Msgr Hotard loved the priesthood and the abbey
By Peter Finney, Jr.
August 1, 2013
Msgr. Howard H. Hotard served for 58 years as a diocesan priest, including 32 years as the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell, but it was St. Joseph’s Abbey in St. Benedict, where he first studied for the priesthood and then volunteered for 12 years in his retirement, that served as the sacred bookends to his life of ordained ministry.
Msgr. Hotard, who died July 12 at the age of 87 at St. Tammany Hospital, was remembered by Benedictine Abbot Justin Brown at his funeral Mass July 17 at St. Joseph Abbey Church as an unofficial but deeply cherished member of the monastic community.
Helped at the abbey
Three days a week, Msgr. Hotard drove from his retirement home a few hundred yards from the abbey entrance to answer the switchboard phone while the seminary and monastic community attended the 11:15 a.m. Mass. He also developed into the biggest cheerleader and salesman of plots in the Abbey cemetery.
“His last great service was comforting people who were burying a loved one here in the Abbey cemetery,” Abbot Justin said. “He met with them almost weekly in the lobby of the monastery. His compassion and gentleness are a source of comfort to many. Msgr. Hotard was ready for his master’s return, preparing this day, knowing this could be his last.”
Msgr. Hotard had a droll sense of humor, said Adrian DeBoer, 49, who became part of the pastor’s legendary altar boy crew in fifth grade at Our Lady of Lourdes and then became a confidante who cared for him in his elder years.
“He used to tell people, ‘I can sell you a condominium, but it’ll be permanent,’” DeBoer said, smiling. “He was a jokester, but in a dry sense.”
Fittingly, Msgr. Hotard was buried in a plain, cypress casket, hand-made by the Benedictine monks at St. Joseph’s Woodworks on the abbey grounds. Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who was the principal celebrant of the funeral Mass, thanked Abbot Justin and the Benedictine community “for your receiving him as a brother.”
“In his retirement, he was very much a part of the monastic community, and you gave him support and brotherly love for many years,” the archbishop said.
A native of Gretna, Msgr. Hotard attended public schools and then studied theology and philosophy at St. Joseph and Notre Dame seminaries. He was ordained a priest on June 4, 1955, by Auxiliary Bishop Lucien Caillouet.
He served as an assistant at St. Catherine of Siena in Metairie, St. Charles Borromeo in Destrehan, St. Mary Pamela in Raceland and St. Matthias in New Orleans. He became administrator of Sacred Heart in Lacombe in 1963 and then served as pastor there from 1965-69.
He was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell on Nov. 15, 1969, and served there until his retirement on July 7, 2001.
Carefully planned liturgies
Abbot Justin said Msgr. Hotard carefully planned “beautiful and prayerful liturgies” at Our Lady of Lourdes, featuring “a corps of altar servers who were second maybe to the servers at St. Peter’s in Rome or at Westminster in London.”
A staunch traditionalist, Msgr. Hotard permitted only boys to serve at the altar. They were required to wear black trousers and black shoes, which they often kept in the sacristy, and white gloves.
“He used to call us ‘whippersnappers,’” DeBoer said.
But, DeBoer said, Msgr. Hotard “was like my dad. He was our father. He was not only a priestly father.”
Dolores Leach, the sister of the late Msgr. Thomas Dowling who served for 31 years as Msgr. Hotard’s secretary, said while Msgr. Hotard had firm ideas about how he wanted things to run in his parish, he was a kind “mentor and confessor.”
“He was great,” Leach said.
Brought joy to others
Abbot Justin said he found several notes on Msgr. Hotard’s desk after his death.
“On one he had written the words of Psalm 103: ‘Mortals are like grass, like the flowers of the field; we blossom and the wind blows over us and we are gone, and our place knows us no more,’” he said. “He knew a life and a place far greater than this one awaited him. He lived each day as a gift from God and an opportunity to do something good in preparation for the life to come. He often said that the first thing he did when he woke up in the morning was to thank God for a new day.”
Another note read: “If you and I have added even just a bit of anything to each other’s humdrum life, it ain’t been in vain.”
“He had notes on his desk about trusting in God and living well by doing good for others,” Abbot Justin said. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.