NEW ORLEANS — Retired Archbishop Philip Hannan of New Orleans died in the early morning hours of Sept. 29. The archbishop, age 98, is being remembered for his tireless work for the poor and for being a “wonderful soldier of Christ.”
“Archbishop Hannan will be greatly missed,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans.
“He was a man of the Church, a man who loved God and certainly a man who loved God’s people,” he said. “He was a great shepherd for us, and he also was a true New Orleanian.”
Archbishop Aymond recalled the “determination” and “great love for the poor” that Archbishop Hannan displayed throughout his life.
“People knew him and recognized him as the archbishop of New Orleans,” he said. “I think that was a testament to the love, admiration and affection that people have for him.”
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans issued a statement recalling Archbishop Hannan’s “visionary leadership” and his creation of new ways “to provide help to those in need in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.”
Among the Catholic Charities programs founded or supported by Archbishop Hannan are food distribution services, pregnancy centers, early childhood education centers, and services for refugees and victims of domestic violence.
Born in Washington, D.C. on May 20, 1913, Archbishop Hannan was the fifth of eight children.
He studied at St. Charles College in Cantonville, Md., the Sulpician Seminary in Washington, D.C. and the North American College in Rome. He also received a master’s degree and a doctoral degree from Catholic University of America.
Archbishop Hannan was ordained a priest in Rome on Dec. 8, 1939. He served at parishes in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and worked as the editor-in-chief of the Washington, D.C. archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Standard, for 14 years.
He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Washington on June 16, 1956.
At the Second Vatican Council, he addressed the council fathers on nuclear warfare and on the role of the laity.
It was while he was attending the final session of Vatican II that Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of New Orleans on Sept. 29, 1965.
He served as Archbishop of New Orleans until his retirement in 1988.
Archbishop Hannan’s memoir The Archbishop Wore Combat Boots was published in 2010. In them, he described his time as a paratroop chaplain in World War II, as well as his close friendship with President John F. Kennedy, for whom he delivered a funeral eulogy.
Archbishop Aymond will celebrate a funeral Mass for Archbishop Hannan on Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. in New Orleans’ St. Louis Cathedral.
Kent Bossier, Archbishop Hannan’s former caregiver, recalled the archbishop as being someone who “loved humankind” and “could walk with the kings and the common men.”
“The archbishop was a pro-life warrior his whole life,” he said Sept. 29. “He was a wonderful soldier of Christ.”
Bossier cared for Archbishop Hannan from April 2007 until June 2011, when the archbishop was moved to a nursing facility designed to provide care for seniors in the archdiocese. Archbishop Hannan had envisioned and dedicated the facility several decades earlier.
In recent months, Archbishop Hannan has suffered from health problems including a series of strokes.
Bossier visited the archbishop for three hours on the afternoon before his death. He described it as a “wonderful visit.”
The archbishop, he said, was “somewhat responsive” and “not in any distress or pain. He always loved everyone he met, and he never lost his touch,” Bossier said. “He was an amazing person.”