Fourth and Glory! St. Joseph continues dynasty with victory over Tri-County in state title game

By David W. Healy/Delta Democrat-Times
JACKSON – It takes more than one player to make a dynasty.

These were the words from St. Joseph Catholic School coach John Baker just minutes after his Fighting Irish defeated Tri-County Academy 26-14 to win the MAIS Class 4A State Championship Thursday at Jackson Academy. It was the Irish’s fourth state championship in school history and fourth in six years.

As they have done in their previous three state championships, the biggest stars on this year’s St. Joseph (11-1) team shined the brightest. But it was not just one star. The night and the glory belonged to the entire St. Joseph team who avenged a loss last season to Tri-County in last year’s state semifinal game.

Senior running back Kye Nelson, who played as a 5-foot-9 wrecking ball the entire game, carried the ball for crucial yardage time after time again. In the second half, Nelson’s determination came to a crescendo when his 34-yard touchdown score put the Irish in the lead for good at 20-14 with 1:56 to play in the third quarter. Nelson finished the night with 144 yards rushing on 16 carries.

“I was just thinking after every carry to keep going and keep fighting,” Nelson said. “This game was revenge for us because Tri-County beat us in the semifinals last season.”

JACKSON – The Fighting Irish of St. Joe Greenville toppled Tri-County Academy for the MAIS Class 4A State Championship on Thursday, Nov. 17 at Jackson Academy. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

Said Baker, “Kye and the offensive line, they put the whole team on their backs and they got us in the endzone. We made the decision to run the ball in the second half because we felt like we were more physical team and at halftime we thought if we ran the ball we could win.”

Nelson missed last year’s state semifinal with an injury.

Senior quarterback CJ Moore was another Irish player who helped cement the Irish dynasty Thursday night.

Moore is the brother of the first two Irish quarterbacks, Brice Johnson and Dillon Johnson, who helped lead the Irish to their first three state championships in 2017, 2018 and 2019. During Thursday’s contest, Moore looked much like his older two brothers when they were leading the Irish to state glory. As he had all season, Moore extended offensive plays with his speed and escapability.

After Tri-County opened the scoring when QB Bryce Warriner connected with Ty Milner on a 13-yard touchdown pass with 2:59 left in the first quarter, Moore found a wide-open Christian Foster in the back of the endzone for 24-yard touchdown reception to give St. Joseph a 7-6 lead.

Later in the second quarter, Moore made his biggest play of the game when he raced down the right sideline for a 76-yard touchdown run to put the Irish up 14-6 with 2:57 left in the second quarter. The Irish finished with 264 rushing yards.

“CJ pulls a rabbit out of his hat every time,” Coach Baker said. “He is the best athlete on our team. He doesn’t let things get to him. He threw an early pick, but he came back and reset and ran that long touchdown for us.”

Moore ended the game 14 of 29 with 163 yards passing. He had 114 yards rushing. St. Joseph’s Stank King led the Irish with 55 yards receiving on five catches. Chris Mayfield had 53 yards receiving for the Irish on three catches.

While the St. Joseph offensive players did their part for the victory, the Irish defense also stood tall when it mattered the most, holding the Rebels scoreless in the second half.

On Tri-County’s first offensive possession of the game, defensive end Donnie Smith recovered a Rebel fumble at the Tri-County 38-yard line. In the second quarter, defensive back Stank King made an interception and returned it 15 yards to the Irish 37-yard line.

In the third quarter, St. Joseph defensive lineman Alex Foster helped to end a Rebel drive with a 15-yard sack for a loss.

Later in the third, King deflected a Tri-County pass in the back of the endzone that looked at first like it was a sure touchdown.

The Rebels managed just 49 rushing yards in the game.

Tri-County head coach Phillip Wasson, a Greenville native who once coached at St. Joseph and Washington School, praised the Irish on their state championship.

“St. Joe is a really good team,” Coach Wasson said. “Most of their best players are all back from last year. Coach Baker has done a good job with them. They have only lost one game this year. I am proud of that group because I know a lot of those kids over there at St. Joe.”

