By Tereza Ma and Joanna Puddister King
NATCHEZ – The Order of the Fleur De Lis held its annual meeting Aug. 25-27, in Natchez, with several events at the Basilica of St. Mary. The Order of the Fleur de Lis is an organization of Catholic men incorporated under the laws of the state of Louisiana as a non-profit organization. The Order’s domain is a five states region consisting of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Grand chancellor of the Order of Fleur de Lis, Steve Koach of Enterprise, Alabama said “for us to be here for the meeting, this is special because only every two years we do an investiture ceremony.”
Objectives of the order include supporting and defending the Catholic Church and its teachings; promoting patriotism and good citizenship, encouraging public morality and unselfish service to God and country; assisting and publicizing the activities of other organizations; memorializing the memories and achievements of Catholic leaders in religion, the arts and sciences, philanthropy education, exploration and archeology, government and international relations, medicine and jurisprudence and other established professions.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz, who was inducted as a part of the Order on Aug. 26 said, “These qualities define the vision of the Order of the Fleur de Lis, and I wholeheartedly embrace these virtues that enrich the lives of our members and their families, as well as their parish communities, and ultimately our nation.”
After their business meetings, the Order attended the Vigil Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary and after Mass an investiture was held with 23 Catholic gentlemen being invested with the Knight Commander Cross of the Order. Grand Prelate Bishop Glen J. Prevost, of Lake Charles, Louisiana presided over the ceremony. Leading the group of Knight Commander designates was Bishop Kopacz, Eleventh Bishop of Jackson. Other investees from the Diocese of Jackson were Father Aaron Williams, of the Basilica of St. Mary, Commanders William O’Connor of Clinton and Craig Harrell of Raymond. From the Diocese of Biloxi was Commander Larry Tabor.
Grand chancellor of the Order of the Fleur de Lis, Steve Koach of Enterprise, Alabama said that the group conducts an investiture ceremony every two years. “We all love the Catholic Church and this means an awful lot to us.”
During the evening activities, the Order’s memorial chalice was presented to Father Carlisle Beggerly, parochial vicar of St. Patrick and St. Joseph Parishes in Meridian. The chalice memorialized the following Knight Commanders, who died during the prior year, John H. Shields (Arkansas), George C. Zimmer, Jr. and Wilmer Dugas (Louisiana).
Including the 2023 investiture, the Order’s total membership stands at a total of 97 members. Of that number, 43 are members of the clergy. Included in that number are His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Bishops of the Dioceses of Lake Charles, Shreveport, Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Birmingham and Nashville. There are 54 are lay commanders over the 5-state region.
“Defending and furthering the Catholic faith throughout a good part of the Deep South is one of the goals of the Order, and a noble endeavor on their part. The more they can promote knowledge and appreciation for our Catholic tradition that leads to a lively faith in Jesus Christ, the more the Order of the Fleur de Lis will carve out a special niche of evangelization in our region,” said Bishop Kopacz.