This week marks the 50th anniversary of a milestone for the local Catholic church — the appointment of Philip Matthew Hannan as the 11th Archbishop of New Orleans. Hannan, who at the time was auxiliary bishop of his hometown of Washington, D.C., was appointed to the New Orleans post on Sept. 29, 1965.
Before coming here, Hannan was chaplain to paratroopers of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. He later became a confidant of the Kennedy family during his time in D.C. and took part in the funeral Mass for President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Hannan arrived in New Orleans just a month after Hurricane Betsy ravaged the area. The need to repair damaged church and school buildings, combined with the church's need to respond to the social changes underway at the time, meant the new archbishop's tenure would be anything but ordinary. Hannan is credited with instituting social service programs and overseeing a time of expansion and growth for the local archdiocese. He also hosted Pope John Paul II during his 1987 visit to New Orleans. Hannan stepped down a year later, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, but he remained active. He died at age 98 on the 46th anniversary of his appointment — Sept. 29, 2011.