March 7 – eventful day in diocesan history

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward

JACKSON – Twenty years ago, this past Tuesday, March 7, Msgr. Joseph Nunzio Latino was ordained and installed as the 10th Bishop of Jackson. Reflecting back through the kingdom of memory, I seem to recall it was a Lenten Friday filled with sunshine and people from throughout the region in attendance to celebrate the new bishop.

Bishop Latino often recounted the story of him looking out on the Cathedral from his room in the now defunct Marriott, which sits behind the church. We were all down below scurrying about getting chairs, vestments, chalices, servers in order and he was experiencing some trepidation in the face of his new responsibilities. But as the morning flowed on, he emerged from the hotel and off we went.

It was a blessing to be part of the liturgy planning crew. We worked for several weeks learning the rite, managing the smallest details, and creating the program for the Mass. We were in constant contact with Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, then Metropolitan Archbishop of Mobile, who would be the ordaining bishop.

JACKSON – Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile lays hands on the head of Bishop Joseph Latino on March 7, 2003. This year marks 20 years since the ordination of Bishop Latino as the 10th Bishop of Jackson. (Photo from archives)

Having finished the program draft about 10 days before the ceremony, we received a call from Archbishop Lipscomb, who served on Vox Clara, a translation of all things Catholic Church committee, stating he would like to use the new translation of the ordination rite. It was not in book form yet, but he was having USCCB send us a pdf copy.

This meant the program draft had to be redone due to new terminology in several locations, but it also meant Bishop Latino would be the first bishop ordained using this translation and rubrics. Quite the honor! And so, the program was redrafted to incorporate the new language and movements and sent off to the printer.

The Mass was scheduled for 12 p.m., and concelebrants, family, friends and officials started arriving in the hours before that. The papal nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, arrived with the bull appointing Bishop Latino as 10th bishop. At first, he seemed rather surly, and as the Mass began this became more emphasized.

Because we were using the new translation, there was a lack of clarity among all as to when the bull would be read. The rubrics mentioned a letter being read at the very beginning of the liturgy and then as part of the rite after the Gospel.

This led to some consternation during the liturgy when a certain priest tried to retrieve the bull to read at the beginning of the Mass and the nuncio placing a death grip on it. I really thought he was going to whack the befuddled cleric in the head with it if he kept trying to grab it.

After those initial awkward moments subsided and the Holy Spirit was called down and the bull was finally read by the nuncio at the proper place, everyone began to be swept up in the joy of the sacred moment, including the nuncio, who by the end of the liturgy was beaming with a smile.

Following the liturgy, guests walked across the street to Galloway United Methodist Church for a reception complete with fabulous flowers provided by the Cathedral Flower Guild, scrumptious food for all and fine Methodist hospitality as only they can do. It was indeed an ecumenical event, and leading the Galloway hospitality team were my Methodist minister father, whose birthday was that day, and my mother.

Bishop Joseph Latino on the steps of the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle before being ordained the 10th Bishop of Jackson on March 7, 2003. (Photo by Lawrence Chatagnier, Bayou Catholic)

Sometimes it seems as if it were only yesterday and other times it seems like an eternity. But in retrospect, I still can recall all the many unique details and insightful moments that made it such a beautiful, sacred and joyful moment in the life of our diocesan church – all capsulized in the eternal memory of the universal church.

I think of the many key players involved who have gone on to the Lord – my father, Jack, hospitality team (2018); Bishop Latino, 10th bishop (2021); Msgr. Noel Foley, MC of the Mass (2003); Archbishop Lipscomb, metropolitan and principal ordaining bishop (2020); Bishop William Houck, 9th bishop (2016); and Archbishop Montalvo, guardian of the bull (2006). God rest them all.

In faith, I know they are gathered around the heavenly banquet table at the never-ending liturgy. Here in the Cathedral, I look for them in the mystical air space around the altar when heaven and earth meet in the celebration of the Eucharist on the altar designed by Bishop Latino – all present as members of the Communion of Saints. What a blessing!

(Mary Woodward is Chancellor and Archivist for the Diocese of Jackson.)