Remembering Archbishop Hannan

It’s hard for me to believe that when I was confirmed by Archbishop Philip M. Hannan on March 26, 1976, he was 65 years old and had already been Archbishop of New Orleans for more than ten years. It seems so long ago, and I have so many other more vivid memories of Archbishop Hannan. I knew him well because my Dad served as his deacon at the Cathedral for many years. I remember greeting him after Mass there each Sunday. I remember him coming over to my parents’ home for dinner when I was young, and telling stories of World War II. I remember returning to New Orleans after law school in 1988, at about the same time as his retirement. I remember him asking me to handle some legal work for him involving real estate transfers. But most of all, I remember the time I told him that I was discerning a vocation to the priesthood. I asked him if I could talk with him about it. “Come over to my house for dinner tonight, and we’ll talk.” There was no fanfare, no drama, no “pushing”; Archbishop Hannan just told me what he had experienced in the priesthood. He recommended it. I took his advice. “Good, good,” he said.

There were many more meetings during seminary in Rome. He introduced me to “Lo Scarpone,” my favorite restaurant there. I served his Masses. He called me during my Vatican service.

One of the most memorable meals of my life was with him and Congresswoman Lindy Boggs. I had the good sense to shut up and listen as I got a eye-witness history lesson of the Catholic Church in Washington, DC in the mid-sixties. Lindy later told me that she was with Jacqueline Kennedy immediately after President Kennedy’s death. Jackie told Lindy that she wanted the young Bishop Hannan to give the eulogy at the president’s funeral. When Lindy communicated that message to the office of Cardinal Boyle, she was told that wasn’t correct protocol. The Cardinal should give the eulogy. Jackie said: “tell the Cardinal I’m too distraught to talk about it.”

Since moving back to New Orleans, my time with the Archbishop has been largely limited to seeing him at Masses and the occasional Saints game. But I did have a nice visit with him this summer at his home in Covington.

At the end, I was heartened to hear his last recorded words. After Archbishop Aymond had given him the Apostolic Pardon, remitting all his sins, he characteristically responded: “Sounds good to me.”

May the Angels lead you to paradise, +PMH.