(David Healy is sports editor for the Delta Democrat-Times. He can be reached at Re-printed with permission.)

‘Harvest’ event continues to grow

By Joanna Puddister King

MADISON – The Jackson Seminarian Homegrown Harvest began with a vision of an event to celebrate the Catholic faith and the future priests of the Diocese of Jackson. It has grown from its humble beginning, in 2020 during COVID, as a online only, livestream event where Father Nick Adam and Bishop Joseph Kopacz talked about vocations to viewers.

This year approximately 200 guests were in attendance for the event at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison. And the event looks to continue to grow.

Through the first part of October, seminarian Deacon Carlisle Beggerly served his internship at St. Francis of Assisi Madison.

“During the diaconate internship we try to place our men in parishes that will given them a wide range of experiences,” said Father Nick told event attendees.

“He is really reaching the end of his process. From wondering about being a priest, feeling that tug in his heart to do so and being supported by the diocese.”

To much applause, Father Nick announced to the crowd that Deacon Carlisle will be ordained a priest for the diocese on June 10, 2023.

MADISON – Above supporters from around the diocese attended the third annual Jackson Seminarian Homegrown Harvest event held at St. Francis parish this year. Inset: Seminarian, Deacon Carlisle Beggerly speaks to the crowd. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

A convert from Protestantism, Deacon Carlisle encountered St. Augustine’s Confessions, that ultimately led him on a journey to Catholicism and on to the priesthood. In college, he began to feel a “quiet whisper” to a vocation.

Speaking on his diaconate internship at the event, he said that he was indebted to the parishioners at St. Francis for their assistance in forming his ministry and to Father Albeen Vatti, pastor of the parish.
Deacon Carlisle said he is confident he is on the right path now. “I truly believe God is calling me to … use my talents for the greater glory of God.”

Father Nick Adam completes a “measure-off” to see who is the tallest seminarian – EJ Martin or Grayson Foley.

The diocese now has nine seminarians – Deacon Carlisle Beggerly, Ryan Stoer, Tristan Stovall, John Le, Will Foggo, Grayson Foley, Tripp Bond, EJ Martin and Straton Garrard – and their education and formation costs are close to $50,000 per student annually.

Their education cost are covered by a variety of cources including the diocese, second collections, and fundraising events like the Homegrown Harvest. At this year’s event, attendees were able to give extra support through a silent auction and raffles using “Beggerly Bucks.”

“It looks like we landed right at about $145,000 in proceeds from the Homegrown Harvest this year,” said Father Nick. “That’s a 71% increase from last year. This is in huge thanks to all of our sponsors, too.”

A 2011 graduate of St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison and of Springhill College to working professionally in Austin, Texas for a few years, new seminarian EJ Martin took an opportunity to talk to those gathered about his experience during his first few months this year at seminary.

At 30 years old, Martin is grateful to the people of the diocese for being able to spend his time immersed in formation at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

“I could not imagine doing this with a full-time job,” said Martin. “It’s absolutely incredible to step away from where I was and to really immerse myself into the formation process of what it is to be a man of God.”

(To learn more about vocations, contact Father Nick Adam at

Boy Scouts honor Dominican sisters with citizenship award

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – On Thursday, Oct. 27, the Andrew Jackson Council of the Boy Scouts of America honored the Dominican Sisters of St. Dominic with this year’s Distinguished Citizen Award at a luncheon held at the Jackson Country Club.

Tony Haines has served as the chief executive officer for the Andrew Jackson Council of the scouts for twelve years and is described by some as a “huge fan” of the Dominican sisters and their work providing quality, compassionate care to the community.

The sisters of St. Dominic “save the lives of the individuals of this community … they save the community at times from itself, they impact the quality of lives in our area, and I would probably say outside of our area. They do a lot of good,” said Haines.

He also believes joy comes from their service to others.

“They pass along that joy to God. … They are leading lives that are very dedicated to Christ and dedicated to the community.”

Kay McRee says what makes St. Dominic so special is the Dominican sisters.

