Crucifix finds home, Natchez archives attempt to solve mystery of blessed nail

From the Archives
By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – In the last article we visited with some statues that had found new homes after being displaced. This week I would like to introduce you to a couple of crucifixes that are connected with two churches dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

First, we have the crucifix that adorned St. Mary Church in West Jackson. The parish was merged with St. Therese Parish in 2015. St. Mary Church was completed in the mid-1950s and stood regally on Claiborne Avenue for 60 years, but early on Yazoo Clay began to take a toll on the foundation of the structure. The rise of suburbia took a toll on the size of the congregation and ultimately the difficult decision was made to close St. Mary’s and merge it with St. Therese.

NATCHEZ – A crucifix was discovered by St. Mary Basilica Archives Committee in the original crypt area in the lower level of the church in early 2012. The committee attempted to locate a “blessed nail” thought to be “preserved in the Sacred Feet,” according to note from Bishop Elder dated May 3, 1869. (Photo by Mike Murphy)

We featured St. Mary’s statues previously as mentioned, but the actual dismantling of the high altar and finding a home for the crucifix that graced it was a daunting challenge. Eventually, we made contact with Father Tommy Conway of the Diocese of Biloxi, who was tasked with establishing a new parish ironically in a suburb outside of Hattiesburg.

The corpus was wooden with a long crack down the torso. It was attached to one-inch-thick green now very brittle marble. Therefore, the corpus was removed separately and mounted to a wooden frame for transport to the new parish which was dedicated to St. Fabian.

It was the last item loaded into the 18-wheeler full of crated marble, tabernacle, and candlesticks. As in Caravaggio’s Deposition, the salvage crew reverently carried the Crucified Christ to the bed of the trailer and gently laid him down on a padded cloth. The door slid down like the stone rolled before the tomb.
I have to say it was a very powerful moment for all of us working there that morning. Watching the truck pull away knowing the Lord was entombed in it brought a silence upon us and tears trickled out of the corner of eyes down cheeks.

Our second featured crucifix now hangs on the wall in the St. Mary Basilica family life center in Natchez. In early 2012, the crucifix was discovered by Basilica Archives Committee members in the original crypt area in the lower level of the church. It was mounted on a wall and showed the signs of its age and a few botched repair efforts.

One of the wonderful aspects of archives life is the people one encounters. St. Mary Basilica Archives Committee is a group of extremely dedicated individuals who have taken the reins of creating an amazing local archive, which is a shining example of love for our faith and our traditions.

Immediately the committee, led at that time by Chairman Jimmy Guercio, resolved to have the sacred object researched and restored. According to an article by Guercio on the Basilica Archives web page, there was no real documentation on the crucifix anywhere. The only mention of a large crucifix being in the church was from Bishop William Henry Elder’s note dated May 3, 1869, that a “blessed nail” was “preserved in the Sacred Feet of the large crucifix…in the Cathedral…”

Coincidentally, the Conrad Schmitt design and restoration company, which had restored the Basilica in 2001, was wrapping up its renovations of the Cathedral in Jackson. Wil Kolstad, the lead artisan for the Cathedral project, was sent to Natchez to restore the crucifix.

Prior to completing the process, the mystery of the blessed nail needed to be solved. Therefore, Guercio, Kolstad and other committee members accompanied the corpus across the river to a diagnostic imaging center in Vidalia. The whole process of the patient Jesus being scanned was documented by committee photographer Mike Murphy.

Unfortunately, the scan did not reveal a nail in the feet, but it does reflect the fine dedication of the Basilica Archives Committee and its commitment to document the faith and tradition of the church of Natchez and our diocese. I hope these accounts of our sacred objects will inspire in you, the reader, a sense of Catholicity and a love for the deep and sacred spiritual traditions of our church. There is nothing else like it on this earth; it can only be heaven sent.

