Madame Gireaudeau highlight of early diocese “Cradle Days” – part II

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – Recently, I participated in a DNA ancestry test using one of those kits involving sending one’s saliva to a lab. The results came back saying I am 100% European ancestry with the majority being Scottish. This was no surprise to me since my paternal grandfather’s cousins were all Cunninghams, McMillans and Carlisles. The rest of me is a mix of Irish, English, Welsh, German and Norwegian. That last one actually was a surprise.
I start with this to remind readers that I write from a white perspective and am attempting to offer a historical account from our diocesan archives on race and the growth of the Catholic community in our state. Again, the hope is to be honest and spawn some interesting dialogue based in this unique setting. I find myself at times struggling to find the right way to phrase things, so if something comes across as offensive, I apologize.
Last week we left off with the account of Madame Felicité Gireaudeau, the grand dame of Catholic Natchez in the early and mid-1800s being described as a free woman of color.

Bishop R. O. Gerow

Bishop Gerow’s account from the eyewitness gives a beautiful rendering. His account even revealed she had freed her slaves, but they chose to remain with her. After further research by the St. Mary Basilica Archives crew, we now know Madame Gireaudeau’s own will tells another story. Upon her death, she bequeaths her “slaves” to a dear friend in Natchez.
At the end of the last article, I asked why the fact that she was a woman of color was left out of the description given by the eyewitness interviewed by Bishop Gerow. Initial responses could be that this was not known by the witness or perhaps it was not important to define her ethnicity – what was important was her catholicity. The Catholic community in Natchez which had had great prominence during Spanish rule now found itself under English Protestant influence and prejudice. Perhaps, the tight-knit Catholic community took solace in their Catholic identity and did not dwell on race.
A second response could be Bishop Gerow’s book was written in the late 1930s. The tenor of the time was much different in terms of race. The “one drop rule” was in full force and the witness was a product of her upbringing. As we know history is written subjectively.
According to Wiley’s Online Dictionary, “the one drop rule is a social rule of racial classification by which those with any degree of black ancestry are categorized as black. The rule is uniquely American and can be traced to the slave era as an effort by whites to maintain white supremacy. During the Jim Crow era, the rule was codified into state laws to formally define blackness in order to subjugate anyone with black ancestry.”
Let me interject a brief account of a complex, difficult history that many will remember from eighth-grade history class. In 1492, after a long journey at sea, Christopher Columbus spotted an island from his ship and named it La Isla Española (ultimately Hispanola). In order to mine the gold he sought for Spain, he and those that followed enslaved the local island population.
In a little over 100 years those indigenous peoples were wiped out due to imported European diseases, hard labor in the mines and/or abuse. The Spanish conquerors then began to bring slaves from neighboring islands who met the same fate.
With the mines exhausted, the Spanish turned the colony over to French colonists, who settled mainly on the Western end of the island and began to import slaves from Africa. By 1791 there were 500,000 slaves from Africa in Saint-Domingue, around 30,000 European colonists and around 25,000 “affranchis,” free persons of mixed race (Creole).

The “Old Parish House” of the Church of San Salvador built by order of the Spanish King in 1786. (Photos courtesy of archives)

The slaves of Saint-Domingue revolted in 1791 and many colonists fled to places such as Baltimore and New Orleans, which was still a French colony. Bishop Chanche’s parents fled to Baltimore from Saint-Domingue during the revolt and he was born there in 1795.
It is possible that Felicité Pomet Gireaudeau’s families could have at one time been in Saint-Domingue. I have not researched her that far back. Some census records have her being born at sea. Her tombstone has her being born in New Orleans.
Felicité and her husband, Gabriel, also a person of color, were married in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans in 1817.
Emily Clark profiles Madame Gireaudeau in her contribution to Mississippi Women: Their Histories, Their Lives published in 2003. According to Clark, the sacramental register of their marriage tells it all. The original record was entered into the record for whites. The record has a notation below it reading: “this matrimonial act of Gabriel Girodeau with Felicité Pomet was recorded by error, improperly entered in this register since the said contractors are people of color.” Wow!
Therefore, many reactions are possible to the question why notation of color was left out of the story by the witness. Perhaps the witness did not want to reveal the heroism of a person of color; perhaps Bishop Gerow acted out of caution so as not to rock any boats; or perhaps neither one knew the Gireaudeau’s were in fact people of color.
In his book, Between the World and Me, TaNehisi Coates writes a letter to his son about being black in America. In it he talks of racism giving rise to race. He speaks of people who think they are white and explains that before they were white, they were Christian or European, but somehow that got lost in the struggle for power. This is the real ongoing struggle.
Therefore, perhaps we should look at this through that lens. Madame Gireaudeau lived in a time of cultural fluidity in early 19th century Catholic Natchez where for Catholics being Catholic was the point of importance. We really cannot offer a judgement against anyone involved in the telling of her story or of the Gireaudeau’s themselves. It is a story uniquely our own that holds us captive to our collective history.

