Today’s National Votive Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, situated on the campus of Ursuline Academy, was erected in the 1920s and consecrated in 1928.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor serves God and all God’s people as the center of devotion to the Mother of Jesus under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor – quick help. The shrine is a place of pilgrimage, worship and prayer and welcomes all who wish to come to this sacred place.
It continues to fulfill the promise made in 1810 by Ursuline sister Mother St. Michel Gensoul to honor the Mother of God under this title.
The Shrine is sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union, Central Province. The Ursulines and their generous lay collaborators strive to make the Shrine a place of welcome for all whose faith and devotion lead them to seek a place of worship, quiet prayer, or pilgrimage.
History of Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, New Orleans
French Ursulines arrived in New Orleans in 1727 and established the oldest school for girls currently operating in what is now the United States. During a period of crisis after a large group of nuns left New Orleans for Cuba in 1803, Mother St. Andre Madier, one of the seven nuns who remained, appealed to her cousin, an Ursuline in France whom the reign of terror had forced to leave her monastery at Pont-Saint-Espirt. She was Mother St. Michel Gensoul, a remarkable woman of great talent and interior piety, who, during the exile in Montpellier, opened a boarding school for girls there.
Fearing for the flourishing school, Bishop Fournier refused to request her leave, saying that only the Pope, then a prisoner of Napoleon, could give such a permission. One day while praying before a statue of the Blessed Mother, she was inspired to say, “O most holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain a prompt and favorable answer to my letter, I promise to have you honored in New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.”
Since the end of December 1810, when Mother St. Michel, her companions and the statue arrived in New Orleans, devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor has grown in New Orleans and Louisiana, and has spread through the United States and even beyond. In the late 19th century, Pope Leo XIII granted the solemn crowning of the statue, an honor carried out splendidly by Archbishop Janssens on November 10, 1895. In 1912 this devotion was officially approved by Rome.
From conversations, letters, contributions, requests for Masses of thanksgiving and similar sources, generations of Ursulines and friends of Our Lady of Prompt Succor have learned about many of the favors granted through the intercession of Our Lady in response to pleas for quick and favorable help. We will never know them all. But those we know are a source of encouragement and hope to all who count on Our Lady’s help.
Among them, two interventions of Our Lady in particular come from early New Orleans as important to the city and its people. The first has to do with one of the great fires which periodically threatened the city, the Ursuline Convent included. On Good Friday in 1788, frightened residents joined the sisters in the convent chapel, begging Our Lady to save them and their homes from the raging wind and flames.
Within minutes, the wind turned back on itself, and in a short time, the fire had lost its momentum and burned out, leaving the convent unharmed, while nearly 800 buildings in the City were destroyed.
The second well-known intervention of Our Lady of Prompt Succor concerns the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. General Andrew Jackson arrived to defend New Orleans on January 23, 1814. He urged the residents and the Sisters to evacuate for fear that the recent burning and pillaging of Washington D.C. by the British Army would also take place in New Orleans, a key port of entry to the mighty Mississippi River.
When the Sisters refused to leave, citing the needs of those whom they served, the General asked them to pray, at which time they began all-night vigils of prayer. During the night of January 7, Andrew Jackson and his relatively small, little-prepared and ill-equipped band of soldiers organized their defenses against the large, very well equipped British Army which would attack the city before dawn.
At the same time, many citizens not directly involved in the army joined the Ursuline Sisters in their all-night vigil in their chapel on Chartres Street, imploring Our Lady of Prompt Succor to give the victory to Jackson for the United States, saving the city of New Orleans from British control. During the night, the Ursuline Superior, Mother Ste. Marie Olivier de Vezin, promised Our Lady that if Jackson and his men were victorious, a Mass of thanksgiving would be sung every year in memory of her saving help to the city on that day.
As dawn was breaking, Bishop DuBourg began a Mass for the same intention. At the very moment of Communion a courier rushed into the chapel announcing that Jackson and his men had won the battle, and the chapel rang out with the joyous singing of the Te Deum. Following the battle, General Jackson wrote a letter to Bishop DuBourg calling for a gathering of all citizens to give thanks for “the great assistance we have received from the Ruler of all events.”
