Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Sea of Galilee at Sunrise

Catholic Faith Corner

Living in the Light
of Jesus Christ

Weekend in New Orleans for Talk on Joy

For picnics during a concert

Brother Ronald Travers, S.C., the new vicar for religious in New Orleans, invited me to speak to the religious of the archdiocese on living the joy of consecrated life. It was a wonderful experience, mostly because I stayed with three of our Notre Dame Sisters there. They volunteered to minister in New Orleans after Katrina. Sister Margaret teaches second graders, Sister Bonita runs a GED program, and Sister Mary Ellen tutors children. They drove me from and to the airport.

To my delight, Sister Margaret presented me with letters her children wrote me. They had read my book A Child’s Bible and thanked me for writing it. One offered to be my artist. Here are some quotations from their letters:

                  “Your book is the best book in the world.”

                  “Have a blessed day wherever you are.”

                  “It must took you hours to do.”

                  “Your book is umazxing.”

                  “I love your book but why didn’t you put the prodcle son in their.”

                  “I hope you keep making awesome books for kids.”

What We Did

Lake Pontchartrain
Me at the lake

My visit was a learning experience. On Friday evening, we had a picnic in the park alongside Lake Pontchartrain. This is the huge lake that flooded New Orleans. Its waters came up to the convent. Now it is peaceful, and a walkway along the lake is perfect for hikers and young couples. After our meal, we separated to spend time alone in prayer at the lakeside. I learned to avoid walking on red ant hills. Treading on them would quickly bring out hundreds of poisonous ants.

I learned that cypress trees have knees.

A sign on the street read “NO Art Museum.”  I thought How odd! Then was informed that NO stood for New Orleans.

On Saturday the Sisters accompanied me to the Newman Center for the talk. They agreed to help me sing “Joy, Joy, Joy,” but it turned out that the audience immediately joined in with enthusiasm. Afterwards we went to Mass at the Center and then to a restaurant, where I feasted on New Orleans fresh catfish and jambalaya.

Quiche in a tortilla
Sr. Mary Ellen and apple pie

Sister Mary Ellen prepared quiche for our Sunday brunch and gave me the recipe. That evening Brother Ron was coming to dinner, so everyone pitched in to prepare the meal. My job was to peel and cut the apples into thin slices for Sister Mary Ellen’s apple pie, which I managed to do without cutting myself!

Enjoying our meal. Br. Ron took the photo.

In the afternoon Sister Margaret took me to City Park, which she absolutely loves.  I envisioned simply grass, trees, and benches, but was blown away by this attraction.

City Park

The park is 1,300 acres, about twice the size of New York’s Central Park. It has the most live oak trees, some older than 600 years, flowers galore, a host of sports venues, a Museum of Art, Café du Monde, an amusement park with a carousel and Ferris wheel, a mini train, boats and kayaks, a sculpture garden, a botanical garden, and a Storybook section with huge figures from nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

A prime feature is the huge lawn where people picnic while listening to the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. This is comparable to our Blossom Music Center in Ohio. You can see it in the first photo above.

Some photos I took:

Mini train
Long, crooked, heavy branches on live oaks
Three pigs’ house, woman in shoe, etc., etc.
Sr. Margaret and fragrant jasmine
Bridge with the course the Mississippi River has taken—if I recall
I think this was called “Touch of Grace.”
The Bear

You can learn more about this park at

Here is a video about it too:

Sister Margaret could be hired as a tour guide for City Park. I felt like we covered most of the 1,300 acres that afternoon, me keeping up with her fast pace. Wish I had worn my Fitbit to see how many steps I took.

Sadly, the park was 95% flooded by Katrina, but it is fully restored now. Some 2,000 trees were lost, but about 6,000 new ones were planted.

Katrina also left its mark on the streets, which are pockmarked with potholes. The Sisters need to weave around them as they drive. The school building on the convent lot is a shambles with broken and missing windows.

The Communities

I was introduced to various religious communities. Two Sisters from an African community wore striking, patterned blue and white habits. Two brothers and a Jesuit priest were in the audience. I felt honored when one Sister confided to me the secret name God has for her. She said she never told anyone else.

At the supper with Brother Ron, we had fun comparing customs that our respective communities used to have. For example, where we Notre Dames couldn’t drive at all, his community had a few designated drivers.

On Monday morning before leaving for the airport, we attended Mass at the convent of the Servants of Mary. Eight Sisters there have a unique ministry. They are taken to homes where family members are caretakers, and they spend the night to give the families a break. Then the Sisters return to the convent and sleep during the day.

The Diocese

Like many dioceses in the United States, New Orleans is facing the painful challenge of merging parishes. You might pray for them.

Previously I visited New Orleans when I spoke at an NCEA convention there. At that time I saw other features of this Big Easy or Crescent City, like the French Quarter.

Nice Things That Happened

Sometimes you have to rely on the kindness of strangers and God winks.

When my boarding pass on my cellphone was hidden, the man behind me brought it back.

I take books to sell rather than a lot of clothes. As I struggled unsuccessfully to lift my carry-on into the upper bin, the young Hispanic man behind me helped.

During the five-hour layover in Charlotte, a heavyset, bearded young man seated at the end of the row opposite me sang! (I crocheted a baby blanket and worked crossword puzzles.)

The woman next to me fixed my phone when it went dark.

A woman on the other side thanked me for talking to her because she was nervous. She intends to go to my talk next month at St. John of the Cross and marked it on her calendar.

On the next leg of the journey I was so nervous that I couldn’t buckle my seat belt. Boarding, I had been in group nine and seated in the last row (#36). Besides, they had taken away my carry-on, and I had to rescue my talk and handouts. Now I have flown dozens of times, but I said to the tall, thin, Black flight attendant, “I think my seat belt buckle is broken.” He said, “Put it into the other side,” and voila, no problem. Then because of mechanical problems, we had to file out and board another plane they found. As I passed the same flight attendant on the new plane, he gave me a big smile and I said, “Don’t worry. I know how to do it now.”

Coming home, a little boy was in my aisle seat. His mom said the father, who was supposed to sit with his son, couldn’t make the flight. She asked me to trade places and sit in the dad’s window seat farther up. From there because the plane flew low, I was treated to views of the earth below, including a great sight of Cleveland and the Terminal Tower.

Originally Sister Melannie was invited to give this talk, but she had a retreat to give and suggested I do it. So when someone asked Brother Ron how he got me for the day, I said, “By mistake.”

And then there was Sister Kathy who got up early to take me to the airport and later picked me up after I texted her I’d be at arrivals when we had said departures.

As a youth, this was one of my favorite songs:

Next week I plan to share some of the highlights of my presentation to the religious. Stay tuned!

• If you’ve been to New Orleans, what did you enjoy most? Or what would you like to visit there?

• What is your favorite city? Why?

3 Responses

  1. Sister Kathleen, thanks for sharing your trip. What a wonderful experience. The whole trip was so delightful. You are amazing❤️

  2. This was the most delightful, full of adventure trip I’ve read about in a long time. I guess we certainly never know God is really smiling and laughing at us!!! Thank you for sharing and happy travels!!!

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Jesus depends on us to spread the Good News of God’s love, offering the world hope and joy. Mary Kathleen, a Sister of Notre Dame from Chardon, Ohio, responds through writing, speaking, giving retreats, and teaching. Her motto, adopted from Eddie Doherty’s gravesite, is “All my words for the Word.”

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