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

New Vicksburg Early Learning Center announces director

By Stephanie Brown
JACKSON – On Dec. 17, 2020, Vicksburg Catholic School announced that Katie Emfinger would take the reigns as the new director for the Sisters of Mercy Early Learning Center, set to open in late spring. Emfinger currently serves as the Title I and Resource Teacher at St. Francis Xavier, the Elementary Campus of Vicksburg Catholic School. She comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be invaluable as the community welcomes its youngest learners.

Katie Emfinger is the new director for the Sisters of Mercy Early Learning Center in Vicksburg.

Emfinger received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Belhaven University and her M.Ed. from Mississippi College. In 2010, she received her National Board Certification. While the early learning center will be a part of the Vicksburg Catholic School umbrella, assuming the role of director brings on the responsibility and exciting opportunity to build organizational culture from the ground up. Starting with a brand-new facility and staff, Emfinger will build on the strong Catholic environment found in VCS while also making the center its own unique entity. When asked what she is most looking forward to in her new position, she said, “I am looking forward to creating a loving, enriching environment, along with my team at the Sisters of Mercy Early Learning Center, for all children.”
Having been a member of the Vicksburg Catholic family for five years, Emfinger recognizes the value of educating the whole child. Her strong academic background, combined with her desire to teach in the Light of Christ, will surely create an environment where all children can thrive.
Emfinger recognizes the importance of building a true sense of community in the new facility and hopes to create a place where children grow and parents are confident in the care the center provides. “I am also looking forward to not only watching our children grow physically, but watching them grow spiritually, intellectually, socially, and emotionally as well. I want our children to leave every day knowing they are loved.”
St. Francis Xavier Principal Mary Arledge said, “When working in a school with loving and caring teachers and staff as we have at St. Francis Xavier, you become more of a family than coworkers. Katie has been part of the family for five years, and she is everything that an Early Learning Center needs for a director. She is a warm, loving, gentle, and caring person who makes a perfect fit when caring not only for infants through 3-year-olds but also for the new mothers who may leave their child for the first time. Katie is dedicated to the field of education and excited to begin educating the youngest learners of Vicksburg Catholic School.”

(Stephanie Brown is the assistant superintendent of the Office of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Jackson.)

Madame Gireaudeau highlight of early diocese “Cradle Days” – part 1

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – Before I begin this week’s article, let me say that having watched the storming of the U.S. Capitol last week by an incited mob, this brutal moment is now a part of our collective memory and a part of our history. How it is recorded will be a complicated and challenging task.
When we get beyond the rawness of this shock, how will we process it and how will we remember it? That is yet to be seen. History is indeed messy.
For now, let us turn to some more of our diocesan history. This week we will see how memory influences history as I begin a two-part article on French New Orleans Natchez connection.
In his book, Cradle Days of St. Mary’s, written in 1941, Bishop Richard O. Gerow, bishop of the diocese from 1924-1966, captures the early history of Catholic Natchez. He chronicles the days leading up to the establishment of the then Diocese of Natchez in 1837 and then carries the story forward through the early bishops.