Our Lady of Prompt Succor
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 of the Madonna and Child enshrined in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America. The image is closely associated with Mother Saint Michel, the Superior of the New Orleans Ursulines.
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 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 13 June 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.
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 1812 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) 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. The Ursuline convent was one of the few buildings spared from destruction.
The second major miracle occurred in 1815, three 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.
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. The Mass ended with the singing of the Te Deum. An annual Mass of Thanksgiving has been held January 8 ever since. The 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans occurred in 2015, and commemorative events were held.
Sweetheart, scarcely twelve inches high, stands in her home in the Ursuline Sisters’ chapel known as the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. She has had a place of honor in Ursuline convents of New Orleans for over two hundred years. Though diminutive in size, Sweetheart has been credited with many spectacular miracles. It was through her intercession that the Ursuline Convent was spared when a devastating fire threatened hundreds of buildings in the French Quarter in 1788.
Sister Eugenia O’Laughlin’s account of when the devastating fire broke out shows the promptitude of Our Lady. Hastily, the superior commanded the nuns and school children to leave the building. As she herself turned to go, she was horrified to see Sister St. Anthony, one of the older nuns, climbing the stairs. Following her, Reverend Mother discovered she was carrying the small statue of Our Lady.
As the Superior watched, Sister hurried to the window on the second floor. She set the stature on the sill facing the fire, then knelt and prayed with great confidence: “Oh, Lady of Prompt Succor, save us or we are lost.” At that very instant, the wind veered and the flames were blown back over their path of destruction and soon died out.
An Ursuline Sister of the Pont-St. Esprit convent in France brought Sweetheart, the small plaster statue, to New Orleans in the 18th century. This Sister and two other members of her community had responded to the call for volunteers for the New Orleans community in the colony of Louisiana. They were eager to begin their new ministry, but there were obstacles to their departure.
One day when Sister was in the attic of her convent, she found a small old statue of the Blessed Virgin in a pile of things to be discarded. Pained to see this image of Our Lady destined for discard, Sister fell to her knees and prayed: “My Good Mother, if you will quickly remove these obstacles,
I shall carry this image of you to New Orleans where I promise to do all in my power to have you honored.” The obstacles disappeared in no time, and the three Sisters soon departed for New Orleans – keeping their promise to Our Lady.
The appellation Sweetheart comes from Mother St. Benoit’s response to Ursuline students, and others, when they told her of Our Lady’s intercession on their behalf, “Oh, she’s a Sweetheart.”
- 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 8th
- On 21 June 1894, Pope Leo XIII approved the Canonical Coronation of the wooden image with an accompanying Papal bull from the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide and was carried out by Archbishop Francis Janssens on 10 November 1895. The gold and precious stones for the crowns were donated by the people of New Orleans. On 28 April 1897, same Pontiff issued a papal document erecting the Confraternity of Our Lady of Prompt Succor elevating their status to the rank of Archconfraternity.
- On 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. The request was granted from a petition by the Archbishop of New Orleans, John William Shaw; Bishop of Alexandria, Cornelius Van de Ven; and, Bishop of Lafayette, Jules B. Jeanmard. 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.
He maintains that the devotion never garnered a widespread following 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.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor is the patroness of the state of Louisiana, and of the city of New Orleans. 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.
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.
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.
Servants of Our Lady of Prompt Succor
The Servants of Our Lady of Prompt Succor are members of the New York Chapter of the Arch confraternity of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. They were established in 1991, working tirelessly to promote devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor, especially for the conversion of the United States to a permanent culture of life.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, according to the Tridentine and Dominican usages and the Byzantine Divine Liturgy are both broadcast by the Servants, on the internet, so to unite members and viewers, worldwide, in a common effort to pray for the defense of life in all stages.
Feast Day - 8th January
Annual Feast Day of Our Lady of Prompt Succor is celebrated on 8th January.
Church Visiting Time
2701 State Street, New Orleans,
Louisiana, LA, 70118, United States
Tel : +1 504-866-0200
How to reach the Shrine
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is located in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States is the nearby Airport to the Shrine.
Carondelet at Poydras Tram Stop in New Orleans, Louisiana United States is the nearby Tram Station to the Shrine.