Decade of faith: Bishop Kopacz celebrates 10-year milestone

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz, surrounded by priests and deacons from the Diocese of Jackson, commemorated his 10th anniversary of ordination to the episcopacy at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson with a special Mass on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Bishop Kopacz was ordained and installed as the 11th Bishop of Jackson on Feb. 6, 2014, but he fondly remembers getting the initial call the day before Thanksgiving – in an unforgettable Italian accent – “Holy Father is directing you to be the bishop of Jackson in Mississippi.” Bishop mused to those gathered at his anniversary Mass, that “it was an offer you can’t refuse.”

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz lays prostrate during his ordination as Bishop of Jackson on Feb. 6, 2014 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. He recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at the Bishop for the Diocese of Jackson. (Photo from archives)

“These 10 years later has given me an opportunity to reflect and appreciate the call and the ongoing challenge and blessing of serving as the 11th bishop of the diocese,” said Bishop Kopacz.

He fondly remembered traversing the diocese by airplane days after being installed as Bishop and visiting a few parishes across the diocese, including St. Mary’s Basilica in Natchez, St. Joseph in Greenville, St. James in Tupelo and to St. Joseph in Starkville. “It was great to experience and see what a large swath of land the diocese covers,” said Bishop Kopacz. “So, 10 years later and possibly 300,000 miles later on my car, I think I can say I know a little bit about Mississippi and its geography.”

But more than miles, Bishop Kopacz reflected, are the countless souls who have touched his life along the way through parishes and the variety of missions and ministries that make up the diocese. He continued by celebrating the dedication of the clergy, the resilience of parishioners and the transformative power of God’s grace working through each individual.

In his homily, Bishop Kopacz credits his enthusiasm and energy for the diocese to the Eucharistic prayer at Mass when the clergy pray for him every day. Joking with those clergy present, that they “can’t skip that part … as a lot of grace flows from that on good days and bad. It truly carries me forward.”

Turning 74 later this year, Bishop Kopacz says that he hopes to still be around to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the diocese in 13 years. He expressed how grateful he was for the people of the diocese, all of the priests and religious, coworkers at the Chancery and all the staff at parishes across the diocese who respond to God’s call every day.

“I thank everyone for the kindness and generosity for the 10th anniversary of my consecration and installation as the 11th Bishop of Jackson,” said Bishop Kopacz. “It was a splendid and joyful occasion.”

JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz celebrated his 10th anniversary as the Bishop for the Diocese of Jackson with priests and deacons from around the diocese on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at the Cathedral of St. Peter. Inset, a comemorative photo collage with scenes from the past 10 years. (Photos by Tereza Ma)