Bishop John Joseph Chanche

The book is a treasure trove of how the church survived those days, and it features many of the people who helped establish the Catholic community. In the chapter entitled “Bishop Chanche Comes to Natchez,” Bishop Gerow highlights Madame Felicité Girodeau, who had come to Natchez from New Orleans with her husband Gabriel in 1802.
The Gireaudeau’s (proper spelling) were very active in the Catholic community and served as godparents in several of the baptismal records for both slaves and free. Mr. Gireaudeau served on the board of the Roman Catholic Society of Natchez. Sadly, he died in 1827 without receiving the last rites of the church as there was no priest assigned to the town at that time.
After Gabriel’s death, Madame Gireaudeau offered her parlor as a place for Mass when priest’s were sent to tend to the flock prior to Bishop John Joseph Chanche’s arrival in 1841. According to “Cradle Days” Madame Gireaudeau let Bishop Chanche, also of French decent, occupy one side of her house for several weeks until a house could be procured for him.
Allow me to share Bishop Gerow’s description of Madame Gireaudeau:
An interesting personage in the Catholic life of Natchez during this time was Madame Felicitê Girodeau, who had come to Natchez from Louisiana in 1802. She was a woman of education and culture, and above all, a devout Catholic.
Her husband, Gabriel Girodeau, who had kept a jewelry store on Main street and whose name is prominent in the record book of the minutes of the Roman Catholic Society of Natchez (he was for a time its president), had died in 1827, leaving her in comfortable circumstances but without children….
Of an active and charitable disposition, Madame Felicitê was present at all extraordinary occasions – in sickness, as an angel of kindness; at marriages; at births, and at deaths – whenever she could lend a helping hand. In all things pertaining to the church she had a prominent part, and her slaves – Betty, Alexandrine and Anne – attended to the cleaning and care of the Cathedral for many years….

NATCHEZ – Gravestone of Gabriel Gireaudeau rescued from the city cemetery in Natchez. It was beneath a second gravestone and is now on the grounds of the Basilica rectory. (Photos courtesy of Mary Woodward)

These slaves she treated kindly, and long before her death she made them free: they, however, continued to live with her as before….
At a later date (1859) Bishop [William Henry] Elder, realizing that Madame Girodeau could furnish information regarding the early history of the little congregation at Natchez, which information would be interesting to future generations, requested her to tell him the outstanding events. Accordingly, in her presence and at her dictation, the Bishop wrote eight pages of notes, which have been useful in the writing of this present history. She died on January 11, 1862.
Much of this account and description was taken from memories shared by an older resident of Natchez who recalled her childhood memories of Madame Gireaudeau. What an amazing woman! From the description given would you ever think that Madame Gireaudeau was a Free Woman of Color? Why was it left out of the memories? Did the one remembering know? Does it matter?
Considering the subject of this series, yes it does matter and in the second part of this article we will encounter the unique social custom of the “one drop designation” and the fascinating connection between the colony of Saint Domingue, New Orleans, Baltimore and our diocese.
To be continued …

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

The Diaconate – Are you called?

By Deacon John McGregor
JACKSON – Have you ever thought or felt that God was calling you to greater service in the Catholic Church? Are you drawn to know more about your Catholic faith and to enter more deeply into a life of prayer and intimacy with Christ? If so, these could be indications that you are being called to the Permanent Diaconate. The Permanent Diaconate, restored by a Motu Proprio following Vatican II, is a ministry of service that is open to married and single men. In the words of St. Pope John Paul II, the deacon’s ministry “is the church’s service sacramentalized.”

Deacons are ordained to the Ministry of Service in three areas: word, sacrament and charity. As a servant to the word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, instruct the faithful and evangelize by word and deed, as did the great deacons St. Stephen and St. Francis. As a servant of the sacramental life of the church, deacons preside at baptisms, assist at the Eucharist, bring the Eucharist to the sick and suffering, witness marriages, bury the dead, and preside at Benediction. As a servant of charity, like the great deacon St. Lawrence, deacons report the needs of the community to the church and bring support and assistance to those in need. The deacon is called to be the “Icon of Christ the Servant” living out the life of charity for the people of God and inviting everyone to help feed the hungry, visit the sick and care for one another in our brokenness.

Because deacons have secular jobs and many are married with families, they are familiar with the daily stresses of life. By living and working in the secular world, the deacon seeks to model, in his person, the integration of what one believes and how one lives.

If you think you may be called to the permanent diaconate, the Diocese of Jackson is offering a series of five inquiry meetings via Zoom. Below are the dates and the topic for each of the inquiry meetings.

