Welcome to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the oldest church building in New Orleans dating from 1826. The building, once known as The Mortuary Chapel of St. Anthony Of Padua, is located on the corner of North Rampart Street and Conti. The Mortuary Chapel was first constructed to hold funerals of Yellow Fever victims. In the era predating modern science, medical practitioners believed that Yellow Fever could be spread by exposure to the dead or by transporting the dead through the city’s streets for burial. Therefore, burials were banned from St. Louis Cathedral in the heart of the Vieux Carre and a mortuary chapel was established close to St. Louis Cemetery, the main burial location for most of New Orleans Catholic families.
The building was constructed by French architects Gurlie and Guillot for the price of $14,000. The firm of Gurlie and Guillot was well known to the diocese having also built the Ursuline Convent and finished the Presbytere. The brick walls, 20” in thickness, are supported in a trapezoidal foundation composed of brick and cypress. The brick floor and twelve inch interior walls are typical of construction of that day. The exterior walls rise twenty feet and the roof is of slate.
In 1841, the chapel began to be used as a church to relieve the burden of baptisms at St. Louis Cathedral, and in 1860, Pere Turgis, was assigned to the church. Heavily active in the Confederacy, Turgis used the church to hold services for the army.
In 1870, Bishop Perche designated the church for use by the growing Italian immigrant community. In 1903 under the direction of Fr. Lorente, the Dominicans came to St. Anthony and brought new life to the parish. However, only nine days after the founding of the new St. Anthony parish, Fr. Lorente was stricken and died and the old Mortuary Chapel was again abandoned.
In 1918, Archbishop Shaw requested the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to send priests to New Orleans. In that year, the Oblate Fathers (under the guidance of Fr. Jules Bornes, the first Oblate Pastor) took up residence in New Orleans and began to minister to Our Lady of Guadalupe as they do to this day.
In the 1930’s, a group of parishioners began to pray to St. Jude Thaddeus. This began a regular tradition of novenas and gave rise to the construction of a shrine to St. Jude. The International Shrine of St. Jude is located in an area to the left of the altar and includes a relic of St. Jude.
Today, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is a welcoming, diverse, inner-city community of believers united by a strong Catholic faith. Through family centered and spirit-filled worship, education, outreach and generous service to the poor and homeless of our community, we proclaim and live out the Gospel in contemporary New Orleans.