Saint Joseph Abbey Monastery is a Romanesque bricked Catholic church founded in 1889 . Unlike many churches in south Louisiana the Abbey has no stained glass windows; but extensive theological murals painted by Gregory de Wit a Belgium Monk.
Like many people growing-up in 1960’s, New Orleans jewelry designer Anne Dale was emerged in a unique rich spiritual environment and her family’s Catholic faith\heritage.
“As a young girl we would visit the beautiful Catholic churches around the city, appreciating their unique charm and majesty” she says. “I found it fascinating that with each arriving immigrant population a new church was built for their new community and sometimes just across “the neutral ground” from one another.
“I can only image the excitement (in the mid to late 1800’s) for the immigrants as they traveled up the Mississippi River into New Orleans seeing the steeple of the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (what we know as the Saint Louis Cathedral).
My Italian grandfather would seek Saint Mary’s Chapel near Esplanade Avenue while many Irish immigrants went to Saint Patrick’s on Camp Street or Saint Alphonsus Church in the Lower Garden District. Saint Mary’s Assumption Church was where the Germans attended mass, and the first black Catholic church in the United States is Saint Augustine after the famous War-of-the-Pews.”
Anne discovered this hidden gem Saint Joseph Abbey Benedictine Monastery just north of the Big Easy, where she and her husband Michael were invited to attend a marriage retreat. Drawn to the area it inspired the Dale family to relocate. It is were they attend Sunday mass, where their oldest son would be married, and where Anne’s father (Paul Ferrara) would be laid to rest.
So when the church flooded on March 11, 2016, subsequently closing for several months, the laypeople that attended the Abbey were displaced.
Abbot Justin Brown, O.S.B may have put it best: “The church is the heart of our lives here. You sometimes take for granted that we readily have access to this beautiful, peaceful church. Not until it’s missing from your daily life, do you realize how much it means to not only us, but also the community at large. The many inquiries I receive asking when it will reopen are a testament to the passion parishioners have for the Abbey Church. Having it back will be like having our hearts back.”
The church goers were filled with emotion when Saint Joseph Abbey reopened for Sunday Mass in June. Being joyful and appreciative a jewelry design was created. The ‘Apse’ pendant was inspired by the Abbey’s faith, beauty and resilience.