For Zoom meeting invitations and additional information, please contact:
Deacon John McGregor, D.Min.
Director of the Permanent Diaconate

Priest’s new book offered as guide for reflection, preparation during season of Lent

By Terry Dickson
BAY ST. LOUIS – Father Sebastian Myladiyil, SVD, has written a new book that will serve as an excellent resource for daily reflection during Lent as Catholics prepare for Easter celebrations.
His Instruments: If God Could Use Them…He Can Use Us (Vol. 2) is available through Daphne, Ala. – based publisher River Birch Press. The first volume, which focuses on characters of the Old Testament, was published in 2012. Father Sebastian’s new book profiles 40 characters from the New Testament. The book’s foreword was written by Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz.
“The basic premise of this book is that, if you see a good person, you imitate that person, that person’s values and virtues. If you see a person of questionable character or a bad person, you examine your conscience,” said Father Sebastian during a recent visit to St. Augustine Seminary in Bay St. Louis.

BAY ST. LOUIS – Father Sebastian Myladiyil, SVD holds his newest book – His Instruments Volume Two. He is currently pastor at Sacred Heart Greenville. (Photo courtesy of Terry Dickson)

“In the Bible, we have so many wonderful men and women of faith whose lives and choices we can certainly relate to for ourselves. At the same time, in the Bible, we also have the questionable characters. Many of them responded to God’s call with great enthusiasm, initially, but when challenges and difficulties came, their enthusiasm diminished and they were attracted to other things. As a result, they fell away from God’s plans and their lives became failures.”
Father Sebastian, current pastor of Sacred Heart Greenville, said each of the characters in his newest book – both good and bad – have valuable lessons to impart.
“Their situations are no different than ours,” he said. “The historical context might be a little different, but the human emotions are the same and how we deal with the uncertainties of life, how we deal with unexpected tragedies in life. Those are all the same.
“The important thing is to see God always, and to have the steadfast conviction in our hearts that God is there always and to receive that strength from Him.”
Father Sebastian begins the book by examining the lives of the main characters from the Infancy Narrative – Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Joseph and Mary.
“I also look at the public life of Jesus where some of the prominent apostles come along, such as Peter, Andrew, John, Thomas and Matthew,” he said. “I look at the parables of Jesus Christ where some of those beautiful characters evolve, such as the Good Samaritan, the Rich Man and Lazarus. I also profile characters such as Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman, Martha and Mary and Lazarus. I look at the Acts of the Apostles and the writings of Paul. We have Stephen the Martyr and Saul of Tarsus, who becomes Paul of Tarsus.”
Father Sebastian is a native of India and a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is a Divine Word Missionary priest, serving the Southern Province of USA since 1999, and has been serving in different parishes that are comprised of multi-cultural populations such as African-Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics. Along with his pastoral duties, he obtained his first Master’s Degree in Moral Theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, and a second Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Counselling from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Currently, he is serving at Sacred Heart Greenville; St. Francis Church in Shaw; and Sacred Heart Church in Rosedale.
To date, Father Sebastian has four books published: His Instruments; His Instruments – If God Could Use Them He Can Use Us; and Blown Together – The Trials and Miracles of Katrina. His fourth book is a translation of His Instruments into Spanish: Sus Instrumentos. Currently, he is working on his next book, A Compendium of Prayers – Why We Pray.
His Instruments – If God Could Use Them He Can Use Us is available on Amazon for $20 plus shipping; the Kindle edition is available for $9.99. For more information, contact Father Sebastian at or call 228.324.4927.

(Terry Dickson is the editor of Gulf Pine Catholic and the director of communication for the Diocese of Biloxi.)

In memorium: Rev. James J. Pillar, O.M.I. and Sister Virginia Delaney

TEWKSBURY, Mass. – Rev. James J. Pillar, O.M.I., 92, died on Dec. 19, 2020 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Residence, Tewksbury, Massachusetts. He was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and was a son of the late Jerome H. and Gertrude D. (Swifta) Pillar. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Donald and Gerald.
Father Pillar began studies for the Catholic priesthood in 1942 at Oblate Seminaries, St. Henry’s, Belleville, Illinois and at Our Lady of the Ozarks, Carthage, Missouri. He professed his first vows on Aug. 15, 1949 and was ordained to the priesthood at St. Paul Cathedral, Minnesota on June 5, 1954. He earned his Theology and Philosophy degrees at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He studied English Literature at Ottawa University in Canada.

