The Rev. John C. Raphael Jr., a New Orleans police officer who became a pastor and led an anti-violence crusade that included paying for a billboard bearing the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill," died Tuesday of cancer at his Harvey home. He was 60.
"My heart is heavy," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said when he learned of Pastor Raphael's death. "I have personally relied on the wisdom and counsel of Pastor Raphael over the years, not just because of what he said but because of how he lived. Pastor Raphael was consistent and responsible in challenging us all to do our part to reflect the love of God and improve our city."
"Pastor Raphael, who came to New Hope Baptist Church in 1988 after 14 years as a New Orleans police detective, delivered eulogies at funerals of victims of violence, his sister Aurora Carter said. Every year, she said, her brother dramatized his commitment to end violence by camping out at South Claiborne Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and fasting from the day after Christmas until New Year's Eve, she said
"His passion for people fueled his compassion for people," she said. "He truly loved the Lord, and he wanted everybody to know they could also love the Lord and be blessed."
The son of a police officer, Pastor Raphael studied at Loyola University and Southern University and earned a bachelor of theology degree at Union Baptist Theological Seminary. He also received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Christian Bible College of New Orleans.
His passion for people fueled his compassion for people." Aurora CarterIn addition to being active in New Orleans, Pastor Raphael did missionary work overseas, helping to build an orphanage in Haiti and an orphanage, a polytechnical college and a hospital in Ghana, Carter said.
Pastor Raphael also worked with people whom others deemed beyond redemption, she said. One such person was a young man whom Pastor Raphael sent to Africa to work with children. The experience transformed the man, Carter said. "He taught orphans how to play basketball, and he painted an orphanage. He was a mentor, something he had never been in his life."
That experience exemplified Pastor Raphael's philosophy, his sister said: "He always thought there was something you could do to reach people."Survivors include his wife, Catherine Raphael; a son, John C. Raphael III of New Orleans; a stepson, Therron Glover of New Orleans; a brother, Benjamin Raphael of New Orleans; five sisters, Aurora Carter, Keely Bowen and Janna Raphael, all of New Orleans, Sharon Cole of Sterling, Va., and Miriam Montgomery of Montgomery, Ala.; and a grandchild.
A funeral will be held July 2 at 7 p.m. at New Hope Baptist Church, 1807 LaSalle St. Visitation will begin at 3 p.m.
A second service will be held July 3 at 11 a.m. at the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts. Visitation will begin at 9 a.m.Burial will be in Providence Memorial Park, 8200 Airline Drive, Metairie.Heritage Funeral Directors is in charge of arrangements.