As the executive director of St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, McRee talked to those gathered at the luncheon about the history of the Dominican sisters beginning with the Jackson Infirmary in the center of the city in 1946.

Also, at the event celebrating the Dominican sisters of St. Dominic was Bishop Joseph Kopacz. Growing up in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, he was a part of “Troop 66” at his local parish starting with Cub Scouts and eventually becoming an Eagle Scout.

Bishop Kopacz also talked to the group gathered about merit badges, how special they are and how “blessed” he was during his eight years of scouting.

“There are very special merit badges in scouting – I believe they may still require merit badges like ‘Citizenship in the Community, in the Nation and in the World,’” said Bishop Kopacz.

“One of the connecting streams that hits me today, as we celebrate the sisters, here over 75 years here in the city of Jackson, the state of Mississippi, and the Diocese of Jackson, is that the commitment to community … is very strong.”

Speaking on the sisters and the team at St. Dominic, Bishop Kopacz touched on being admitted to St. Dominic Hospital for two days near the end of August for a kidney infection. He joked that he was “undercover Bishop,” as he served on the board for St. Dominic Health Services.

“But truly the care and compassion and the healing ministry is something special,” said Bishop Kopacz.
“We thank you and give praise to God for the gift of your presence here,” Bishop Kopacz told the sisters present.

Speaking at the event on behalf of the Dominican sisters was Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, who first arrived at St. Dominic Hospital in 1963. Leaving in 1983, she returned in 1995 to become president and chairman of the board of St. Dominic Health Services. She retired from that position in 2011 and took on a new role as associate executive director of St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, a position she still serves in today.

“We are here to serve and not to be served,” said Sister Dorothea. “So, this is a privilege for us to be honored here today.”

“Thank you for your support of our community for these 75 plus years and its been a great privilege for all of us.”

Diocese hosts event as part of National Eucharistic Revival

By Joanna Puddister King
GLUCKSTADT – For much of the evening and morning of Oct. 28 and 29 at St. Joseph Church in Gluckstadt, the sanctuary was relatively silent with the occasional sound of movement or a cough.

Upon entering some had their heads bowed in prayer and others with their eyes fixed on the consecrated Eucharist host placed in the center of the altar. The host was contained in a monstrance from the Bishop R.O. Gerow collection and modeled off the one used for the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in New Orleans, a fitting receptacle for the Eucharistic Revival moment help by the Diocese of Jackson.

The event was held as a part of the National Eucharistic Revival, developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the diocesan “Year of the Eucharist.”

GLUCKSTADT – Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Father Ajani Gibson administer Communion during the Eucharistic Revival moment held at St. Joseph parish in Gluckstadt. The two day event was a part of the National Eucharistic Revival featuring adoration, vespers, spiritual talks on the Eucharist, opportunities for reconciliation and Mass. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

The national revival comes at a time when many Catholics don’t believe the church’s teaching that the consecrated bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus. Pew research reported in 2019, that 69% of self-described Catholics say they personally believe the bread and wine are just “symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

The diocesan Eucharistic event held at St. Joseph included adoration, vespers, spiritual talks on the Eucharist, opportunities for reconciliation and Mass with Bishop Joseph Kopacz.

Selected as the featured speaker for the event was Father Ajani Gibson of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. A relatively new priest, only being ordained about a year and a half, Father Ajani’s passion and love for the Eucharist was evident as he focused event attendees on internalizing and externalizing the Eucharist.

In his first spiritual talk, he touched on how much COVID-19 affected us as a Body of Christ, with many not returning to Mass or continuing to view Mass virtually. Of Mass, Father Ajani said that “we come to be reminded of the beauty and the gift that is the Eucharist.”

This moment of Eucharistic Revival, says Father Ajani, is about renewing our relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. He asked in his first talk for everyone to contemplate the simple question – “Do I believe in Jesus Christ?”

“The Lord in the moment of Eucharistic renewal is drawing us to be in communion and unity with Him,” Father Ajani told those gathered at the event.