Father James Pillar, OMI

Much of Father Pillar’s life was spent in the classroom teaching at the Oblate seminary in Pass Christian, Mississippi and twenty-seven years at Loyola University in New Orleans. In 2012, a Distinguished Professorship in History was established in his name at Loyola University. It was subsequently renamed the A.D.G. Distinguished Professorship in history, highlighting his close association with Alpha Delta Gamma Fraternity.
A published American church historian, he earned his PhD in Ecclesiology at Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He retired from teaching in 1992 and did parish work in Colorado Springs. He enjoyed camping in the Rocky Mountains and serving as a cruise ship chaplain.
Upon retirement in 2004, he was a resident of Oak Meadows Senior Living in Oakdale, Minnesota. In 2017 he transferred to the Immaculate Heart of Mary Residence in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, where he remained until his death. In addition to his Oblate family, he is survived by many relatives and friends.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, funeral services will be private. Father Pillar will be buried at Saint Joseph Cemetery, East Chelmsford, Massachusetts.
Donations in memory of Father Pillar may be made to the Oblate Infirmary Fund, 486 Chandler Street, Tewksbury, MA 01876-2849.

Sister Virginia Delaney, D.C

ST. LOUIS – Sister Virginia (Virginia Katherine) Delaney, D.C., died on Dec. 28, 2020 at Seton Residence in Evansville, Indiana. Sister Virginia was born on Sept. 4, 1931 in Natchez, Mississippi, and was one of four children of Marcus James and Mary Katherine (Gilbert) Delaney. She graduated from St. Joseph Catholic High School (Cathedral School) in Natchez, in 1949 and entered the Daughters of Charity in St. Louis, Missouri, the same year.
After initial formation and earning a B.S. degree in Nursing from Marillac College in St. Louis (1961), Sister Virginia served in health ministry as a Nurse Supervisor at Providence Hospital in Mobile and St. Paul Hospital in Dallas. She received an M.S. degree in Public Health Nursing from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan (1968) and an M.A. degree in Theological Studies from Springhill College in Jackson, (1988). Sister was a Public Health Nurse at St. Vincent Hospital in Birmingham; Charity Hospital in New Orleans; St. Mary’s Medical Center in Saginaw, Michigan; and for the County Health Department in Selma, Alabama. She also served as a nurse at Marillac Social Center in Chicago and as a teacher at Loyola University in Chicago and Alcorn State University in Natchez, (1985-1988). In 1988, Sister Virginia began her ministry in Mission Integration at St. Vincent Hospital in Birmingham, and as Director of Mission Services at the former Mater Dei Provincialate until she moved to Seton Residence to serve in the Ministry of Prayer.
Sister Virginia was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery in Evansville, Indiana, and a memorial Mass will take place at a later date. Sister was preceded in death by her parents; her sister, Merle McLain; and her brother, Leo Delaney. She is survived by her sister Mary Gunning; nieces and nephews; her Sisters in community; and many friends.
Donations may be made to the Daughters of Charity, 4330 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63108.

From the archives – exploring slave baptismal records, part II

By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – In last week’s article on the sacramental records of slaves recorded in the early days of our diocese, we talked about the beautiful handwriting that documented the sin of slavery. We talked about the records reflecting slaves with only a first name having been stripped of their ancestral names and given European names.
This week we will look at some actual records and see the different levels and phraseology of defining the particular condition of that person and his or her “family.”
It is important to note that baptism is essential to the Catholic Church. Normally, in our Catholic baptismal rite parents freely present their child to the church for baptism. They choose Godparents for their child and gather with the priest or deacon around the font.
The gathered community of parents and Godparents in these records also had another set of individuals present – owners or overseers on behalf of the owner. Several of these rites occurred in the homes of the owners.
The thought of who presented the child or who asked for the baptism in these records can spark some interesting dialogue. Did the parent(s) ask for the baptism or did they even have a choice? Did the owner (who also might have been one of the parents) ask for it out of some sense of obligation to their ingrained Catholic theology to baptize so that the child if it died prior to baptism did not end up in “limbo?” Did the priest ask for this out of a dedication to his ministry in the salvation of souls?
What we do know is that as Catholics, we have a very strong commitment to baptism. This beautiful sacrament in which we die to sin and are reborn into the life of Christ is the foundation of our sacramental life in the church.
Therefore, it does on one level demonstrate a recognition that the one to be baptized has a soul and that baptism is conferred to remove that stain of original sin and initiate him/her into life in Christ. Even though the individual was considered property, there was still a recognition of his or her inherent worth and humanity and the need for the sacrament to be conferred.
And yet I still wonder what might have gone through the mind of the person meticulously recording these records in standard format where the word slave and the color of the skin were included as an identifying factor. Again, remember that, sadly, slavery at this time was a cultural and legal institution. Many Catholics owned slaves.

