By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Bishop Joseph Kopacz consecrated the Catholic Diocese of Jackson to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary on Sunday, Oct. 8, at the end of a 2:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. The act was a very public one – Bishop Kopacz led a procession through the streets of downtown Jackson at the end of the Mass and before the consecration. Seminarians carried a statue of Mary as part of the procession and more than 100 faithful joined in. The crowd then returned to the cathedral for a litany and the prayer of consecration written by Deacon Aaron Williams.
The act marks two events, the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady at Fatima and the official liturgical launch of the Pastoral Priorities for the diocese. The bishop and his pastoral team have been working for almost two years to get the Priorities written and introduce them to the parishes. This fall, the bishop has asked the pastors to have teams in the parishes write local goals and priorities aligned with the new diocesan plan. The consecration places this work in the care of the Blessed Virgin. Deacon Williams included phrases from the new plan in the prayer of consecration. The weekend started with a rosary at the cathedral on Saturday. More than 100 faithful joined for the public rosary, led by diocesan seminarians.
People came from across the diocese to be a part of the Mass and procession. Tanya Britton, former secretary at Jackson Christ the King, retired to Tupelo several years ago, but returned to the cathedral for this event. “I wanted to be a part of honoring the Mother of Our Lord, to acknowledge her and to show my gratitude to her. Mary took me by the hand and gently drew me to the bosom of Jesus when I was so far from Him that I couldn’t imagine ever being reconciled. A mother’s love is what I needed,” said Britton.
“To see our diocese honor her in such a communal way and with such a public witness reaffirmed my love for our bishop and my local church. It was also a way for me to stay connected and remind myself we are not ever really isolated from either our local diocese or Rome. We’re all on this ‘pilgrimage’ together in a world in desperate need of a Mother’s love and guidance,” she added.
Betsy Carraway, a Carmelite Secular and member of Jackson St. Therese, said she was very encouraged by the crowd of people at both the rosary and consecration. “We needed a conversion experience. When you are Christian, you are always improving and you need these conversion experiences,” said Carraway.
Elsa Baughman, retired editor for Mississippi Católico, has had a special devotion to Mary since she was a child. She said the procession appealed to her heritage. “As a Hispanic, I loved the procession. In our culture, processions are very important. We feel like we should raise Mary up on our shoulders and take her out into our neighborhoods – or into the streets of Jackson as we did here,” she explained.
The day before the consecration, Hurricane Nate made landfall in South Mississippi. Organizers had to watch the weather and come up with contingency plans for the liturgy in case the storm brought high winds and rain to the area.“The weather was beautiful,” said Baughman. At one point, the sun shone so brightly into the cathedral, and I thought, ‘this is God, smiling at us for doing this,’” she added.