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Fr. Michael Jacques of St. Peter Claver, dies

10th June 2013   ·   0 Comments

Father Michael Jacques, the beloved and long-time pastor of St. Peter Claver Church in Tremé, the largest Black Catholic church in the parish, died at 2 a.m. June 7 from a heart attack. He was 64.

News of Father Jacques’ passing came early Friday morning from Father Patrick Williams, executive director of the Department of Clergy. In an email, Father Williams said:

“It is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of Fr. Michael Jacques S.S.E., pastor of St. Peter Claver Church,” Father Williams said. “Fr. Michael was admitted to the hospital yesterday after an apparent heart attack. A heart procedure was done, but he died during the night from complications related to the heart attack.

“Please remember Fr. Michael and his family in your prayers as well as the St. Peter Claver and Edmundite communities.”

According to the Archdiocese, Father Jacques “died from complications from a heart attack.”

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu put out a statement of sympathy to comfort those parishioners still reeling from the loss.

“Today, New Orleans lost another giant with the passing of Father Michael Jacques of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church,” the statement read. “For decades, Father Mike faithfully served St. Peter Claver Parish and tirelessly advocated for the Tremé neighborhood. It was common for Father Mike to remind his parishioners of the call we have to love and serve our community.”

Father Jacques was a native of Maine and was the youngest of eight children raised by a single mother who was widowed when Jacques was 2 years old. In 1982, he was ordained into the priesthood after completing his studies at the Divinity University of St. Michael College at the University of Toronto School of Theology. Fr. Jacques assumed the role of pastor at St. Peter Claver in 1984.

During his 29 years, the church has grown to be the largest African-American parish in the state serving over 2,400 families. Jacques also dedicated much of time and attention to addressing the social needs of the immediate Tremé area as well as the the needs of the city beyond the limits of the neighborhood including being instrumental in the formation of UJAMAA and PROVIDENCE CDCs, two community housing development organizations working towards increasing homeownership and revitalization of Tremé.

Through these organizations, Fr. Jacques was able to help move several community development projects forward in such as the St. Bakita Gardens (formerly Villa d’Ames on the Westbank of New Orleans); the rebuilding of Lafitte low-income housing, providing housing for 600 on-site and 300 off-site apartments, which was a joint venture.

Fr. Jacques has served as president of the Bishop Perry School Board, an inner city, free-tuition school sponsored by the Society of St. Edmund and as Dean of the Cathedral Deanery along with his service as Director of the Council of Deans provides the opportunity for effective leadership in the local Church.

He was most recently appointed 2nd Councilor of the General Council-Society of St. Edmund, Colchester, VT and served as Regional Superior of the Southern House, which includes Edmundites stationed in Alabama, Louisiana and Michigan. As Superior he was responsible for overseeing the Edmundite Southern House and President of the Edmundite Southern Missions, founded in 1937.

“My prayers go out to the Jacques family, the Society of St. Edmund and the parishioners of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church,” Mayor Landrieu said. “While we mourn today as a city, I am confident that the legacy of service Father Mike helped to instill at St. Peter Claver and throughout our city will live on.”

An evening Vigil Service (wake) for Father Jacques will take place Friday, June 14, at St. Peter Claver Church in New Orleans. Visitation and a funeral Mass will be Saturday, June 15, also at St. Peter Claver. The exact times of the services have not yet been set.

This article originally published in the June 10, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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