home chapel

For most Americans in the early to mid 20th Century, religion was an important part of life. In our founder's predominantly Roman Catholic childhood home town of New Orleans, Italian, French, Irish and German families remained close to ethnic based churches in which services were often conducted in native European languages. New Orleans was noted for having multiple same denominational churches often located within close proximity, mainly because of the different languages and cultures of each congregation.

Despite claims by today's liberal politicians and activists, those of us who study history are keenly aware that America is a nation that was founded on the principles of Judeo-Christian Religion. Although our Constitution gives us the right to worship as we please, the country was never-the-less founded on the principles and values espoused to by people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other religious men. Throughout history, our churches and synagogues have provided the inspiration for Americans of all races, nationalities and creeds, to find the strength of conviction that made us the greatest nation on Earth.

For more information, photographs and history on the churches of New Orleans, Louisiana and Richmond, Virginia, please visit our virtual church tour web sites at:

www.neworleanschurches.com and www.churchesofvirginia.org

Chapels associated with museums are not a revolutionary idea. The Vatican Museum has its Sistine Chapel, The Museum of Methodism has its Wesley Chapel, and the Rodin Museum features the Chapels of the Sisters. The interest of ancient church artifacts can be as beautiful as they are inspiring.

In keeping with the traditions of many ethnic, and particularly Italian families in the United States during the early 20th Century, the DeMajo family's home museum contains a completely functional Catholic chapel. The patron saint of the chapel is Blessed Francis Seelos, a beatified Redemptorist Catholic priest who lived and served in New Orleans, Louisiana during the 19th Century. Father Seelos is presently a candidate for Canonization by the Catholic Church, and will hopefully gain full sainthood status during the coming years. Our family is fortunate to have a rare physical relic of Fr. Seelos enshrined in the chapel's altar. While the chapel serves as an appropriate display for the family's collection of 19th and 20th Century church artifacts, visitors are often inspired to attend a service or simply pause for a moment of prayer or meditation.

Shown here are photographs of the vessels and items that are used in conjunction with services conducted in the chapel.

Besides being a historic display of antique church artifacts, the museum's Blessed Francis Seelos Chapel is regularly used for actual church services. Here, Father Dan Brady pastor of St. Michael's Catholic Church, officiates at a Catholic Mass for a group of DeMajo family friends and relatives.
The Chapel Tabernacle built in the DeMajo Organ Works Shop. The bronze door is an authentic tabernacle door from a Catholic Church, and was acquired with the help of King Richard's Church Supply and Salvage in Georgia.
Antique stained glass window, recently installed in the chapel, is the work of Shelton Stained Glass Studio in Ashland, VA. This company made many of the windows that grace the churches in central Virginia, including some of Richmond's famous landmark churches.
Imported Italian hand-carved altar crucifix from the altar of the DeMajo residence chapel.
Renewal of the Pascal Candle signifies the beginning of Easter season

Rare statue of the "Infant Jesus of Prague" (ca: 1910) originally from an historic Roman Catholic Church.

The Infant Jesus of Prague is widely accepted by Christians as a source of miracles in cases of the impossible. This statue, representing the Infant Jesus, now holds a place of honor in the DeMajo Family's home chapel, where it is placed, just as an identical statue once existed next to the main altar in the family's 1900's parish church, The National Shrine St. Ann, in our old New Orleans neighborhood.

The chapel's antique marble baptismal / holy water font was salvaged from a demolished Catholic church.
The Monstrance and Cibroium along with the altar bells that were used in the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass.

