Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond offers reflection on Archbishop Philip M. Hannan
Humanly speaking, we are grieving, and Archbishop Hannan will be greatly missed. At the same time, I do not believe he would have wanted to linger in the condition that he was in.
It was 46 years ago today – Sept. 29, 1965 – that Archbishop Hannan was appointed the 11th archbishop of New Orleans while he was attending the Second Vatican Council in Rome. He was such a wonderful shepherd who came into our midst when we needed him the most, right after Hurricane Betsy.
It was a real privilege to celebrate with him what is called the Mass of Viaticum in his room at Chateau de Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 24). Viaticum is giving Communion – the Body and Blood of Christ – to a person who is dying for his journey home to the Lord.
He's always been a father figure to me. He was the only archbishop I knew as a child – I was younger than 10 years old when he came here. He ordained me as a deacon and as a priest and was a co-consecrator when I was ordained a bishop. He was someone I always looked up to.
He was a man of the church, a man who loved God and certainly a man who loved God's people. He was a great shepherd for us, and he also was a true New Orleanian. He made New Orleans his home.
He was very active in the community, and he could deal with presidents like President John Kennedy, and he could also deal with the homeless. He had a great love for the poor, and much of the ministry that we do today in the archdiocese is continuing to build on who Archbishop Hannan was and what he has done for our archdiocese.
I'm sure in entering World War II as a paratroop chaplain, he was very brave, but I'm also sure that he became even braver during the war. He was very much self-assured. Not only did he risk jumping out of planes, but he also risked doing new things and confronting new challenges in the church and in the archdiocese. I think that kind of risk-taking and determination is very much who Philip Hannan is.
I was thrilled that Pope John Paul II came to New Orleans in 1987, but I was happier for Archbishop Hannan than for anyone else because his historic visit meant so much to him. That was really the high point of his tenure here.
People knew him and recognized him as THE archbishop of New Orleans. I think that was a testament to the love, admiration and affection that people have for him. It never bothered me in any way when I heard people talking about THE archbishop and meaning it was Archbishop Hannan. Even the day before he died, I was referring to him as THE archbishop.
He's someone I've learned a lot from. He's been a mentor and a father, and he will be missed. But I also truly believe that he is with the Lord in heaven and will continue to shepherd us from his place in heaven.