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Rotary Clubs Unite to Celebrate Joan of Arc

In the first week of January, The Rotary Club of New Orleans welcomed Clairvie Quesne, the 2024 French Jeanne d’Arc, along with her pages, Maximillian de Rochefort and Théophile Joinneaux. Their  chaperones included President of the Jeanne d’Arc Association, Bénédicte Baranger and her husband, Victor Baranger. In June, the 2023 Joan of Arc maid from New Orleans, Emmeline Meyer, traveled to Orléans, France where she was hosted by the Rotary Club of Orléans, France as she  celebrated and walked in the footsteps of the historic figure.

The Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, welcomed our French visitors at Gallier Hall at a festive ceremony attended by city officials, media, Rotary members, and New Orleans Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc representatives. During the week-long visit they toured New Orleans and traveled upriver to visit and learn the French history of Laura Plantation. The Rotary Club of Laplace and the River Parishes Tourist Commission hosted the group for lunch and a visit to Saint Joan of Arc Church, whose local priest had recently made a pilgrimage to Orléans. They especially enjoyed the live music and dancing on the Steamboat Natchez.

Donning their period attire, the French and American representatives of Jeanne d’Arc were special guests at the annual banquet of the Krewe de Jeanne d’Arc. The highlight of the trip was walking with the annual Joan of Arc Parade on January 6th, known locally as Twelfth Night and the beginning of the Carnival Season. Rotarians from the New Orleans Club walked in the parade as Monks, and carried signs that told the history of the period in Joan’s life when her name was restored by the Church.

The main goal of these exchanges is to strengthen cultural ties. Both cities celebrate Joan of Arc, the 16-year-old daughter of a tenant farmer and historic figure who was so devoted and determined that she led the French army to a momentous victory during the Hundred Years War. The young woman proceeded to lead the French armies to “impossible” victories in Orléans, Beaugecy, and Patay. When questioned if she was afraid, her response was, “God is with me, and I was born for this purpose.”

After the visit of the 2024 Jeanne d’Arc from France, Madame Baranger commented, “Words will never express the joy we experienced with these Joan of Arc festivities and the parade in your magnificent city. What joy it was for us to see that the American Joan of Arc lost none of her civil and religious dimensions… This pairing is full of meaning and the French culture is really present in this exchange, with Joan of Arc at heart.” New Orleans Joan of Arc for 2024, Marley Marsalis, will visit Orleans, France next month where she will be hosted by the Rotary Club of Orléans, France.

Rotarians, friends, and a grant from the State of Louisiana, CODOFIL, make these cultural exchanges possible. Fundraising is underway for the second year of the exchange and donations may be made to the New Orleans Rotary Foundation (NORFI).

(Story submitted by Sarah Dickerson, The Rotary Club of New Orleans.)