The church utilizes three different formulations of holy oils for the administration of various Sacraments. Oils are used not only to anoint those in danger of death, but also at Baptism, Confirmation, priestly Ordinations, blessing of churches, and other occasions. The three cruets on the lower shelf are the oils of Sanctification, Chrism and Oil of the sick and dying. The mixtures contain pure Olive Oil along with a mixture of spices and herbs that have been passed down through Biblical tradition.
In the pre-Vatican II Tri dentine Mass, it was customary for the celebrant to enter the sanctuary through the sacristy door. As he did, a bell was rung to signal the congregation to rise. Today in most Catholic churches, a procession occurs as the celebrant, acolytes and readers process from the rear of the church to the Altar. In keeping with mid-century pre-Vatican II tradition, the museum's Seelos chapel has a such a bell at the sanctuary entrance.
An authentic pre-Vatican II altar Missal which is printed totally in Latin.
Detail of altar front and "Last Supper" painting. .
The interior of St. Mary's Italian Church in New Orleans. Like many ethnic Catholic churches in New Orleans, and in other American cities where there were large immigrant populations, St. Mary's conducted services totally in Italian through the first half of the 20th. Century. The church was also a social hub for the city's Italian population since the Vieux Carre and Esplanade area of New Orleans housed a large percentage of the immigrant population that had settled there in the early 1900s. Among the early parishioners of St. Mary's Italian Church, were the native Italian ancestors of the DeMajo family.

Because of New Orleans' ethnic diversity, many neighborhoods contained multiple churches of the same denomination, while each individual church maintained its ethnic culture. In the first half of the century, it was not unusual to have German, Irish, Italian and French speaking Catholic parish churches all located in a small area of town that would normally have been served by just one church.

This is a 1923 edition of the famed Baltimore Catechism, a book with which all Catholic children of early to mid-20th Century America are probably familiar. The Museum of Yesterday's library contains several editions of the Baltimore Catechism, including an original first edition dating back to the original release which occurred in April of 1885.

A personal recollection from our founder and chairman:

As a child who attended school in the 1950s, I have memories of religion classes that were based around the Baltimore Catechism. In those days, religious education was a matter-of-fact thing that did not require the personal or government-political agonizing that goes on in today's secular society. There was even a great deal of cooperation between the government and the churches when it came to seeing that children of all faiths were given an opportunity to receive a religious education of their choosing.

I site as an example, a program that was in effect in most cities where the public schools and religious schools operated side-by-side. In New Orleans, LA., where I was raised, those of us who attended the public schools were released from classes an hour early on Tuesdays and Thursdays in order for us to go down the street to the neighboring Catholic school so that we could receive religious instruction from the nuns who taught there. Likewise, children of other religious persuasions were also permitted to attend classes during those same periods, although most of the Protestant faiths held their religion classes as part of their Sunday School programs. No child, however, would have been denied an opportunity to attend religious education when it was offered. We were also granted time off, without it impacting attendance records, for retreat days at the Catholic school. The classes for those children of other faiths who remained behind in the public school, were structured for that day so as to not cover any critical course material.

I remember too that, even in the early 1960s when I was in high school, our band and vocal music concerts still contained works that were at times associated with religious themes. After all, music written before 1850 was almost exclusively religious in nature, so the proper study of Bach, or any of the great composers that pre-dated 1850, would have involved some mention of religious subject matter.

Our public school choir director dealt well with this matter of separation of religion and state. He structured his concert repertoire to include probably 50% fully secular music, and 50% music that he borrowed from church choirs in the area. The music was taught not as a celebration of any religion, but as a lesson in the work of the composers, or to illustrate the arrangement techniques that recognized professional choirs, such as the Mormon Tabernacle, Robert Shaw Chorale, and even the Mitch Miller and Ray Charles singers choruses, were doing at the time. Consequently everyone enjoyed learning the different arrangements and there was never any religious objection raised by the students or their parents. Just a few decades later, however, there can not even be a reference or mention of Christmas and traditional Christmas carols, or any such literature taught in the schools, even though it was the foundation of the subject being taught, and likewise the foundation of our very nation.

Today, such cooperation between the religious and government operated schools would be unheard of. As for separation of Church and State, there was never interference between the school systems, nor were children of different faiths ever indoctrinated into learning another religion, such as is the case today with children being taught mandatory classes in Eastern religions to the total exclusion of Judeo-Christianity. Like it or not, our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and no one would have attempted to either force or exclude the practice of the religion of one's choice from the rights and freedoms that were offered to all by our Constitution.


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