Napoleonville, La. - St. Anne's Catholic Church Grave-sites
By: Maida Owens
On the way down to Chauvin, Louisiana my daughter Rachel wanted to stop by her grandparents’ graves in Napoleonville. Her Paw Paw and Maw Maw were both from this area. This is what most Cajun's or Creole's call their grandparents. Even though they hadn’t lived there since their twenties, they wanted to be buried behind St. Ann’s Catholic Church.
Rachel in front of St. Anne’s.
The cemetery is a typical older Catholic cemetery with mainly above ground tombs.
Walking to graves.
Rachel’s grandparents aren’t buried in an above ground tomb, though.
Decorating the graves.
Unless you prefer cremation, above ground tombs are very smart for a family. Even though they are expensive to purchase, once your family has one, everyone can be buried at minimal cost. They occasionally do come up for sale.
Tomb for sale
If you want more information about Louisiana’s above ground cemeteries, I recommend the book, New Orleans Cemeteries: Life in the Cities of the Dead by Robert Florence (Batture Press, New Orleans, Louisiana 1997). It is one of the few that bothers to explain how this works. And the photos are amazing.
On the way back from Chauvin, we noticed this street sign. How appropriate.
There are plenty of regular, single-burial graves in Louisiana, but they, too, are known as tombs in French Louisiana. Here is the tomb of Charlene Richard, which has become a Catholic pilgrimage site. After dying at age 14, this little girl developed a following who consider her a saint. You can learn about her here.
Charlene Richard's tomb, a Cajun Catholic pilgrimage site.
Folklorist Marcia Gaudet has documented the media's role in speeding up the process of people becoming known as a saint. What used to take a couple of hundred years has taken only decades. Charlene is known as the Cajun saint and has a devotional following. While working with editors of a scholarly journal on one of her articles, the editors wanted her not to refer to the graves as tombs since it sounded pretentious. The editors said the word tomb evoked images of an Egyptian pyramid, not a regular looking grave. Marcia insisted that’s the term we use in south Louisiana, whether speaking in French or English. The next day I went labyrinth hunting on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. I’ll tell you about that next.
To Be Continued...
To see more essays in this series go here.
About Maida Owens
A cultural anthropologist and a native Louisianian who cares deeply about her home state, Maida Owens has been director of the Louisiana Folklife Program, www.louisianafolklife.org, since 1988. She has curated exhibits and websites, authored and edited books and articles, produced videos, and created educational materials on Louisiana’s many traditional cultures. She works with organizations and researchers to identify traditional artists and determine the most appropriate way to present folk musicians, storytellers, craftsmen, and traditional cooks to the public. She has worked with hundreds of folk artists from Louisiana's diverse cultures. Her work takes her throughout the state and in the process, she has photographed Louisiana’s people and landscapes. Maida Owens’ fine prints are available by contacting her at maidaowens at cox dot net.
All images are the property of Maida Owens and may not be linked to another website, copied, or reproduced without permission.