JACKSON – Baptismal slave records document the sin of slavery, seen above in a record from July, 24, 1854. Diocese Archivist, Mary Woodward is presenting a series in Mississippi Catholic for reflection from the diocese archives to further understand the dynamic tension between faith and culture during the time of slavery in Mississippi. (Photo by Mary Woodward)

So, as you read through these records think about the beauty of the handwriting (example provided) and the desire to have a person initiated into Christ and the church through baptism. But on the other hand contemplate the immense gravity and evil of the phrase “slave of.”
I am going to start with a record from Spanish Colonial times. These are written in Spanish. The parents, Chere (father) and Genoveve (mother) of the girl are the same – both are slaves. What is interesting is Chere is a “slave of” Don Juan Rodriguez and Genoveva is “slave of” Madame Forman.
On the day of February 5, 1797, I, Don Francisco Lennan, priest of the Parish of the Savior in the city of Natchez, baptized and placed the holy oils on a girl of the color brown who was born on January 8, 1794, daughter of Chere, mulatto slave of Don Juan Rodriguez, and Genoveva, slave of Madame Forman; having conferred the sacred rites and prayers on this girl given the name Sara; Godparents were Simon de Arze and Maria Gertrude to whom I instructed on their spiritual kinship and have signed this: Francisco Lennan
It turns out that Madame Forman brought four to be baptized that day – two (Sara and Maria) from Chere and Genoveva; one named Thomasa described as a brown girl and daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth, both slaves of Madame Forman; and another Sara described as black and the daughter of Peter, slave of Madame Forman, and Judith, slave of Madame Paten.
The following record is from 1820 in Natchez and was written in English:
The underwritten testifies to have baptized in the Roman Catholic Church in the City of Natchez on the 26th of March 1820 a negro girl belonging to Gabriel Gireaudeau to whom the name Sophy was given; she was old seven years and had for Godfather Martial Pomet and for Godmother Virginia Gireaudeau.
Antoine Blanc, rector
We will have an article about the Gireaudeau family next edition. Antoine Blanc went on to become the first Archbishop of New Orleans.
From 1864, we have the following entry written by Bishop William Henry Elder, Bishop of the diocese from 1857 – 1880. This record reflects the pastoral care of the sick and again the foundational theology of baptism in that these individuals were in danger of death and the Bishop wanted to make sure they had received baptism. We will explore Bishop Elder’s time in a future article as well.
April 1 – At the smallpox hospital near Natchez, I baptized privately without ceremonies for in danger of death the following colored persons:
Joe aged 40 years
John Carter of [Peggy]
Henry Harrison of [Ocilia] – 56 years conditionally
The last two records shared are from the sacramental register of then Immaculate Conception Parish (now Sacred Heart) in Sulphur Springs (Camden). In these records a slave is denoted with a blank line after the first name is given.
The first record details an infant baptism that defines the infant as “servant.” This four-month-old baby was already destined for servitude. Since the Godmother is not given a last name, we can deduce she too was a slave.
The second example lists 15 slave children belonging to a Colonel Llyod of Maryland. They are listed in one record but they each are given a number in the register by listing them as 25-39 in the margin of the book.
In the year eighteen hundred and fifty four on the fourth day of June, Rev. C. Courjault baptized an infant named Elizabeth, born in February, same year, servant of Cornelius O’Leary of Madison County, Mississippi, Godmother Becky.
J.M. Guillou
Col. Lloyd
In the year eighteen hundred and fifty four, on the twenty fourth day of July, Rec. C. Courjault baptized the following children, Servants of Col. Lloyd of Maryland, on his plantation under the care of John Hargan Esq.
Bernard – John – Meletiana Mary – Louisa – Henry – Noah – Amos William – John Marion – William – Edward – Amalh – Alice – Eliza Ann – Sally Ann – Louisa Ann. John Hargan, Esq., stood Godfather for all the above.
J.M. Guillou
Our hope in the diocesan archives is to one day have the resources to digitize these records and make them accessible online for researchers to further discover and understand the dynamic tension between faith and culture during the time of slavery in Mississippi. Our archives are a gateway to that understanding and we are committed to broadening opportunities for study and open dialogue about this tension. We hope you will be able to reflect more on this topic and prayerfully seek opportunities to discuss this with others in a spirit of solid openness.
To be continued …

