By Berta Mexidor
JACKSON – Before being known as Mississippi Católico, the Spanish-speaking newspaper of the Diocese of Jackson was published as El Mensajero Católico (The Catholic Messenger) for more than ten years.
With the consent of Bishop William Houck, the action of several people who recognized the need to communicate in Spanish with a growing community and a team dedicated to informing, the idea materialized, and on Oct. 10, 1997, the first edition of The Catholic Messenger came to light, more than 22 years ago.
As a protagonist and record keeper of the history is Elsa Baughman. She began working in 1996, for the diocesan newspaper, then called Mississippi Today. Baughman, Venezuelan by birth, graduated of Journalism at the University of Zulia in Venezuela,and with a master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). A mother and grandmother, Elsa (as everybody knows her), brought her rich experience, culture and the desire to break stereotypes to the diocesan newspaper.
Elsa arrived in Mississippi in 1976 when there were few Hispanics in the state. After graduating from USM, getting married and working in several international companies and being a Spanish teacher, she started working at Mississippi Catholic.
In December 1979, Bishop Joseph B. Brunini was the main celebrant of the first Mass to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Cathedral of San Pedro. Father Mario Vizcaino, SchP. founder of Southern Pastoral Institute (SEPI), auxiliary Bishop William Houck and father Paul Madden were co-celebrants. From there, the tradition of the Spanish Mass was established and the need to serve the growing Latino community.
Since 1982 Rogelio Solis reported Spanish activities to Mississippi Today. Among many people who contributed to promoting the newspaper in Spanish, it is Janna Avalon, who for more than 40 years directed Mississippi Catholic, Fabvienen Taylor, who wrote the first article about the differences and similarities of Latinos, Elizabeth Ayala, who wrote about the sacraments, Sister Patricia Brown, who founded and directed the Hispanic Ministry, Sister Day, Ligia Fenton, Susan Falkner and the priests Jerry Mattingly of Hazlehurst, Richard Smith of Forest, Anthony Quyet of Forest, Maureen Smith, Diocesan Communications Director and brother Ted Dausch who worked for 20 years as coordinator of Hispanic Ministry. All of them; and many more, who always supported the Hispanic celebrations and their dissemination in the Spanish newspaper.
As a committed editor, reporter and Catholic, everyone met Elsa. Even today, after her retirement, Elsa follows the events of her community and she can be seen taking pictures at St. Therese Parish in Jackson. She currently enjoys her free time with her husband, Brian, their daughters, Carla and Verónica and their grandchildren, Arianna and Roman.
“For me, working in the newspaper was a dream come true. Having met so many people and priests, traveling throughout the state and working for three bishops – William Houck, Joseph Latino, and Joseph Kopacz – were wonderful experiences. … One of my best memories, that I keep with great affection, it was the trip to the Saltillo Mission in Mexico, by invitation of Bishop Kopacz, after having reported for many years about the importance of this mission to the diocese,” Elsa concluded.