“Isn’t this what it is all ultimately about, to be drawn into eternal union with our God?”

Weaving in personal stories, on Saturday of the event Father Ajani shared about his love of grapes. Always raiding his grandmother’s refrigerator for those round globes of sweetness as a child, Father Ajani laughed about his grandmother always telling him he was going to turn into a grape.

He asked when thinking about the Eucharist to ponder the saying “we become what we eat.”

“Externalizing the Eucharist is being a part of Christ … out in the world. Is that not what the Mass prepares us for,” Father Ajani asked.

Mary Woodward, chancellor for the Diocese of Jackson, organized the event and says she hopes to organize more around the diocese as the National Eucharistic Revival continues into the next few years.
As those gathered left the event, many thanked Bishop Kopacz, Father Ajani and Woodward for their efforts in bring this to the people of the diocese.

Jo Dillon of St. Joseph parish told Father Ajani as they were leaving the event that she wanted to jump up and shout when he asked participants to internalize the question “Do I believe in Jesus Christ?”
“I wanted to jump up and shout yes, I believe!”

GLUCKSTADT – Clockwise from top: Jesse Carkhuff speaks to Bishop Kopacz after the event; Seminarians Will Foggo and Ryan Stoer lead the procession after Mass; and Father Ajani Gibson delievers a riveting homily. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King)

Annual Catholic Foundation meeting celebrates accomplishments

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Jackson held its annual membership meeting along with the board of directors meeting at the Country Club of Jackson.

Board president, Joe Rice, Jr. of St. Richard Jackson, led those gathered through the election and re-election of the board of directors for the Foundation. Six members rolled-off board service this year, leading to the election of Beth DeGruy of St. Richard Jackson; Joseph P. Gray of Cathedral of St. Peter Jackson; Will Jemison of Christ the King Jackson; Robert Perry of St. John Oxford; and Key Smith of St. Mary Basilica Natchez at the event.

Catholic Foundation, executive director Rebecca Harris then led members on a journey through all the Foundation accomplished over the past year.

The Foundation currently manages assets in excess of $57 million and Harris reported that the Foundation was able to mitigate some of the losses due to the market in today’s economy to be able to continue all of the good works the Foundation supports.

JACKSON – Rebecca Harris, executive director of the Catholic Foundation, completes a “year in review” at the annual dinner and membership meeting, held at the Country Club of Jackson, on Tuesday, Oct. 25. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)

The Foundation manages 35 trusts that grant monies to parishes, schools and Catholic ministries in the diocese. This year, 25 grants were awarded that totaled over $69,000.

“These were grants that were for anywhere from renovating a rectory to curriculums in our Catholic Schools to Catholic Charities being able to provide women who are in dire need of work that helps them to bring their child into this world,” said Harris.

“And I think as a Catholic organization that is so important, and near and dear to all of us that there are children that are going to be born this year and that we were able to help them.”

One area that few parishes apply for grants is in senior citizen ministry, explained Harris. “I hope in the future that they do … we’ve got a lot more that we could grant.”

The Catholic Foundation has 393 trusts that they administer and boasts over 800 members that support the work of the Foundation. Through membership fees, the Foundation allows the annual distributions to go directly to the beneficiaries – schools, parishes and catholic ministries.

“These membership fees allow me to run the Catholic Foundation office, along with proceeds from the Bishop’s Cup tournament and charge no management fees to beneficiaries,” said Harris.

To those gathered, Harris also reported on the annual Bishop’s Cup golf tournament. In the 40th year for the event, the Foundation was able to raise $43,000. Harris thanked all for their support of the event saying, “we were able to keep expenses lower than they ever have been … so we have more money to help operations and to help with future grants.”

“We can’t do all the things we do without the help of our members,” said Harris. “We need you and we need many other people to understand what we do and how we do it.”

The Catholic Foundation is not competition for parishes, Harris explained. “We work with parishes to help them grow the things they can do in their parishes.”

Next year, the Catholic Foundation will celebrate its 50th anniversary. In 1973, Bishop Brunini called a group of community leaders together from across the diocese to form the foundation.

