Pastor: Fr. Mark E Thibodeaux, SJ
For more than a century, Holy Name of Jesus Church has been part of the fabric of the city of New Orleans. A mix of young and old, college students, professionals, families with children and single men and women, the parish doors are open to all.
Complete with a flourishing school and located on the campus of Loyola University New Orleans, the parish serves as a hub of activity in the heavily Catholic city it calls home.
In 1886, Fr. John O’Shanahan, SJ, Superior of what was then the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus, announced plans for the building of a parish in what is today known as the Audubon neighborhood.
Over the course of the next six years, six Jesuits skilled in carpentry constructed the building, which was blessed and dedicated on May 29, 1892, with a congregation of around 70 people.
The original building was colloquially known as the “Little Jesuits” church, since it was smaller than the city’s other Jesuit church, Immaculate Conception, and was a Gothic structure made entirely of native wood.
As the 20th century began, plans were made to construct a campus for a Jesuit university (what is today known as Loyola University New Orleans) in the area. As a result, Holy Name of Jesus was, literally, moved. On July 17, 1910, Mass was celebrated with the building on jackscrews, and immediately afterward, workmen put the structure on rollers and moved it to its new location.
Eight years later, a new church was erected and dedicated on December 9, 1918. The following year, Sunday Mass began being broadcast over Loyola University’s radio station, WWL.
In the ensuing decades, parish membership and the parish school’s enrollment boomed. By the end of World War II, there were some 2,825 families in the parish and by 1959 there were 6,195.
The church has undergone several extensive renovations over the course of its history and today acts as a stabilizing force in a dynamic, diverse urban center.
Holy Name of Jesus Today
Holy Name of Jesus continues to be a beacon of God’s light and hope to this day. Around 800 households belong to the parish and its school boasts an enrollment of about 500.
An array of social organizations, ministries and social justice outreach efforts widen the parish’s footprint in the community. At the direction of former provincial Fr. Ronald Mercier, SJ, and current provincial Fr. Tom Greene, SJ, the parish is increasing its collaboration with other Jesuit apostolates in the New Orleans region, particularly neighboring Loyola University New Orleans and Immaculate Conception Church in downtown New Orleans.
As it looks to the future, the parish has a “Five to One” plan, highlighting five specific areas in which the parish wants to improve: service to youth and young adults, adult spiritual formation, justice and outreach, institutional advancement, and Holy Name of Jesus Online (a general initiative that seeks to improve the parish’s presence on the web.)
The parish is also restarting a capital campaign interrupted by COVID-19 and is live streaming Masses to foster a greater sense of community.