DHS Seal - FEMA    
 
FEMA Section 106 Notices for Louisiana
Comment on "Public Notice Regarding Historic Review of the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church, 5500 Paris Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana with linked PDF attachments "
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Name: Name redacted at the request of the author
City: New Orleans
Specific
property
affected:
5500 Paris Ave.
Comments: Is it just me, or are an increasing number of the "Supporter of SFC" posts beginning to read like the script for that Mel Gibson "Conspiracy Theory" movie? The Archdiocese, the Holy Cross family, the City, the Oak Park and Vista Park neighborhood associations along with a number of other Gentilly organizations, the Gentilly Civic Improvement Association, and presumably anyone else who is skeptical of the building's historic or architectural significance and who supports it's demolition as part of the proposed project seem to have all gotten together beforehand and plotted out a grand secret process by which they would achieve their underhanded goals....apparently the "theft" of $4.2 mil in insurance proceeds.

Two problems with that scenario--one of "motive", and the other of "method". As for the "motive"...I (with my own ears) heard ARNO representative Fr. Michael Jacques state at the meeting called for HC to present it's proposal to the SFC parishioners that the insurance money belonged to the parish, and was being held separately from other ARNO monies to be used should the parish see fit (if it is reinstated as an active parish in the future) to go toward building a new church. It is ARNO's stance that the current building, with all it's maintenance problems and design flaws, cannot be supported by a parish the size of SFC BEFORE Katrina, much less a congregation in it's current state. Further, one of the two proposals HC presented at that meeting was for the school to buy all of the parcel of land except for 1 1/2 acres at the corner of Paris and Prentiss, which SFC parish would retain with the intention of using that land AND THE INSURANCE PROCEEDS to build a new, smaller church building that would fit the size of the congregation (and presumably not carry the monumental maintenance costs of the old building) should the parish be reinstituted. The SFC parishioners voted to instead choose the option to sell all of the parcel.

Concerning the "method" for the "conspiracy"...if some secret machinations were going on behind the scenes, orchestrated by ARNO, HC, and perhaps the Council on Foreign Relations and the Freemasons, then it might have behooved those involved to stop explaining the process to every TP reporter who asked. HC releasing a new campus site plan so early in the process that indicated that no matter which site were chosen that no existing structures were to be retained was probably a less-than-covert action, as well. Inviting all SFC parishioners who could be contacted to voice their opinions and to vote to make the actual decision as to whether or not to accept HC's proposal for the land was probably a bad "method" as well, as was publishing the site plan showing that the existing buildings on the Cabrini/Redeemer-Seton site were to be demolished in a full page article in the Clarion Herald. Not to mention the HC administration explaining to the parents of any prospective student for TWO YEARS worth of open houses that the plans called for the demolition of the existing structures. The "conspirators" have done a decidedly lousy job of trying to keep their evil plans under wraps.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans seems to want to put a large, dormant parcel of land back into productive use and further their stated goal of rebranding Gentilly as a public and parochial "educational nexus" for the City of New Orleans (Holy Cross, Brother Martin, St. Augustine, St. Mary's Academy, Dillard, UNO, SUNO, and the Baptist Theological Seminary). Holy Cross seems to want to continue it's 125-year-old mission to educate young men in a more centrally-located (and yes, safer) location than their Ninth Ward home by investing $25 million into a neighborhood that certainly could benefit from the investment by building a campus that they feel will allow them to compete for students on an equal footing with the other parochial high schools in the area. The SFC parishioners who voted on the proposal seemed to overwhelmingly see this as a desirable thing. The residents of the surrounding Gentilly neighborhoods, both through their neighborhood associations and on their own, seem to see the ARNO/HC proposal as one of the best things that could possibly happen to their home area.

On the other hand...the "Friends of SFC" seem to see a non-existant theft of insurance proceeds, and seem to think that defeat of the land sale will magically transport them back to 1967 when their parish was an affluent, young, growing one...and when apparently some people must have thought that the existing building was attractive in some way. The suddenly-vocal members of the architectural community, both local and international it seems, speak as though they want little more than to preserve the reputation and "legacy" of one of their own "members in good standing". You can sort the "SFC parishioners who disagree with the decision to sell" commenters from the "building is an architectural wonder" commenters very simply. The first group (understandably) see the building as a symbol of their congregation as well as of the important moments of their spiritual lives that occured there, and worry that the demolition of the building symbolically means the demolition of their congregational family. The architectural cares less about the SFC congregation than they do about the concrete and brick expression of the vision of one of their own; otherwise their comments would be more about preserving a parish church and less about "adaptive reuse" of an "architectural wonder" as a museum or some sort of performance center. The architectural crowd seems to accept that the building no longer suits the purpose it was built to serve (indeed, that purpose no longer exists for the time being) and therefore place more value on the bricks and concrete than on the needs of those it once served or the needs of those who the land could serve in the future.