“That hurricane, in particular, just got my back up,” the Jacksonville mom of four recalled. “So, I did what any modern woman would do, and I Googled: Who do you pray to for protection from hurricanes?”
Her top result delivered the odd title of a special intermediary long known to Catholics across the Gulf Coast and beyond as the go-to gal for spiritual defense against wind-swept rain bands and storm surge floods.
‘The miraculous shifting of winds’
The nun wrote to the Pontiff and prayed this before a statue of Mary: “If you obtain for me a prompt and favorable answer to this letter, I make the promise to have you honored in New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.”
And so it was.
When she earned a special papal honor in 1895, the women of New Orleans “donated their prized jeweled necklaces, bracelets, brooches, rings and earrings to have … crowns fashioned in gold and precious jewels” for the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor cradling the infant Jesus, the history reads.
Since then, statues of the “quick help” iteration of Mary and her son have included golden robes, said Mary Lee Harris, assistant to the archivist at the Ursuline Convent Archives and Museum.
‘The strength to take on whatever is coming’
Seen as having aided triumphs over fire, war and more, Our Lady of Prompt Succor soon became known as “the go-to for any disaster,” including the devastating natural ones that can barrel through south Louisiana most any summer: hurricanes, Harris said.
It’s a smart play by a people of faith who often choose their holy liaisons based on circumstances, such as St. Anthony when items go missing or to St. Jude when hope seems lost.
“She is the intercessor to her son — but she does it quick,” Harris said, stressing the factor that’s perhaps most key when a storm is churning in the Gulf of Mexico.
Still, as people of any religious tradition might know, blessings don’t always arrive as requested.
“People joked. They said, ‘We made a mistake. … What happened was that we forgot to pray for the levees not to break,’ ” Harris said.
The real godsend, though, might have been what happened a little more than four months later when hundreds of worshippers showed up to the shrine for a Mass of thanksgiving on Our Lady of Prompt Succor’s feast day, she said.
“What they were doing was saying ‘thank you’ to Our Lady for saving our families and for allowing us to come back and giving us the courage and the fortitude to start rebuilding,” Harris said.
“It’s not that I’m asking for the storm to part and go around our house,” she continued. “I’m asking to bring us peace and let us get through this however that’s going to be and that God grant us the strength to take on whatever is coming.”