Monica parishes.

Archbishop Aymond met Dec. 2 with the Presbyteral Council, which gave its approval for the sale. The archbishop said the Blessed Trinity pastoral council had conducted a “thorough consultation” regarding various options for the future use of the church and rectory before deciding to recommend that the property be placed for sale.

Church dedicated in 1925
Our Lady of Lourdes Church was dedicated in 1925 by Cardinal Patrick J. Hayes of New York. It took on floodwater after Katrina and never reopened. Several prospective buyers have expressed interest in the dormant property, said Elizabeth Lacombe, director of the archdiocesan Property and Building Management office.

“While it’s always sad when we give up a church building and sell it for other purposes, this is something we must do in terms of being good stewards,” Archbishop Aymond said. “We looked into many things over the last five years for possible reuse, but nothing has come of it. So, we have to be good stewards. We also will have in any sales document particular things that the building cannot be used for.”

The church building shows signs of sinking, Archbishop Aymond said, and it would be too expensive for the parish to repair the structure.

Before the church and rectory are placed for sale, the archdiocese must receive approval from the City of New Orleans to subdivide the property and to remove the stained-glass windows from the church, Father Hayes said. According to canon law, the stained-glass windows of a church, which are considered sacred objects, must be removed before a church building can be sold.

Except for several sacred items, the interior of the church was gutted after Katrina, and all the pews and statues were removed.

Sacred artifacts will be stored
Father Hayes said still inside the church are a Wicks pipe organ, installed in the 1960s; a marble baptismal font; a wooden ambo; church bells; two wooden side altars; and a grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, to the right of the main altar.

The sacred objects will be stored by the archdiocese for possible reuse by other Catholic churches, Father Hayes said. Parishes building new churches might have interest in them.

“I think it’s good to get the word out because all of our people already know about the sale,” Father Hayes said.

On Sept. 8 – the Feast of the birth of the Blessed Mother – Father Hayes led a group of Blessed Trinity parishioners to Our Lady of Lourdes Church, located about a mile and a half away from the former St. Matthias Church, so that they could view the inside of the church. Father Hayes hopes to hold another open house in the future, especially for those with ties to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish.

“We know there were a lot of people who got married or were baptized in the church,” Father Hayes said.

Holy Rosary Academy and High School have been operating at the former Our Lady of Lourdes School for the last three years, and Father Hayes said having vacant property adjacent to the school is not ideal for students or parents.

“Plus, the neighborhood is getting anxious to see something happen to the church and the rectory,” Father Hayes said. “We’re trying to take some action.”

Restoration too expensive
Father Hayes said one of the options discussed for the church was to “restore the church to its original condition, but we felt that restoration was way beyond what we could reasonably afford.”

Father Hayes said Blessed Trinity Parish has made several recent capital improvements to the school, including a $65,000 upgrade to the air-conditioning system in the gymnasium and a $31,000 renovation to the school’s front doors. A new roof is being planned for the young students’ play area.

“We have no intention at all in relocating the school or selling that school building,” Father Hayes said, citing the school’s importance as a ministry. “This school serves children who have different learning struggles.”

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