NEW ORLEANS - Just after dawn Friday morning, a mass said at a New Orleans church will be a historic moment for its members.
The series of church closures led to police actions and arrests.
There is quiet elation among the members of the St. Henry's congregation who will be able to attend mass on weekdays at their historic neighborhood church for the first time since the archdiocese closed it three years ago.
"I think the message is, 'You got to keep the faith,' and we had a lot faith coming in. Since Archbishop Aymond has been here, there has been a lot of communication, a lot of going back and forth. Not everybody gets what they want, sure, we'd love it to go back to the way that it was, but times change and we understand that," said Alden Hagardorn of the Save St. Henry's Movement. "Great things are happening here this morning."
St. Henry's was one of a number of churches closed as part of a plan to consolidate parishes citywide due to a decline in the city's population and budget problems in the archdiocese.
St. Henry's and nearby Our Lady of Good Counsel were closed, and their congregations merged with St. Stephen's Church to form the new Good Shepherd Parish.
But congregation members refused to leave, staging sit-ins and occupations that eventually led to police actions and arrests in early 2009. At Good Counsel there were handcuffs and at St. Henry's there were citations and tears.
"I can't understand it. I feel so lost and broken, and my hope is just crushed. The church did this to me," said St. Henry's member Cynthia Robidoux in 2009.
But St. Henry's members never gave up, praying the rosary at first outside the church, and then inside with permission from the archdiocese.
Now, Archbishop Aymond has set up a schedule of masses at 6:30 a.m. on weekdays, and while no Sunday masses are in the plans, and St. Henry's is not re-opened as a parish, Friday morning's first mass is expected to draw a large crowd.