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

Featured photo We need your photos!…

Please, share your parish pictures with us! Mississippi Catholic will publish Sacrament pages in an upcoming edition this summer. Please send photos in actual size and include the following: parish name, sacrament celebrated, full names of those pictured by row (left to right) and name of photographer. Please email photos and information to:

CLEVELAND – Our Lady of Victories First Communion was held on Sunday, May 1 with Father Kent Bowlds. Bottom row (l-r): Grace Aguzzi, Karen Lopez, Sophie Antici, Lily Todd Rickels, Mary Matt Giachelli and Alondra Dimas.Top row (l-r): Victor Aguzzi, Charles Hardesty, Tabb Worsham, Samuel Hardesty, Luke Williams, Anderson Kitching, Alan Rivas, Martin Aguilar and Isaac Morales. (Photo by Jenifer Jenkins)

In memoriam: Sister Mary Jane Herlik, OP

SINSINAWA, Wis. – Sister Mary Jane Herlik, OP, died April 4, 2022, at Bayfront Health, St. Petersburg, Florida. Her religious name was Sister Querin. The funeral Mass was held at the Dominican motherhouse, Sinsinawa, April 29, followed by burial in the Motherhouse Cemetery.

Sister Mary Jane made her first profession as a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa Aug. 5, 1950, and her perpetual profession Aug. 5, 1953. She taught for 30 years and was co-principal for two years. Sister Mary Jane served as pastoral minister for 10 years and in the HIV/AIDS ministry for 16 years. She noticed in the early 1980s that medical personnel and clergy were afraid to enter hospital rooms of those dying of AIDS, so she responded to their needs, saying, “I felt I was being called to minister to those dying with AIDS.” (Tampa Bay Times) Sister Mary Jane advised people to “squeeze some joy out of every day, live with a grateful heart, and always trust in a loving God.” (The Link) She served in Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi and Florida.

In the Diocese of Jackson, Sister Mary Jane served as AIDS ministry coordinator at Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Walls from 1993-1996.

Sister Mary Jane was born Dec. 20, 1930, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the daughter of Querin and Jenni (Heimerl) Herlik. Her parents and a sister, Rose Ann Hunsader, preceded her in death. She is survived by a sister, Rosalyn Simonar; a brother, Querin ”Quin” Herlik; nieces; nephews; and her Dominican Sisters with whom she shared 71 years of religious life.
Memorials may be made to the Sinsinawa Dominicans, 585 County Road Z, Sinsinawa, WI, 53824-9701 or at online.

Repeat broadcasts of the wake and funeral for Sister Mary Jane are available online at Click on the “on demand” tab.

Calendar of events

FLOWOOD St. Paul, Homecoming outdoor celebration, Saturday, June 4, Mass at 4:30 p.m., food and fellowship follow. Celebration will take place on the hill behind the church. Details: church office (601) 992-9547.

HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Memorial Day Boston Butt Sale, Last day to order is Monday, May 23. Pick-up day is Friday, May 27. Details: see a member of the men’s association after Mass or call Sal Galtelli 429-5071.

MADISON St. Francis, Parish Family Picnic, Sunday, May 22 after 10:30 a.m. Mass. Picnic is full of activities for children, along with food and fellowship for all. Details: church office (601) 856-5556.

MERIDIAN St. Patrick and St. Joseph communities, Pentecost Mass and picnic, June 5. Celebration will be held at the East Bank at Okatibbee Lake in Collinsville at 10 a.m. Details: church office (601) 693-1321.

OLIVE BRANCH Queen of Peace, Knights of Columbus Spaghetti Fundraiser, Sunday, May 22 after Mass. Dine in or carry out. $8 per plate; $25 per family; $2 smoked sausage ($1 half); $10 quart gravy and $5 quart slaw. Details: church office (662) 895-5007.

Queen of Peace, Knights of Columbus Indoor Yard Sale, Saturday, June 4 at 8 a.m. Details: Leonard Temple (901) 606-1959.

PONTOTOC St. Christopher Catholic Friendship Camp, ages 7-11, June 12-18; and ages 12-14, June 19-25. Details: Heidi Stephens or
WEST POINT Immaculate Conception, Blood Drive, Wednesday, May 25 from 1-7 p.m. in Parish Hall. Details: Register at or call (877) 258-4825. Blood drive code: iccatholic.

CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth, VBS 2022, Monumental: Celebrating God’s Greatness, June 20-24 at St. Elizabeth School. Details: Catelin Britt (662) 902-6478.

OLIVE BRANCH VBS for 6th-8th grades, Wednesday June 15 from 6-9 p.m. VBS for K-5th grade, June 20-24, 9 a.m. till 12 p.m., volunteers are needed. Details: Kelly Murguia (662) 216-9896.