In his closing remarks, Bishop Joseph Kopacz noted that the returns on investment in general have been down, but equated the Catholic Foundation as “Joseph in Egypt.”

“During the years of plenty, [Joseph] put aside a great deal of the harvest in order to face the years of famine and was able to serve the people of Egypt and the surrounding area because of that prudent decision,” said Bishop Kopacz.

“So, the Foundation has done the same in these ‘lean’ years. … This year we still have been able to give the full distribution that has been given over the last number of years. And that is wise stewardship.”
Closing the event with prayer, Bishop Kopacz asked God for His blessing on the Foundation.
“May we continue to grow and be faithful to You and to serve the people entrusted to us.”

For more information on the Catholic Foundation visit: or call (601) 960-8477.

Avivamiento Eucarístico

Por Joanna Puddister King

GLUCKSTADT – Durante gran parte de la tarde y la mañana del 28 y 29 de octubre en la Iglesia de San José en Gluckstadt, se celebró el evento eucarístico diocesano.

El evento se llevó a cabo como parte del Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional, desarrollado por la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos (USCCB) y el “Año de la Eucaristía” diocesano.

El mismo incluyó adoración, vísperas, charlas espirituales sobre la Eucaristía, oportunidades para la reconciliación y Misa con el obispo Joseph Kopacz.

El santuario estuvo relativamente en silencio con el sonido ocasional de algún movimiento o tos. Al entrar algunos tenían la cabeza inclinada en oración y otros con la mirada fija en la hostia eucarística consagrada colocada en el centro del altar.

La hostia estaba contenida en una custodia del obispo R.O. Gerow y se inspiró en el que se usó para el Congreso Eucarístico de 1932 en Nueva Orleans, un receptáculo apropiado para el momento del Renacimiento Eucarístico ayudado por la Diócesis de Jackson.

El avivamiento nacional llega en un momento en que muchos católicos no creen en la enseñanza de la iglesia de que el pan y el vino consagrados se convierten en el cuerpo y la sangre reales de Jesús.

GLUCKSTADT – Durante el evento de Avivamiento Eucarístico que se llevó a cabo en la parroquia de St. Joseph los días 28 y 29 de octubre , el Padre Ajani Gibson dijo “El Señor, en el momento de la renovación eucarística, nos atrae a estar en comunión y unidad con Él.” (Foto de Joanna Puddister King)

El Pew Research informó en 2019 que el 69% de los autodenominados católicos dicen que creen personalmente que el pan y el vino son solo “símbolos del cuerpo y la sangre de Jesucristo”.

El orador principal seleccionado para el evento fue el Padre Ajani Gibson de la Arquidiócesis de Nueva Orleans. Sacerdote relativamente nuevo, ordenado hace apenas un año y medio, la pasión y el amor del Padre Ajani por la Eucaristía fueron evidentes cuando enfocó a los asistentes al evento en internalizar y externalizar la Eucaristía.

En su primera charla espiritual, se refirió a cuánto nos afectó el COVID-19 como Cuerpo de Cristo, y muchos no regresaron a Misa o continuaron viendo Misa virtualmente. De la Misa, el Padre Ajani dijo que “venimos a recordar la belleza y el don que es la Eucaristía”.

Este momento de Renacimiento Eucarístico, dice el Padre Ajani, se trata de renovar nuestra relación con la persona de Jesucristo. En su primera charla, pidió que todos contemplaran la simple pregunta: “¿Creo en Jesucristo?”.

“El Señor, en el momento de la renovación eucarística, nos atrae a estar en comunión y unidad con Él”, dijo el padre Ajani a los reunidos en el evento.

“¿No es esto de lo que se trata en última instancia, de ser atraído a la unión eterna con nuestro Dios?”

Tejiendo historias personales, el sábado del evento el Padre Ajani compartió sobre su amor por las uvas. Siempre asaltando el refrigerador de su abuela en busca de esos globos redondos de dulzura cuando era niño, el padre Ajani se reía de que su abuela siempre le decía que se iba a convertir en una uva.