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

Pope proclaims year dedicated to St. Joseph

St. Joseph and the Christ Child are depicted in a stained-glass window at Immaculate Conception Church in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. In a Dec. 8 apostolic letter, Pope Francis proclaimed a yearlong celebration dedicated to St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Marking the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being declared patron of the universal church, Pope Francis proclaimed a yearlong celebration dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.
In a Dec. 8 apostolic letter, “Patris Corde” (“With a father’s heart”), the pope said Christians can discover in St. Joseph, who often goes unnoticed, “an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble.”
“St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all,” he said.
As Mary’s husband and guardian of the son of God, St. Joseph turned “his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home.”
Despite being troubled at first by Mary’s pregnancy, he added, St. Joseph was obedient to God’s will “regardless of the hardship involved.”
“In every situation, Joseph declared his own ‘fiat,’ like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,” the pope said. “All this makes it clear that St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood and that, in this way, he cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation and is truly a minister of salvation.”
St. Joseph’s unconditional acceptance of Mary and his decision to protect her “good name, her dignity and her life” also serves as an example for men today, the pope added.
“Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence toward women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man,” he wrote.
Pope Francis also highlighted St. Joseph’s “creative courage,” not only in finding a stable and making it a “welcoming home for the son of God (who came) into the world,” but also in protecting Christ from the threat posed by King Herod.
“The Holy Family had to face concrete problems like every other family, like so many of our migrant brothers and sisters who, today, too, risk their lives to escape misfortune and hunger. In this regard, I consider St. Joseph the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty,” the pope said.
As a carpenter who earned “an honest living to provide for his family,” Christ’s earthly guardian is also an example for both workers and those seeking employment and the right to a life of dignity for themselves and their families.
“In our own day, when employment has once more become a burning social issue, and unemployment at times reaches record levels even in nations that for decades have enjoyed a certain degree of prosperity, there is a renewed need to appreciate the importance of dignified work, of which St. Joseph is an exemplary patron,” he said.
The Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican tribunal that deals with matters of conscience, also issued a decree Dec. 8 stating that plenary indulgences will be granted to Catholics not only through prayer and penance, but also through acts of justice, charity and piety dedicated to the foster father of Jesus.
Among the conditions for receiving an indulgence are a spirit detached from sin, receiving sacramental confession as soon as possible, receiving Communion as soon as possible and praying for the Holy Father’s intentions.
However, the decree also highlighted several ways to obtain the indulgence throughout the year, including to those who “meditate on the prayer of the ‘Our Father’ for at least 30 minutes or take part in a spiritual retreat of at least one day that includes a meditation on St. Joseph.”
As a “just man,” the document continued, who guarded “the intimate secret that lies at the bottom of the heart and soul,” St. Joseph practiced the virtue of justice in “full adherence to the divine law, which is the law of mercy.”
“Therefore, those who, following the example of St. Joseph, will perform a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, will also be able to obtain the gift of the plenary indulgence,” it said.
Indulgences will also be granted to families and engaged couples who recite the rosary together and thus imitate the “same climate of communion, love and prayer lived in the Holy Family. “
Other acts of devotion include entrusting one’s daily activities and prayers for dignified employment to St. Joseph, reciting the litany or any “legitimately approved” prayer to St. Joseph.
During this time of pandemic, the Apostolic Penitentiary also decreed that special indulgences will be granted to the elderly, the sick and all those who “for legitimate reasons are prevented from leaving their home” by “reciting an act of piety in honor of St. Joseph and committed to fulfilling the conditions as soon as possible.”