Richard Oliver Gerow
|Richard Oliver Gerow †|
|Bishop of Natchez-Jackson|
|See||Diocese of Natchez-Jackson|
|In office||June 25, 1924—December 2, 1967|
|Predecessor||John Edward Gunn †|
|Successor||Joseph Bernard Brunini †|
|Ordination||June 5, 1909|
|Born||May 3, 1885
|Died||December 20, 1976
Early life and education
Richard Gerow was born in Mobile, Alabama, one of two children of Warren Rosencranz and Annie A. (née Skehan) Gerow. His father, a native of Mobile and convert to Catholicism, built floats for Mardi Gras for the Order of Myths. His mother was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1863. Following his father's death in 1894, his mother supported the family by renting out small cottages and establishing a dressmaking business.
Gerow was educated by a private tutor before attending Cathedral Grammar School in Mobile. He then attended McGill Institute from 1897 until 1901, when he enrolled at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He graduated from Mount St. Mary's in 1904 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and then began his studies for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Among his fellow seminarians at the North American College were Edward Mooney, James Hugh Ryan, and Thomas Edmund Molloy. He earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology degree in 1909.
On June 5, 1909, Gerow was ordained a priest by Cardinal Pietro Respighi at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. He celebrated his first Mass in the catacombs of Rome. Following his return to the United States, he was assigned as temporary administrator of St. Joseph's Church in Pensacola, Florida, where he remained for one month. He then returned to Mobile, where he served as a curate at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and pro-chancellor of the Diocese of Mobile. He later served as chancellor of the diocese until 1920, when he became rector of the cathedral.
On June 25, 1924, Gerow was appointed the seventh Bishop of Natchez, Mississippi, by Pope Pius XI. He received his episcopal consecration on the following October 15 from Bishop Edward Patrick Allen, with Bishops Jules Jeanmard and James Aloysius Griffin serving as co-consecrators, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. His installation took place at St. Mary's Cathedral on November 12 of that year. He was named an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne by Pope Pius XII on October 3, 1949.
During his 43-year tenure, Gerow oversaw an extensive renovation of St. Mary's Cathedral, held biannual clerical conferences, and worked to established Confraternity of Christian Doctrine programs in every parish of the diocese. He moved the episcopal see of the diocese to Jackson in 1948. On December 18, 1956, the name of the diocese was changed to the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson.
In 1963, he condemned the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, saying, "We need frankly to admit that the guilt for the murder and the other instances of violence in our community tragically must be shared by all of us." The following year, he ordered Catholic elementary schools in Mississippi to admit students to the first grade "without regard to race." In 1965, he ordered the desegregation of all grades in Catholic schools, in order to "bring our practice into full conformity with the teachings of Christ."
Later life and death
On December 2, 1967, Gerow resigned as Bishop of Natchez-Jackson; he was appointed titular bishop of Vageata by Pope Paul VI on the same date. He resigned his titular see on January 5, 1971. He later died at St. Dominic's Hospital in Jackson, at age 91.
- Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig.
- Namorato, Michael V. (1998). The Catholic Church in Mississippi, 1911-1984: A History. Westport: Greenwood Press.
- "Bishop Richard Oliver Gerow". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
- "Diocese of Jackson". Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
- "PRELATE DEPLORES SLAYING IN JACKSON". The New York Times. 1963-06-15.
- "MISSISSIPPI FACES NEW SCHOOL STEP; Catholic System to Integrate First Grades Next Month". The New York Times. 1964-08-10.
- "SCHOOL COLOR BAR ENDED BY DIOCESE; All Parochial Classes in Mississippi Integrated". The New York Times. 1965-08-22.