HERNANDO Holy Spirit, VBS June 13-17 from 6:15-8 p.m. Look for table in the Narthex with registration forms. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.

NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, VBS, July 11-15, Evening hours. More information to be announced soon.

PEARL St. Jude, Family Style VBS Wednesday evenings, June 8, 15, 22 and 29 starts at 6:30 p.m. following Mass. Join us family style for a picnic supper, Bible story, Saint of the week and games. Crafts will be take home. All activities will be outdoors, weather permitting. Registration coming soon. Details: church office (601) 939-3181.

MADISON St. Francis, VBS 2022: The Jesus Expedition, June 20-24 for all children going into Pre-K4 through fourth grades. Registration will begin in May if enough volunteers sign up to assist with the camp. Details: Mary Catherine at

MERIDIAN St. Patrick, Vacation Bible School, July 18-22. More information coming soon.

SEARCH RETREAT July 22-24 at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallman. Also accepting staff applications. This retreat is open to those who are just completing their sophomore, junior or senior year of high school. Graduating seniors will have priority registration. Registration deadline is June 12. Details: or

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS Catholic schools across the diocese have a variety of positions open from principals to substitutes. Please visit for an opportunity near you.

DIOCESE The Department of Faith Formation in the Diocese of Jackson is looking for a full-time Coordinator of the Office of Young Adults and Campus Ministry. The coordinator supervises and participates in the diocesan efforts for ministry to and with young adults, college students, youth and the various staff and volunteers who assist with these ministries from the parishes and schools. The successful candidate will be a collaborative member of a dynamic formation team. Please contact if you have questions. Please send a cover letter and resume to by June 3 to be considered.

Holy week Juvenil retreat

Featured photo … Blessing of the Oils …

JACKSON – Pictured left to right are Deacon Andrew Bowden, Father Aaron Williams, Mary Woodward, William Foggo and Bishop Joseph Kopacz during the annual Chrism Mass on Tuesday, April 12 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. There are three types of oils: Holy Chrism, Oil of the Catechumens and Oil of the Infirm or Sick. (Photo by Tereza Ma)

Corazón de Jesús, Familia y Semana Santa

RICHLAND – La Federación de Jackson del movimiento Familiar Católico Cristiano celebró su conferencia regional el sábado 26 de marzo. La reunión contó con la presencia de al menos 40 matrimonios. Rafael Pisso Rivera S.T.
Vicario General de los Siervos Misioneros de la Santísima Trinidad
fue el invitado por el Padre Marco Antonio Sanchez, ST, quien es el párroco de St. Anne Carthage y asesor espiritual del MFCC, María. (Fotos de Berta Mexidor)

Corazón Ardiente llega a Mississippi

In memoriam: Sister Kay Burton, SNJM

ROCKFORD, Wa. – Sister Kay was born Frances Catherine (Kay) Burton on Nov. 3, 1936, in Santa Monica, California to Gordon and Marie Burton while Gordon was employed by Douglas Aircraft to work on experimental airplanes. The family moved to Issaquah, Washington, in 1942 when Gordon began work as a government inspector on airplanes in Renton. They lived there for less than a year when the family moved to Rockford, Washington, where Kay had fond memories of living on the Saunders place. In 1948, the family moved to Lake Creek, Idaho, into the farmhouse where Gordon had been raised and that is still standing today.

In 1954, Kay graduated from Rockford High School as Valedictorian. She enrolled in Holy Names College, Spokane, graduating in 1958 with a degree in Education and began her teaching career at Deer Park High School. In January 1960, after a year and a half teaching in public schools, Kay entered the novitiate of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary at Marylhurst, Oregon receiving the religious name Sister Gordon Mary. She pronounced first vows on Feb. 5, 1962.

Sister Kay spent years developing peace-education programs and anti-racism curricula as an inner-city teacher and administrator in Seattle. She traveled to Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1978 to teach at Immaculate Conception School and earned a M.Ed. in Counseling and Guidance from Western Michigan University in 1979. After returning to Spokane from 1983-87 to assume a leadership role as Provincial Director of her SNJM community, Sister Kay returned to Mississippi. She bought a house which she immediately remodeled into appropriate space for tutoring. She reached out to the Jonestown community to find out what people wanted. As a result, Sister Kay established GED programs, garden projects, softball teams and life skills classes for the people of Jonestown. Music was important to her and became a major emphasis. She encouraged instructors to come to Jonestown to teach music. The result was joyful singing at annual Christmas celebrations and Black history presentations, as well as piano recitals and other wonderful gatherings.

