A Brief but Remarkable History of the Devotion
French Ursulines arrived in New Orleans in 1727 and established the oldest school for girls currently operating in what is now the United States. During a period of crisis after a large group of nuns left New Orleans for Cuba in 1803, Mother St. André Madier, one of the seven nuns who remained, appealed to her cousin, an Ursuline in France whom the reign of terror had forced to leave her monastery at Pont-Saint-Esprit. She was Mother St. Michel Gensoul, a remarkable woman of great talent and interior piety, who, during her exile in Montpellier, opened a boarding school for girls there. Fearing for the flourishing school, Bishop Fournier refused her request to leave, saying that only the Pope, then a prisoner of Napoleon, could give such a permission. One day while praying before a statue of the Blessed Mother, she was inspired to say, “O most holy Virgin Mary, if you obtain a prompt and favorable answer to my letter, I promise to have you honored in New Orleans under the title of Our Lady of Prompt Succor.”
The promise evidently was pleasing to the Blessed Mother. Two favors were granted: the letter which left Montpellier on March 19, 1809, received a reply from Rome dated April 28, 1809. The letter of the Holy Father praised her generosity and faith and approved her departure. Thus the answer was both prompt and favorable. Bishop Fournier, surprised at the outcome, asked to bless the statue which Mother St. Michel was having sculpted.