From his post in Rome, Pope Francis himself recently appointed New Orleans native Fernand Cheri III to serve as the auxiliary bishop to local Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
“It was a complete surprise. A shock, really,” says Bishop-elect Cheri, his smile clearly audible over the phone. “I’d stepped into my office on a Saturday morning to a call saying Pope Francis wanted me for archbishop of New Orleans. I made him spell my name again and everything. They gave me the weekend to think about it, and they wouldn’t let me tell anybody, so it was quite awkward.”
Cheri’s new vaunted role consists of assisting the bishop. “It’s largely an administrative role,” Cheri says, “interacting with priest personnel, or just being at high school graduations, and programs for different churches—being present for the activities the Archbishop is not able to do.”
Away from New Orleans for 22 years—minus his many trips to help out and to collect his own soggy belongings after Katrina—Cheri is especially glad to be back among his people. “One of things I feel blessed about… I love the way in which New Orleans’ Black community is a family in many, many ways, and many of the churches reflect that. Everyone feels like a cousin or an in-law. People just aren’t as hospitable and welcoming elsewhere with that spirit.” CLICK HERE to read the rest of the interview at Louisiana Weekly…
Or check out this 16-minute recent press conference with Cheri:
Cheri is particularly suited for a return to his hometown given his passion for archiving music, particularly Black Catholic religious recordings, sheet music and books. Unfortunately much of his valuable audio was stored in New Orleans before and after the flood. “My collection is very extensive,” he says. “I lost 2,300 recordings in Katrina. It breaks my heart to think what I lost: mostly vinyl and tapes.