St. Thérèse Chapel (Donated by A. W. Berdon 1936)


By J. E. GUERCIO


This dedication is on a small bronze plaque that has recently been reinstalled in St. Thérèse Hall. When you enter the hall look on the left wall. Thank you Walter Maier for returning this memorial to a place of honor. In this brief historical article we give thanks to all our benefactors that have supported the Catholic Church in Natchez. Thank you Anne Berdon-Allmand and Bernice Berdon in keeping our church history alive.

[Mrs. Peter (Thérèse) Burns shares a beautiful story that she was born shortly after the canonization of St.Thérèse. Her pastor, Fr. Charles Tessier of Holy Rosary Church in LaRose, Louisiana, had made a promise “that the next girl born in the parish would be baptized under the name: St. Thérèse of Lisieux of the Child Jesus.” You guessed it, Little Miss Chouest arrived.]

The chapel was in the basement of the church. For years the basement has been mistakenly referred to as St. Theresa Hall, however, St. Teresa of Avila was never in the basement. Her statue is in the church sanctuary. St. Thérèse of Lisieux is in the hall. Her life size statue with blue, glass eyes stands near the Monsignor Fulham Library entrance. Bishop R. O. Gerow, the seventh and last Bishop of Natchez, dedicated the chapel in honor of this saint. But why this saint? Possibly the connection is with Pope Pius XI who ordained Father Gerow of Mobile, Alabama, to be the Bishop of Natchez on 15 October 1924. The same Pope canonized Thérèse on 17 May 1925.

“During the 1930-1931 cathedral restoration, consideration was given to a basement chapel for week-day Mass and devotions, but funds were not available. On June 22, 1936, with $3,000 from A. W. Berdon, work on a basement chapel began. (This was in time to celebrant the first 100 years of the diocese, 1837-1937.)The former main altar (Bishop Chanche’s) and communion rail (Bishop Elder’s) were placed in the chapel. On December 8, the new chapel, named in honor of the popular French Carmelite nun, St. Therese of Lisieux, was blessed by Bishop Gerow. Mrs. John Bell Wood donated a fine Damascus rug she had purchased in Syria some years before, “because she wished to give something to the new chapel that she prized.” On December 9, the new St Therese Chapel which seated 200 was first used for week-day Mass.”

This paragraph was taken from St. Mary’s of Natchez, Vol. 2, p.543, by Charles E. Nolan, 1992.
Article composed on 11 May 2010 by J.E.G.


Lithograph on stone - St. Mary Cathedral