Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
Monsignor Crosby Kern, an influential leader of the Archdiocese of New Orleans who spent the past 10 years as a staunch preservationist of its history, as rector at St. Louis Cathedral and director of the Old Ursuline Convent, died Friday. He was 73.
Monsignor Kern had battled cancer in recent months and died early Friday, according to Sarah Comiskey McDonald, director of communications for the archdiocese.
A native of New Orleans, Monsignor Kern was appointed rector, or pastor, of St. Louis Cathedral in 2003, serving as the cathedral’s 42nd rector since it was founded in 1720 as the center of New Orleans’ Catholic community.
Monsignor Kern prided himself on his role in preserving church history through the daily upkeep and religious life of the nation’s oldest continuously-operating cathedrals and one of the city’s most recognizable icons.
His pride in his role, combined with his strong personality, meant he could sometimes clash with members of the diverse communities that co-exist in Jackson Square, and the city’s oldest neighborhood. But his passion for his job, for the city and for its Catholic community could not be denied.
His pride was evident on Super Bowl Sunday 2010. As reported by Channel 4 anchor Karen Swensen for her former station New England Cable News, he famously donned a Drew Brees jersey on Super Bowl Sunday as he celebrated Mass at the Cathedral, and led a Who Dat chant with Saints fans outside after Mass.
Monsignor Kern oversaw preservation and restoration efforts at the Cathedral before and after Hurricane Katrina, and celebrated countless daily Masses, weddings and funerals, including overseeing preparations for the elaborate funeral observances for Archbishop Philip Hannan last year.
As part of his duties, Monsignor Kern also oversaw another local icon, the nearby Old Ursuline Convent, the oldest structure in the Mississippi River valley, at Chartres and Ursulines.
He became director of what was called the Catholic Cultural Heritage Center, a museum of sorts housed at the convent and serving as a home for the archdiocesan archives, including baptismal and marriage records dating back to the earliest days of New Orleans.
"The things that happened here in this building," he said, "tell us who we are and where we come from," Monsignor Kern told The Times-Picayune when the center opened.
One of the highlights of his tenure there was the arrival in 2006 of a four-month exhibit of religious mosaic art never before seen outside the Vatican.
Before his stint at the Cathedral, Monsignor Kern served for nearly 25 years as pastor at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church in Metairie. He also served as head of the East Jefferson deanery, as a regional church leader, and as archdiocesan vocations director and chairman of the priests council.
He also served as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Hahnville.
Monsignor Kern was ordained in 1965 after studying at Maryknoll College in Illinois and at St. Joseph's and Notre Dame seminaries.
He is survived by a sister and his mother.
Funeral arrangements are pending.