Madonna Della Strada Building Named and Dedicated

Posted November 9, 2021 / Last updated November 15, 2021

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In a once-in-a-generation event, faculty, staff, administration, benefactors, and community members arrived on Carrollton & Banks on the evening of October 4 for the dedication of the newest addition to Jesuit’s campus: the Madonna Della Strada Building. The evening began in the Chapel of the North American Martyrs with a Mass of thanksgiving celebrated by Fr. John Brown, S.J., Jesuit’s president, and concelebrated by fellow Jesuits Fr. Justin Dafron, S.J., Fr. WIlliam Farge, S.J., Fr. Penn Dawson, S.J., Fr. Stephen Kramer, S.J., Fr. Anthony McGinn, S.J. ’66, Fr. Nathan O’Halloran, S.J., Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, S.J., and Fr. Greg Waldrop, S.J. Assisting was Deacon Jody Fortunato ’98.

At the completion of Mass, Brown publicly unveiled the new building’s largest and previously anonymous donors, saying, “I want to thank Mr. Frank Stewart and his wife, Paulette. In the early days of the [Minds & Hearts Enlightened Capital] Campaign, Frank Stewart made his support very clear to us in the form of an incredible donation. He said we could put him down for $2 million, and he offered another $5 million in the form of a challenge gift.”

“He insisted on that time on being anonymous until I practically twisted his arm,” Brown continued. “Sincerely, Frank and Paulette, thank you both so much for what you have done.”

Explaining the name of the new building, Brown recounted the history of early Jesuit missionaries who were inspired by the Madonna Della Strada fresco before setting out on journeys across the globe, charged with Ignatius’s instructions to “set the world on fire.”

“It seems fitting,” said Brown, “that the Madonna Della Strada should serve as the name of our new building. Our young men who come to Jesuit are barely teenagers, and they do so with the expectation that they will be formed to go out and set the world on fire in their own way.”

The Madonna Della Strada is a 13th century fresco depicting Our Blessed Mother and the Child Jesus. It was originally painted on the wall of Saint Mary of the Way in Rome, the church of the Society of Jesus that was given to Saint Ignatius by Pope Paul III in 1540.

Today, the fresco can be found in the Gesu Church of Rome, the mother church of the Jesuits. The image is located between two altars: the main altar is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus while the other is dedicated to Ignatius of Loyola.

Following Brown’s remarks, Jesuit’s student body president, senior Joseph Liberto, thanked attendees on behalf of all Blue Jays. His speech and a recap of the events of the evening can be found below or viewed on Jesuit’s YouTube channel.

Under the leadership of choir director Jeff Miraflor, S.J. and the Jesuit choir, attendees then processed from the Chapel of the North American Martyrs to the La Strada building for its formal dedication. The dedication featured the blessing of the Madonna Della Strada print itself, the hanging of the crucifix in the entrance of the new building, and the blessing of each room and hallway.

Following the dedication, all in attendance were treated to a reception in Jesuit’s newly renovated cafeteria. Local media was present and some outlets such as New Orleans City Business have covered the event and the construction of the new addition.

A Legacy of Support

Frank and Paulette Stewart’s extraordinary gift to Jesuit High School follows a long legacy of benefactor support for the mission of the Society of Jesus in New Orleans. In 1926, Henry Prevost made a $500,000 gift to the school to begin Jesuit’s endowment. The endowment provided for Blue Jays to attend Jesuit tuition-free, and, though it has grown substantially since the 1920’s, it has continued to do the same thing for generations of Blue Jays even to the current day.

The documents above, which pay homage to Prevost’s generosity, are from the original dedication of the current Carrollton & Banks campus. Today, a plaque noting this gift hangs in the Hall of Honors inside the “old” Carrollton Avenue entrance.