Pidió, al pensar en la Eucaristía, reflexionar sobre el dicho “nos convertimos en lo que comemos.”

 “Externalizar la Eucaristía es ser parte de Cristo… afuera en el mundo. ¿No es eso para lo que nos prepara la Misa?, preguntó el Padre Ajani.

Mary Woodward, canciller de la Diócesis de Jackson, organizó el evento y dice que espera organizar otros más en la diócesis a medida que el Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional continúa en los próximos años.

Cuando los reunidos abandonaron el evento, muchos agradecieron al obispo Kopacz, al padre Ajani y a Woodward por sus esfuerzos para llevar esto a la gente de la diócesis.

Jo Dillon de la parroquia de St. Joseph le dijo al padre Ajani cuando salían del evento que quería saltar y gritar cuando les pidió a los participantes que internalizaran la pregunta “¿Creo en Jesucristo?”

“¡Quería saltar y gritar que sí, creo!”

GLUCKSTADT – El Obispo Joseph Kopacz se alista a exhibir la custodia del obispo R.O. Gerow, que se usó para el Congreso Eucarístico de 1932 en Nueva Orleans, en Misa celebrada en evento de dos días en la iglesia de St. Joseph como parte del Avivamiento Eucarístico Nacional. (Foto de Joanna Puddister King)

‘National treasure’ receives care, repairs

By Joanna Puddister King
NATCHEZ — The beauty is evident just driving by gothic revival style church – St. Mary Basilica – in downtown Natchez. The thousands of tourists that visit the Basilica each year, in addition to many parishioners don’t see all of the work that goes in to keeping such a beauty in shape.

Father Aaron Williams was just appointed pastor of St. Mary Basilica and Assumption parish in May of this year, but he has already taken on projects from restoration work on the rectory and the bell tower, repairs to stained glass windows, and lighting work in the sanctuary – not to mention work on electrical equipment, including the church bell, the organ, sound system and HVAC due to a lightning strike in August. And all of this is in addition to his pastoral duties to the parishes and to students at Cathedral School.

NATCHEZ – Stained glass windows at St. Mary Basilica receive repairs on Friday, Sept. 16. Father Aaron Williams has been working on several major projects at the historic parish. (Photo by Father Aaron Williams)

“It is exciting for me to be a part of this great work of preservation,” said Father Williams. “The parish really is a treasure of American Catholic history and we have to do what we can to hand on that treasure to the next generation.”

To help keep up with all of the projects, Father Aaron recently hired a new staff member, Jacob Ali, to serve as strategic planning coordinator. “Jacob is assisting me by being the point-person on all these projects, ensuring they are running on schedule and communicating with vendors and contractors,” said Father Williams.
“Him and a lot of caffeine keep my head over water.”

One major project is the third floor of the rectory located next to the Basilica. The top floor of the rectory historically had three bedrooms, but for many years was used as an area for storage. Over the years, the area was subject to moisture that damaged the walls. The third floor of the rectory has now been completely gutted down to the studs and is now safer said Father Williams. The long-term plan is to restore the bedrooms on that floor for guests.

On the side of the church facing the rectory, it was discovered that two stained glass windows were in need of immediate repair. Father Williams said it was determined to be an “emergency” situation because the windows were both bending out from the frame and could potentially break.

The two windows are now being repaired and cleaned, with new protective glass being installed over them on the exterior.

In 2019, the ice storm caused extensive damage to the Basilica. “Most of that was repaired,” said Father Williams. “But we discovered that the top level of the bell tower was holding water and in the long-term this could prove very dangerous for the structure.” So, the few feet of roofing over the tower was replaced.

Amidst all of the projects, a lightening strike to an adjacent property during a storm in August caused thousands of dollars in damages to various electrical systems, including the church bell, the organ, sound system and HVAC. Father Williams reported that the surge fed up the underground lines and hit the Basilica, the rectory and other businesses surrounding the property.

