THE ICON: Pere Antoine
THE LEGACY: His birth name was Francisco Idelfonso Mareno, but the Capuchin friar who for years served as the rector at St. Louis Cathedral was known by everyone in the city — and still is — as Pere Antoine, no other name necessary. Pere Antoine was as devout as he was strong-willed, so much as to be controversial, as with his attempt to import the Spanish Inquisition to Louisiana in 1789, an effort that saw him exiled from the city for a time. He would return, mellowed but devout as ever, and he would end up earning the enduring affection of his flock for his willingness to minister to everyone, be they poor, enslaved or imprisoned. When church officials tried to unseat him a second time in 1805, his congregation had enough, electing him their parish priest — the people’s priest — and an office he held the rest of his life.
THE ARTIST: Alexandra Kilburn
THE INSPIRATION: “Among the Catholic clergy, Father Antoine, a Capuchin, stands out and highly deserves the esteem in which he is held by the Catholics as well as by the Protestants. He is a true father of the sick, the helpless and the forsaken.” — author and traveler Charles Sidons, in 1827, after visiting New Orleans