By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

With a wide-dimpled smile and affability, Corinne “Lindy” Claiborne Boggs was known as a gentle, yet strong, worldwide leader.

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Members of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem pray at the graveside of Dame Corinne “Lindy” Claiborne Boggs as they visited the New Roads area and attended Mass at St. Mary of False River to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her birth. Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator

 

The dames and knights of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, dressed in regalia, commemorated St. Lazarus Dame Grand Cross and former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican on the 100th anniversary of her birth at a Mass at St. Mary of False River Church in New Roads, where she was baptized, received first Communion, was confirmed and married Hale Boggs.

Lindy Boggs was admitted to the St. Lazarus Order in 1979.

She was well known for her gaiety and grace.

“Whenever she was in New Orleans, she would be involved with activities of the Grand Commandery of the South, often hosting St. Lazarus events at her French Quarter home,” said Dame Grand Cross Mary Ann Straub of New Orleans.

St. Lazaurs is a chivalric order composed of lay and religious men and women from North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe founded in 1098 by Hospitaller Knights in the Holy Land. It dedicates itself to the service, Christian unity and supporting a variety of causes, including providing relief following natural disasters to promoting organ and tissue donation awareness and registration. It was the only chivalric order organized to care for the needs of Hansen’s disease patients.

“Lindy shared in this humanitarian effort both at Carville and in Paraguay, where the order helped supply shoes to those with the disease,” said Staubb. Boggs was the recipient of the Alan Weaver Hazelton Award, given annually to a member who follows the ideals of loyalty, service and devotion to the Order of Saint Lazarus.

Boggs’ Catholic faith was the driver of her civic leadership, noted Deacon Mike Thompson, deacon assistant at St. Mary and St. Augustine Church in New Roads, who gave the homily during the Mass honoring Boggs.

Deacon Thompson was a congressional aide when he met Lindy Boggs at a social event for her husband. At the time, Rep. Hale Boggs was the house majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“She was a very gracious lady and made me feel right at home,” said Deacon Thompson.

He later met Lindy Boggs again after she was elected to Louisiana House of Representatives in 1972, a post she held for 16 years.

At that time, Boggs filled her husband’s seat when he was presumed dead after the plane he was traveling in crashed over a remote area in Alaska. She held this position for 18 years.

After the Supreme Court issued the Roe V. Wade decision, Deacon Thompson was part of a state delegation that “went to march in the snow” and appeal to Congress to support attempts to restrict abortion on demand.

“She was unequivocally pro-life,” said Deacon Thompson, despite the fact that many in the Democratic party were not.

She strongly supported the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision barring the use of certain federal funds to pay for abortion unless the pregnancy arises from incest, rape or to save the life of the mother.

“She was always a staunch Catholic,” noted Deacon Thompson, who highlighted the fact that she was appointed ambassador to the Vatican in 1997.

The deacon further added, “Although she was never elected to a leadership position (in Congress), she was a very effective leader because she knew everyone on a first-name basis.”

Boggs connected with the impoverished as well as the elite.

“This was evidenced by her relationship with the poor minorities in her district. She was easily elected each time she ran,” said Deacon Thompson.

Boggs’ leadership influenced Deacon Thompson on how he treats others.

“The impact she had on me was that she received people coming into her office with such charm and welcome. She was never too busy to see people,” he said.

Edward J. (Ned) Hémard III, commander in Lazarus, said Boggs’ presence lit up a room.

“I was at a party when she came right up behind me and sang ‘The Sheik of Araby.’ We were doing a duet,” mused Hémard.

He said Boggs served in a humble, other-focused fashion.

“She said you can get a lot done if you don’t take credit for it,” Hémard said.

Dame Lindy Sarpy, another member of Lazarus and classmate of Boggs’ daughter, Barbara, said Boggs brought people from opposite spectrums together for the common good.

“She succeeded in reconciling the parties because of her charm, courtesy, kindness and good will. This same conciliating spirit occurred in her relationship with individuals and as ambassador of the United States to the Holy See,” said Sarpy.

Her favorite memories of Boggs were her warmth and cordiality as the chatelaine of her home on Bourbon Street. Boggs’ daughter, Barbara, wore hoopskirts in the courtyard.

Sarpy said Boggs’ daughter inherited her mother’s grace and charm, which, she said, “is why she was elected president of the student body at Manhattanville College.” Barbara Boggs was later elected mayor of Princeton, New Jersey.

Brian Costello, a New Roads resident and Lazarus officer, said he was honored to help coordinate the commemorative Mass and give a tour of points of historic interest in New Roads: the site of St. Joseph Academy, where Boggs was lodged and educated by the Sisters of St. Joseph; the home of her “Uncle Daddy” Ferd and Adrienne Lawrence Claiborne; the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk where her first cousin, deLesseps “Chep” Morrison, marked his name when it was overlaid and Bogg’s gravesite.

“Dame Lindy is a cousin of my wife, and more distantly of myself, as most colonial French Pointe Coupée families are related,” said Costello. “I was honored to visit with Dame Lindy during her visit to St. Mary Church in the course of the filming of “Velvet and Steel” for LPB; her visits to the grave of her pre-deceased infant son in St. Mary Cemetery; and at family functions including weddings and receptions in New Orleans.”

There are many things people today can learn from Boggs, according to Costello.

“Dame Lindy had the ability to remain ever faithful despite personal loss, as she bore the deaths of her parents, husband and two children. She was professional, kind and gracious despite hostility to her compassion and ministry to the disenfranchised and exploited,” he said.

“Also remarkable is her ability to be an American and world citizen and remain loyal to one’s Catholic faith,” Costello said.