By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Three priests will celebrate significant anniversaries in the Diocese of Jackson this year. Father Alfred Camp marks 60 years of the priesthood while Fathers Brian Kaskie and Panneer Arockiam will each celebrate their 25th anniversary.
Father Camp spent more than four decades in education, some as discipline director at his seminary and another 23 at Vicksburg St. Aloysius School. “I remember one day Sister Virginia called me into her office and said she was leaving and asked if I would finish out the school year (as principal). I thought, ‘well, there’s only six months left,’ so I said yes. I ended up staying on as principal for 18 years,” he joked.
Father Camp also served Clarksdale at St. Elizabeth and Natchez at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. He lives at Madison St. Francis of Assisi where he says the pastor, Father Albeenreddy Vatti, pastor, and Father Jason Johnston, associate pastor, take good care of him. “I have enjoyed every bit of it. It has been such a privilege to be a priest,” he said of his years in service.
Father Camp will mark his 60th anniversary of ordination with a Mass and luncheon at St. Francis on Thursday, May 25. The celebration starts at 11 a.m. and all are welcome.
Father Panneer Arockiam came to Yazoo City St. Mary Parish from India. He said he was very happy to come to America to be a pastor and has felt very welcomed here. Father Panneer started his vocational journey at the age of 13 when he was selected to participate in a vocational camp with other young men. “I was motivated by my parish priest as an altar server. We did so well as servers we were selected for camp,” he said.
The bishop in his home diocese was a visionary who believed in education so between his studies in philosophy and theology, Father Paneer was allowed to go to a local Jesuit university to get a degree in chemistry.
Father Panneer has a real love for ecumenical dialogue. In India, he served as the diocesan and then regional secretary for ecumenism and dialogue. He continues to pursue that work in Yazoo City, “We all believe in Jesus, why should we be divided,” he said. “In Yazoo City there is a ministerial association. I have joined and they call me ‘only Father’ because they call one another pastor,” he joked. “The group unifies us, we are all one family with God as our Father.”
When he was ordained, Father Panneer selected the scripture “into your hands” as a kind of motto. He hopes to be an instrument for God in all his work. On Sunday, June 11, St. Mary Parish will host an anniversary Mass and meal starting at 2 p.m.
Father Brian Kaskie also marks 25 years of ordination this year. The Mississippi native has served in Natchez and at Madison St. Joseph High School for five years. He said he is still on the wedding circuit thanks to that work. Other places he served include Madison St. Francis, the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle and his current home of McComb St. Alphonsus Parish.
One of the highlights of his career was getting to be the chaplain for the New Orleans Saints football team when they held their spring camps in Jackson. “Twice I got to be the chaplain for the New Orleans Saints, before they got good. That’s why they got good, I was that good,” he said. Father Kaskie is currently director of seminarians for the diocese. His advice to men discerning their vocation: “Trust God and try to follow the Holy Spirit. It’s not complicated, but it’s hard,” he said.
Father Kaskie’s 25th anniversary celebration will be Monday, June 5, with Mass at 6:30 p.m. and a reception to follow.