Immediately after entering the Pope John Paul II exhibit in the New Orleans Museum of Art it strikes you; beauty, history, dazzling color and if you take a closer look around, the details might surprise you.
“Sitting in my den or working in my office or getting up in the morning I’m thinking to myself, this is the exact place where the Holy Father lived for over 3 days,” says Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
The Archbishop’s headboard, used by the Pope during his 1987 trip to New Orleans, stands proud against the wall, a piece passed down by Archbishop Hannan, treasured yet very mysterious.
“We don’t really know the history. I mean I’ve asked his family, his brother. No one really knows,” says Aymond.
Scott Peck curated the exhibit and jokes with the archbishop about the headboard “When it leaves here, it’s going back to the archbishop’s residence and his head is going to be right here, so it’s a cool thing.”
Among the countless keepsakes from the pontiffs trip to New Orleans, the very vestments he wore are on display. Prior to the exhibit, no one knew where they went. It turns out, the Pope liked them so much he took them with him on the road to San Antonio.
Wendy Vitter is credited with finding the vestments, she called the San Antonio Archdiocese and spoke to the archivist. “He actually wore these in the two separate cities… New Orleanians throughout the city have little mementos from the visit,” she says.
Mementos like china, chairs, pictures, together they create an artistic time capsule.
“Looking at somebody’s face and seeing their face light up when they saw the pope tells the story of the pope’s life,” according to Wendy Vitter who remembers exactly where she was during the 1987 trip.
Archbishop Aymond says the exhibit is more of a spiritual experience, “it gives them the opportunity to walk the journey of his visit.”
“He changed New Orleans, and he changed the world,” says Vitter.