Our Lady of Prompt Succor

Background and Early History

The original Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Alexandria, Louisiana, built 1948 The original Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Alexandria, Louisiana, built 1948

The Most Reverend Charles P. Greco, Bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria, created a new Catholic parish in Alexandria on March 1, 1947. It would be named Our Lady of Prompt Succor, in honor of Our Lady the patroness of Louisiana.

The Rev. Aloysius Olinger was appointed the first Pastor, a role he would faithfully fulfill for 22 years.

When the parish began, there were 549 families contributing to the regular collections and/or building drive. The original church was constructed at the corner of 21st Street and Olive Street, and served the parish until 1974. The first Mass was said in the church on June 6, 1948. That same year the parish hall was purchased from the War Assets Administration and remodeled.

My parents were among the original parishioners in 1947, and remained active in the parish all of their lives. I attended Prompt Succor School for eight years, and am still thankful for the education I received. I thank all that served then, including Sister Cordelia, Sister Josepha, Mrs. Knobloch, Mrs. Roach and many others. I also was blessed to serve as an altar boy at Prompt Succor from the sixth grade until graduating from Menard Memorial.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor School on 21st Street, Alexandria, Louisiana, present day Our Lady of Prompt Succor School, Alexandria, built 1949

We enjoyed reading the "PS Press", the school newspaper beautifully reproduced in mimeograph purple!

The School and Rectory

In February 1949 construction of the parochial school began, and lay teachers were hired.  Sister Helen Margaret Schad, C.D.P. was the first principal.

After operating in temporary housing since the parish was created, a new permanent rectory was completed in 1959, directly across 21st Street from the church building.

The New Church

Under the pastorate of Monsignor Frederick J. Lyons, the present church building was completed in September 1974 on property that was once the site of Providence Central High School, an all-girl’s high school run by the Sisters of of Divine Providence.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Elliott Street, Alexandria, Louisiana, with sign at the front of the church The current Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Alexandria, Louisiana, built 1974

During the 1980s Monsignor Steve J. Testa served a number of years as pastor, followed by Father H. Gerald Bordelon and many other dedicated religious. 

The Parish Today

The parish continues to thrive and to serve the needs of Alexandria. We recommend a visit to the websites of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church and Our Lady of Prompt Succor School for additional information.

 

Images of Prompt Succor Church from the Past

Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church altar, Christmas 1955
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church altar, Christmas 1955, Alexandria, Louisiana
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Christmas crib to the left of the altar, 1955
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Christmas crib to the left of the altar,1955, Alexandria, Louisiana
Confirmation at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, 1958
with Monsignor Olinger, center, back row
Notice the altar arrangement is still in the original configuration
Confirmation at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, 1958, Alexandria, Louisiana
Architect's drawing of the new Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church
Architect's drawing of the new Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Alexandria, Louisiana
Architect's drawing of the floor plan of the new Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church
Architect's drawing of the new Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Alexandria, Louisiana
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, with sign, March, 1987
(photograph by the author)
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Church, Elliott Street, Alexandria, Louisiana, with sign at the front of the church
Invitation to the 50th Anniversary Celebration
of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish - April 27, 1997
Invitation to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish - April 27, 1997
Mass of Jubilee, 50th Anniversary Celebration
of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish - April 27, 1997
Mass of Jubilee, 50th Anniversary Celebration of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parish - April 27, 1997

Images of Prompt Succor School from the Past

Our Lady of Prompt Succor School First Communion Class, May, 1954
with Monsignor Olinger, center, back row
Notice there is no school name on the building
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School First Communion Class, May, 1954
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School graduating class of 1960
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School graduating class of 1960, Alexandria, Louisiana
Our Lady of Prompt Succour (sic) Parochial School Student Progress Report - 1952-53
Our Lady of Prompt Succor Parochial School Student Progress Report - 1952-53, Alexandria, Louisiana
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School Student Progress Report - 1952-53
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School Student Progress Report - 1952-53
Our Lady of Prompt Succor (OLPS) School Pupil's Report - 1956-57
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School Pupil's Report - 1956-57
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School on 21st Street, Alexandria, Louisiana, present day
(photo courtesy of Prompt Succor School)
Our Lady of Prompt Succor School on 21st Street, Alexandria, Louisiana, present day

Links and Resources

If you have any photos or memorabilia about Prompt Succor to share, please email them to photos@alexandria-louisiana.com, along with a brief explanation: where, when, who, etc.

About Our Lady of Prompt Succor: Our Patron Saint

French Ursuline nuns arrived in New Orleans in 1727, founded a monastery, and organized their area schools from it, including what would become the oldest school for girls currently operating in the United States.

During a period of crisis after a large group of nuns left New Orleans for Cuba in 1803, Mother St. André Madier, one of the seven nuns who remained, appealed to her cousin Mother St. Michel Gensoul, an Ursuline in France who, during exile due to the  reign of terror, opened a boarding school for girls in Montpellier.

Fearing he might lose the boarding school, Bishop Fournier refused her request to 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.”

Mother St. Michel's prayer was answered, and permission to leave was received from Rome in a reply dated April 28, 1809. The letter of the Holy Father praised her generosity and faith and approved her departure. Thus the answer was both prompt and favorable. Thus, the name “Our Lady of Prompt Succor” … “quick help.”

Mother St. Michel then commissioned a statue to be carved in France. Bishop Fournier, surprised at the outcome, asked to bless the statue. Soon Sister St. Michel was on a ship on her way to New Orleans. That beautiful, large, gold statue arrived at the Old Ursuline Convent on Chartres Street in the French Quarter on December 10, 1810, and today resides in the Shrine on State Street.

Since 1810, devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor has grown in New Orleans and elsewhere in Louisiana, including Alexandria, and has spread through the United States, and even beyond.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor enjoys a reputation of performing miraculous life saving intercessions for the residents of New Orleans, and Louisiana … quick help to overcome losses from great fires, floods, hurricanes, disease and wars.

A great fire threatened the Ursuline monastery in 1812. A lay sister brought the statue to the window and Mother Saint Michel prayed. Again, the prayers to Our Lady of Prompt Succor were answered.

Our Lady interceded again at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Many faithful, including wives and daughters of American soldiers, gathered in the Ursuline chapel before the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, and spent the night of January 7 - 8 before the battle in prayer. They asked Our Lady for victory by Andrew Jackson's forces over the British, which would save the city from being sacked. Jackson and 200 men from around the South won a remarkable victory over a superior British force in a battle that lasted twenty-five minutes, and saw few American casualties. In years after the Battle, President Jackson’s trips to New Orleans always included visits to the Ursuline Convent.

Every year since 1815, a solemn promise has been kept to honor Our Lady in a Mass of Thanksgiving on January 8, celebrated by the Archbishop of New Orleans in the National Shrine. This promise has been kept, without fail, since 1815, and is attended by many of the faithful from all over the nation.

In 1928, the Holy See approved the selection of Our Lady of Prompt Succor as the Patroness of the city of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Hasten to Our Help!