My grandfather used to talk about going to Fishermen’s Mass before dawn on Sunday mornings. Do you know which church offered this and when?
While Catholic churches in some bayous and rural communities are known to offer morning masses for fishermen and hunters, in New Orleans the church most associated with a so-called Fisherman’s Mass is the Church of Our Lady. from the Star of the Sea to Saint-Roch.
It is located in the 1800 block of St. Roch Avenue, across from St. Roch Park and one block from the historic St. Roch Cemetery. The parish church was founded in 1911 by Archbishop James Hubert Blenk. According to the church’s website, the first mass was celebrated on Christmas Day 1911 at a house on the corner of St. Roch and North Johnson Street.
A larger church was built within seven months of this first mass, but a 1915 hurricane destroyed it. A second church was built on the same land. The parish grew so much that a larger church – the current structure – was built and dedicated in 1931.
The Fisherman’s Mass was introduced in 1932 by Father Joseph Lévesque, who was parish priest of Notre-Dame l’Etoile de la Mer from 1924 to 1938. The Dawn Mass was celebrated at 3 a.m. in the summer and at 4 h winter. Some attendees recall that the masses were popular not only with sports enthusiasts, but also with students, late-night revelers, and people who worked late into the night.
The mass was discontinued in 1939 but reinstated the following year. An October 1940 Times-Picayune article reported that as a result of “hundreds of petitions,” Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel and the church’s new pastor, Father Joseph J. Boudreaux, “were granted permission of the Apostolic Delegate in Washington to hold services before one hour before dawn. , the time permitted by church law.
The Fisherman’s Mass ended in 1956 when, according to The Times-Picayune, attendance began to dwindle. Within a few years, vigil masses on Saturdays at 4 p.m. offered athletes another option. These services were sanctioned by the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s.