“Nearly every electronic system in the church was damaged in some way, and we lost some devices in the rectory,” said Father Williams.

He is planning to take this unfortunate event to improve upon systems that were dated or overly complicated to use, particularly the HVAC and lighting systems.

Also damaged at the Basilica was the electrical system which rings the church bell. The parish received an initial proposal to fix the damage but after speaking with several parishioners, Father Williams discovered there was interest in researching the possibility of adding bells to the tower. So, the “Ring out your joy to the Lord!” fundraiser was born to add to the current bells at the Basilica.

The church tower currently has two bells – the larger being the “Maria Alexandrina,” which was cast in the 1840s in Italy at the direction of the direction of Bishop John Joseph Chanche, SS – the first bishop of the diocese. It was gifted by Prince Alexander Torlonia and his wife Maria, of Rome and created by prominent sculptor, Giovani Lucenti, who cast it from bronze. The second, smaller bell which was cast by the Coffin bell company in the 1880s in Cincinnati and was never formally given a name.

NATCHEZ – Pictured is the “Maria Alexandrina” bell located in the St. Mary Basilica church tower. Repairs to current bells and a fundraiser for additional bells are underway. (Photo by Father Aaron Williams)

After studying the structure of the tower, it was determined that it could handle extra weight, so three additional bells, all smaller that the “Coffin” bell could be supported.

Within days of the fundraiser announcement, most of the sponsorships available for the bell project and restoration work were claimed, leaving only a few thousand dollars to be raised to complete the project.
Along with the restoration work on the bells, an electronic striker will be used for funeral tolls and hour strikes on the “Maria Alexandrina” bell – which Father Williams painstakingly struck by hand 96 times to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Another plan, in work for at least a decade at the Basilica is a “Cultural Heritage Center” to allow parishioners and tourists to have access to the historic treasures of the church and archives, as well as provide a place for evangelization and education on the Catholic faith.

Father Williams says that the parish is in the early stages of planning to convert the lower hall of the Basilica and the original parish library into this center, which will include a museum and place for video presentations. He says this will focus not only on the parish’s local history, but on the beliefs and practices of Catholics. The overall project includes the creation of a website to provide further information and videos to visitors who wish to learn more, as well as a mural to tell the story of the early school and ministry of Bishop Chanche to Black Catholics.

“The original parish hall is of great historic value, as it also served as the original school for Black Catholics in Natchez and was the site of the baptism of over 600 African Slaves at the hand of our first Bishop, John Joseph Chanche,” said Father Williams.

The Basilica is a treasure of the Diocese of Jackson both because of its history and national recognition – welcoming tourist from around the world.

“The church building itself is a national treasure of which we are the custodians,” said Father Williams.
“We wish to preserve that treasure and increase the exposure of the parish particularly through initiative which can leave a lasting impression on visitors and hopefully touch them in their heart.”

Those wanting to learn more about St. Mary Basilica or to make contributions, can visit or contact the office at (601) 445-5616.

Diocese to hold Eucharistic Congress in October

By Joanna Puddister King

JACKSON – As a part of the Eucharistic Revival, developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Diocese of Jackson is holding a Eucharistic Congress on Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Gluckstadt. The event also flows out of the diocesan “Year of the Eucharist.”

The event features an evening and morning of prayer, adoration, spiritual talks and Mass. The featured speaker for the event is Father Ajani Gibson of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

“This will kick off the Eucharistic Revival’s focus on the Eucharist in parish life and the re-evangelization of parishioners through reverence for the Eucharist in their lives and connecting the Eucharist to service and how parishioners are called to be the Real Presence of Jesus Christ to others,” said Mary Woodward, chancellor for the Diocese of Jackson.

“As we move further into this focus, we will provide more opportunities for parishes to deepen their worship life and prayer life.”

GLUCKSTADT – The Diocese of Jackson is hosting a Eucharistic Congress on October 28-29 at St. Joseph parish in Gluckstadt. All are welcome to attend this evening and morning of prayer, adoration, spiritual talks and Mass.

