Men’s Holy Week prayer breakfast at St. Richard builds on decades of tradition

By Joe Lee
JACKSON – For Anthony Thomas and the guys who put on the annual St. Richard men’s prayer breakfast on the Monday of Holy Week, an especially early start to the day carries on a tradition that’s in its seventh decade. It’s the opportunity to see old friends, make new ones, and grow in their faith together that keeps these men coming back.

“I moved to the parish in 1974 and got involved in the breakfast the following year,” Thomas said after a group of over 40 enjoyed a tasty, balanced meal of pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit, orange juice and coffee in Foley Hall. “We’ve had only four chefs over the years: Joe Daschbach, Jay Potter, David Evers and Mike Prince, who’s doing it now. We’re fortunate to have had people who can cook that know what they’re doing.”

Bishop Kopacz, Anthony Thomas and Father Joe Tonos

Bishop Joseph Kopacz, who celebrated a pre-dawn Mass while Thomas and his team of volunteers were next door preparing the meal, also spoke at the breakfast and described his recent pastoral trip to Ireland, a journey that included visits with retired Irish priests who pastored in the Diocese of Jackson and family members of deceased priests who pastored here.

“The presiding bishop has always been the Holy Week speaker since I’ve been in charge of the speakers, which goes back to the mid-1980s,” Thomas said. “I think anybody you talk to who attends enjoys the fellowship as much as the message, but we don’t ever want to book a speaker and then have a small crowd. We enjoy Bishop Kopacz, and there’s always a good turnout for him. We had a nice group this morning.”

“For me to be here as bishop, with the privileged position to be able to go to Ireland, represent the diocese, visit these retired priests and offer a word of thanks and affirmation, that’s a beautiful thing,” Bishop Kopacz said. “And to come back and share the experience with (the breakfast attendees) gives them a perspective and the understanding that the church here has a lot of life. We never need to take that for granted; it’s a gift of faith that we have to keep alive.”

Bishop Kopacz noted that many of the breakfast attendees have had personal relationships for decades with the bishops he and Msgr. Elvin Sunds visited in Ireland, such as Father Michael O’Brien and Father P.J. Curley. (Visit to read Bishop Kopacz’s column about the trip, “May the road rise up to meet you,” his first to Ireland since before the Covid pandemic.)

“For Anthony, this is a niche,” Bishop Kopacz said. “It requires others who are setting it up, doing the cooking. He’s an old pro; he’s up early and bringing it together.”

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz speaks at the annual men’s prayer breakfast at St. Richard parish on Monday, April 3. (Photo by Joe Lee)

St. Richard parishioner Jeff Cook, who served as an altar server during Mass before enjoying the breakfast, was an attendee for several years before returning after the pandemic to begin helping in the kitchen. He’s one of many regulars who has known Thomas for years and finds his energy and leadership inspiring.

“If it wasn’t for Anthony, I wouldn’t be here,” said current breakfast chef Mike Prince. “I’ve cooked for fifteen years, and the breakfast is a sacrifice, but I learned to keep my head up, keep a positive attitude and trust in the Lord. The first one I ever did, (Foley Hall) was brand new. I forgot to turn the oven hoods on, and in the prayer before breakfast, all the fire alarms in the building went off.

“We always pray before we serve, and God always seems to blaze the trail. In our heyday, 50 was a good crowd, but today was a good crowd. I think the breakfast is a good outreach program for the church, and a great opportunity for the men of the parish to get together to share faith, hear positive stories, and just fellowship.”