Her successful volunteer recruitment campaigns led to innumerable home repair and Habitat for Humanity projects benefiting the residents of Jonestown. Volunteers created a playground for younger children and helped upgrade basketball, baseball and track facilities. Sister Kay provided enrichment opportunities to the young people of Jonestown by organizing field trips and driving students to meet Sisters and others involved in service work. These ranged from travels to the Native American Community in Wapato, Washington, to Holy Names Convents in Lesotho, Africa.

Sister Kay also helped found The Call to Vietnam Program which sent Sisters of the Holy Names and volunteers to teach English language skills to the young Lovers of the Holy Cross Sisters in Hue, Vietnam.
Sister Kay’s career spanned a lifetime of giving to those in need. Her gifts as a teacher, administrator, volunteer, advocate, innovator, gardener and counselor touched the lives of the thousands of people she served. The people of Jonestown, Mississippi, will never forget Sister Kay and the impact she had during the thirty-plus years of her ministry there.

Sister Kay Burton, SNJM, died March 18, 2022, in Spokane, Washington, at Hospice House of Spokane. There must have been a joyous greeting in Heaven that morning as her mom and dad along with brothers Dick, Bill, Jim, and Ira met Kay on her journey to everlasting life.

Sister Kay is survived her five brothers: John, Tom, Don, Bob and Steve and generations of nieces and nephews who knew and loved their Aunt Kay. Sister Kay is also survived by members of her religious community the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

A funeral Mass was held on Saturday, March 26, 2022 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Rockford, Washington. She is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Memorial gifts may be made to Sisters of the Holy Names Retirement Fund, PO Box 398, Marylhurst, OR, 97036 or online at

Called by name

I am pleased to announce that we have a new seminarian enrolling the fall. Mr. Richard Martin, Jr. (EJ) has been accepted to study for the priesthood for the Diocese of Jackson and will be enrolling at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans this August. EJ grew up at St. Richard Catholic Church and attended St. Richard and St. Joseph Catholic Schools. After graduating from Spring Hill College in Mobile, EJ was working in Austin, Texas, but discerned that the Diocese of Jackson is where he is called to continue his discernment.

It has been a great gift to walk with EJ, who I had met a few times here and there as he came home to visit family when I was the parochial vicar at St. Richard. I have gotten to know him much better over the past year or so as we have embarked on a ‘pre-discernment’ process which has led him to this point. Our application process for the priestly formation program in the diocese is very involved, but it helps the applicant, and the church, decide whether or not the diocesan seminary is the right place for formal discernment.

One of the aspects of the process which is particularly helpful is the vocations board. This is a group of parishioners from around the diocese (mostly the Jackson area) that agree to meet with an applicant after he has met all the other ‘objective’ requirements for admission. As the vocation director, I provide them with a review of the application process, and then every applicant meets speaks with them about his journey so far. The Board is then invited to ask any questions of the applicant, and of me, about the process and to discuss frankly whether seminary is the right choice for that man. This is a great opportunity for the church to speak with men who, God-willing, will be future priests, and it also gives me perspectives that are extremely valuable which are brought to the Bishop as he decides whether each applicant is a good fit for seminary formation.

I believe God is calling many more men to the seminary than are currently in the seminary, but we almost must be prudent, patient and collaborative in this process. I am so pleased that we have accepted another excellent applicant to study for the priesthood. When we as a church send a man off to seminary, we simply can’t predict whether the Lord will call him ‘all the way’ to the priesthood, but we can do our best to ensure that he is a position spiritually, personally and emotionally to thrive in the seminary program, and whether or not he reaches ordination, he will be an great asset and continue to build up the Kingdom of God in the Diocese of Jackson.

Please keep EJ in your prayers as he embarks on this next step, I am excited to see what the Lord has in store for him, and I know he’ll be a great asset to our excellent group of seminarians!

– Father Nick Adam

If you are interested in learning more about religious orders or vocations to the priesthood and religious life, please email