By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – On Friday, Dec. 8, the Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History hosted a gala reception for all the individual donors and donating organizations who helped make these projects possible. The Diocese of Jackson sponsored the exhibit on the Sovereignty Files and a delegation including Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Chancellor Mary Woodward, Fabvienen Taylor, administrative assistant for the tribunal and Tereza Ma, production manager for Mississippi Catholic, attended the gala. Linda Raff, former director of Catholic Charities, and Valencia Hall, a catechist at Natchez Holy Family Parish and member of the advisory board for the museums, were on hand as well as other diocesan representatives.
Ma said despite the snow that had fallen earlier in the day, the reception was packed with people. The crowd was invited to explore the museums before the program began. “What first caught my attention was a giant changing light sculpture hanging from ceiling. The sculpture called, “This Little Light of Mine” was made by Hilferty and Associates, Inc. As more people came close by the sculpture, the music became louder and louder – when the singers sang “let it shine” it was beautiful and powerful with the changing light interaction,” said Ma.
Several Catholic priests are featured in the museum, including Father Nathaniel Machesky, OFM, who worked at Greenwood St. Francis Parish during the Civil Rights Movement. Other Catholic lay people and priests are named in the Sovereignty Files, maintained as a watch list of so-called agitators by a state commission aimed at preventing integration.
Ma said the history museum also reflects the Catholic influence on the state. “I am sure I missed a lot, so as many other folks said – I will be back to discover some new stuff about my second home Mississippi and finally I may, as William Faulkner said, start to understand the world.”
By Maureen Smith