Our Lady of Prompt Succor and Criminal Justice Reform
The preamble to the Louisiana Constitution reads:
“We, the people of Louisiana, grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political, economic, and religious liberties we enjoy, and desiring to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and property; afford opportunity for the fullest development of the individual; assure equality of rights; promote the health, safety, education, and welfare of the people; maintain a representative and orderly government; ensure domestic tranquility; provide for the common defense; and secure the blessings of freedom and justice to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.”
Louisiana is commonly referred to as the “Pelican State.” The pelican has long been a Christian symbol of charity and self-giving love towards all. Louisiana is the only state that has “parishes” instead of “counties,” which can be traced back to the state’s Catholic heritage. In 1928, Our Lady of Prompt Succor was named by the Holy See as Patroness of Louisiana and the City of New Orleans. On January 8 of each year, Catholics throughout Louisiana celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, or Our Lady of Quick Help. In 1727, a group of French Ursuline nuns came to New Orleans and started a monastery and school. They were in desperate need of teachers and requested assistance from their bishop who was unable to help. The sisters wrote a letter to the Pope, who at the time was a prisoner of Napoleon. The Pope responded in a month’s time, granting their request. The sisters considered the quick response a miracle and attributed this to their prayers to Our Lady of Prompt Succor. A few years later, a fire threatened the monastery and the sisters once again called upon Our Lady of Prompt Succor for help. The winds changed and the monastery was saved. In the war of 1812, the British assaulted New Orleans on January 8, 1815. The Ursuline Sisters prayed all night, asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Prompt Succor to save New Orleans. Their prayers were answered and the British forces were soundly beaten at the hands of General Jackson’s troops.
It’s been over 200 years since the Ursuline Sisters came to New Orleans. Starting in 1727, the Ursuline sisters served as the charitable arm of the Catholic Church in New Orleans. Nearly three centuries later, this work continues as Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. We continue to see the same charitable spirit of the Ursuline Sisters in the citizens of Louisiana. In October 2018, the Catholic Charities of New Orleans was awarded $320,000 from the Justice Reinvestment Initiative savings by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. These funds will allow for “wraparound” re-entry services for substance abuse treatment, housing and employment in Orleans and St. Tammany Parishes.
Over the past two years, we have seen reforms to our state’s criminal justice system with the sweeping 2017 Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the passage of unanimous jury verdicts, the passage of the First Step Act on the federal level, and we have seen Louisianans coming together to ensure that those returning from prison back to society have a second chance.
The winds are changing once again in Louisiana, ushering in a safer Louisiana that ensures life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens.