NEW ORLEANS -- If anyone knows what it's like to need help and need it fast, it's the people of Louisiana. Lucky for them, there's been a saint on their side for more than 200 years.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor has been answering New Orleans' prayers even before her statue arrived in the city limits.
"Our Lady of Prompt Succor is a title of Mary, the Mother of Jesus," explains Sister Carolyn Brockland, director of the shrine. "And the 'prompt succor' part comes because one of the sisters wanted to come to Louisiana at a time when the community really needed help."
The Ursuline sister asked her bishop if she could go to join the Ursulines already in New Orleans.
"I love to tell this part of the story," says Sr. Brockland. "It's like if you are a parent and your kid wants to do something. But, you don't want to tell him yes. But, you don't feel right about saying no. So, the bishop said, 'If the Pope gives you permission, you can go.'"
That was a problem. The Pope at that time was a prisoner of Napoleon.
"So, this sister prayed to Mary," continues Sr. Brockland. "She said, 'If I write to the Pope and get a prompt and favorable answer, I will have you honored when I come to Louisiana as Notre Dame de Prompt Secours'--Our Lady of 'Quick Help'--we kept the 'prompt' and 'succor' part from the French."
The fact that the Pope even received her message was a miracle. And his answer was yes.
So, the Ursuline sister kept her promise and the statue of Our Lady of Prompt Succor arrived in New Orleans in 1810. It was just in time to answer another prayer.
"It is this statue that the women of New Orleans and the sisters prayed before all night before the Battle of New Orleans in 1815," says Sr. Brockland. "And as we all know it was a miraculous victory."
It was miraculous because an outnumbered American army defeated the British in a battle that could have changed the fortunes of the newly formed nation of the United States. The victory and Our Lady of Prompt Succor's role is celebrated on January 8th each year.
For that reason, and many others, the devotion to Our Lady of Prompt Succor is still strong today.
"People still come here and people still contact us to ask for prayers," says Sr. Brockaland. "It's a national shrine because Our Lady, under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, is the patroness for the whole state of Louisiana."
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor is holding a fundraising event this Saturday (Oct. 27). It will feature author and cable news host Bill Kilmeade, who will be signing his book Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans: The Battle That Shaped America's Destiny. For more information, visit the shrine's website.