Woodward says that the Eucharistic Congress is not just about adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which is a necessary, vital and profound action, but also a deeper understanding of and commitment to worshipping the Eucharist as active participants in liturgy.

“This in turn leads to an internalization of the Real Presence so that one can then reflect that Real Presence of Christ to the world that is so in need of the presence of Christ,” says Woodward.

The schedule for Friday, Oct. 28 consists of:

4 p.m – Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Joseph Church and Opportunities for Sacrament of Penance

6 p.m. – a spiritual talk on the gift of the Eucharist by Father Ajani Gibson

7-8 p.m. – Adoration, night prayer and benediction

8 p.m. – Benediction/Reposition – Bishop Kopacz

On Saturday, Oct. 29:

8-10 a.m. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Joseph’s Church and opportunities for Sacrament of Penance

10 a.m. Morning prayer followed by spiritual talk on living the Eucharist by Father Gibson

11:30 a.m. Closing Mass with Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Fr. Ajani Gibson as homilist

For those unable to attend the Congress, look for local opportunities for adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation during event times. For more information on the national Eucharistic Revival, visit

Thank you for your support of the Catholic Service Appeal

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – Director of Stewardship and Development, Rebecca Harris would like to personally thank everyone for their prayers for the annual Catholic Service Appeal and to those who made a financial commitment. This year, the diocese is excited to announce that the yearly goal has been reached.

“Each year I am amazed at the outpouring of support for our yearly appeal. Your commitment to the provides the needed funding for the ministries served by the appeal,” said Harris.

The diocese is also pleased to announce that through the Synod process they heard the need for a young adult ministry. Harris said that the diocese now has a Young Adult/Campus Ministry Office that will now receive funding from the CSA.

All are invited to visit the diocese website to see a complete list of the ministries supported by the annual Catholic Service Appeal. To see a complete list of ministries please go to or scan the QR Code.

New Sister Thea Bowman film open for viewing

This is an official promotional poster for the documentary “Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood.” The documentary will air on ABC stations nationwide beginning Oct. 2, 2022. (CNS photo/courtesy NewGroup Media). The film can also be viewed on the Diocese of Jackson’s YouTube channel at

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – A new documentary from NewGroup Media and the Diocese of Jackson, Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the riveting life of Sister Thea Bowman, an African American Catholic Franciscan Sister who used her powerful gifts to educate and challenge the church and society to grow in racial inclusivity. Her skills of preaching, music, and teaching moved many Catholics to begin to confront their own racism while she urged her African American brothers and sisters to claim their gifts and share their “fully functioning” personhood. Thea worked tirelessly to proclaim this message until her untimely death from breast cancer in 1990.

The film features interviews and commentary from her family, Sisters in community, colleagues, friends, and former students. Input from African-American scholars, clerics and bishops will speak to the ongoing issue of systemic racism in the church and country. Extensive use is made of archival media that portrays Thea in action–photographs, film, video and audio recordings recorded in locations of significance to her life.

The program title is drawn from a quotation attributed to Sojourner Truth. When Thea was asked what she wanted said at her funeral, she answered, “Just say what Sojourner Truth said: ‘I’m not going to die. I’m going home like a shooting star.’”

The film, part of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission’s fall documentary season, began airing on ABC stations nationwide on Oct. 2, 2022. As of Oct. 11, the following Mississippi stations have scheduled showings of the film: WLOX Biloxi – Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.; and WAPT Jackson – Oct. 30 at 1 p.m. Contact your local ABC affiliate station for additional dates and times.

The film can also be streamed on the Diocese of Jackson’s YouTube channel at The film is free to view, with donations requested to the Cause for Sister Thea Bowman.

The film makes a strong connection between Thea’s Gospel call for justice, love and unity and the current effort of Black Lives Matter activists and efforts to combat systemic racism. Many in the film cite Thea’s voice as an influence on their ongoing efforts to achieve social and racial justice.

Production of “Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood” was made possible with funding from the Catholic Communications Campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as support from various foundations and congregations of U.S. men and women religious.