‘Grounded by faith’: Mayor Cantrell finds comfort with an altar in her office

Mayor LaToya Cantrell touches the rosary on the altar in her office at City Hall

NEW ORLEANS —  The “Last Supper” carved in olive wood from the Holy Land, novena candles, holy water and a rosary have a special place in Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s life — and in her office at City Hall.

They’re on the altar that she prays in front of, daily.

“Oh, I kneel down,” says the mayor with a smile, as she opened the padded kneeler below the altar.  Inside, she keeps a Bible, the same one she used for the swearing in of NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison.

“When I have to make tough decisions,” she says, “I will go and pray and get some guidance and just try to make the best decision possible.”

The mayor says a staff member brought her the rosary from Vietnam.  The novena candles are kept burning; one is devoted to the Virgin Mary and another to St. Jude.

The holy water is kept in a simple plastic bottle that looks like it might be TSA-approved shampoo — except for the cross on the front.

Mayor Cantrell is a devoted Catholic, and the candles and rosary won’t seem strange to most people in this predominantly Catholic city.  But her reasons for praying are personal, and poignant.

“For me, it just gives me comfort,” she told us. “It allows me to embrace who I am, under all circumstances giving thanks, and (it gives) me hope to endure, because the job is hard.

“People are cruel, but when you’re good in your own skin and grounded in faith, you’re able to rise up and not let it bother you at all — kind of roll off of you, because (other people) don’t make you.”