Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson
|Diocese of Jackson
Coat of Arms of the Diocese of Jackson
|Territory||Northern and central Mississippi (65 counties)|
|Ecclesiastical province||Province of Mobile|
|Established||1837 (As the Diocese of Natchez)|
|Cathedral||Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson|
|Patron saint||St. Peter the Apostle|
|Bishop||Joseph R. Kopacz|
|Metropolitan Archbishop||Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi|
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson is a diocese in the ecclesiastical province of Mobile, in the southern United States of America. Its ecclesiastical jurisdiction includes the northern and central parts of the state of Mississippi, an area of 97,458 square kilometers (37,629 sq mi). It is the largest diocese, by area, in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It was formerly known as the Diocese of Natchez (1837–1956) and the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson (1956–77). Jackson, Mississippi is the episcopal see.
The region which is now the Diocese of Jackson made its first contacts with the Catholic Church through French Jesuit and Capuchin missionaries during the expeditions of La Salle, Marquette, and d'Iberville in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1787, three Spanish priests, Fathers McKenna, White, and Savage, arrived at Natchez from Salamanca and erected three missions in the vicinity. These missions, however, virtually disappeared after the Spanish turned over the area to the United States, and the church's property was confiscated by secular authorities.
The diocese was originally erected as the Vicariate Apostolic of Mississippi, an administrative region of the church separate from the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas (Saint Louis of New Orleans) (to which it had previously belonged, and which itself would later become the Diocese of New Orleans), on 18 July 1826. At the head of the Vicariate was Louis-Guillaume-Valentin Dubourg, P.S.S., who served less than a year before being appointed bishop of Montauban, France (he would eventually become the archbishop of Besançon).
The Vicariate was elevated to the Diocese of Natchez on 28 July 1837, at the same time that the area of north Louisiana was made a separate diocese; the Diocese of New Orleans was not, however, elevated to an archdiocese until 1850. Although the Diocese of Natchez encompassed the entire state of Mississippi, a large geographic region, nearly three years passed before John Mary Joseph Chanche, S.S. (1795–1852), a native of Baltimore, was appointed as its first bishop on 15 December 1840. (Since 1840, however, a new bishop has regularly been appointed within a few months of the end of the previous bishop's tenure.) Bishop Chanche, like his predecessor, was of French lineage, having been born to parents who had fled to Baltimore from the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), presumably during the Haitian revolution (which itself occurred at about the same time as the French Revolution). At his arrival, he found one priest in the diocese, a Father Brogard, who was there only temporarily. Chanche set to work building a diocesan infrastructure, and became reasonably well known in the church hierarchy in North America. The First Plenary Council of 1852, held in Baltimore, Maryland, records him as the "chief promoter." By the time he died later that year, he had built 11 churches, with a team of 11 priests and 13 attendant missions.
A curious series of events regarding the separation of church and state involved the Diocese of Natchez in 1864, during the American Civil War. That year, Bishop William Henry Elder refused to bend to orders from the Federal troops administering Natchez to compel his parishioners to pray for the President of the United States. For this act, Elder was tried, convicted, and then jailed briefly in Vidalia, Louisiana, just across the Mississippi River from Natchez. Nonetheless, as of 2006, Elder remains the second-longest-serving bishop in the diocese's history.
By the mid-20th century, the capital of the state of Mississippi, Jackson, had grown to perhaps be a more appropriate center for the administration of the diocese. To reflect this fact, on 18 December 1956 the name was changed to Diocese of Natchez-Jackson. Finally, on 1 March 1977, the diocese was divided, with the southern counties of Mississippi being reorganized as the Diocese of Biloxi. Concurrently, the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson became simply the Diocese of Jackson. Since the relocation of the diocese to Jackson, the Diocese of Natchez has been maintained as a titular see.
On Thursday, December 12, 2013, Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the pastoral governance of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson, for reasons of age (Catholic Bishops must offer to retire at age 75; cf. Canon 401.1 of the Latin Church Code of Canon Law), of bishop Joseph Nunzio Latino, 76, who had been Jackson's bishop since 2003. He appointed the Reverend Father Joseph R. Kopacz, Ph.D., 63, who until then had been a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton (based in Scranton, Pennsylvania), as the Bishop-elect of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson.
The first seat of the diocese was Saint Mary Basilica (then Cathedral) in Natchez, whose cornerstone was laid by Bishop Chanche in 1842. The current seat is the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson. Since 1998, however, the church has maintained a minor basilica at the former cathedral in Natchez; it is now formally known as St. Mary Basilica.
The Diocese of Jackson encompasses an area of the United States that has historically been (and still is) overwhelmingly Protestant. Only about 2.6% of the residents in the diocese are considered Catholic (about 52,000 Catholics out of a total population of nearly 2 million). The diocese contains 74 parishes and has 79 priests.
Middle Schools and High Schools
- Cathedral Middle/High School (Natchez)
- St. Aloysius Middle/High School (Vicksburg)
- St. Joseph Catholic High School (Greenville)
- St. Joseph Catholic High School (Madison)
- Annunciation Catholic Elementary School (Columbus)
- Cathedral Elementary School (Natchez)
- Holy Child Jesus Elementary School (Canton)
- Holy Family Elementary School (Holly Springs)
- Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School (Greenville)
- Sacred Heart Elementary School (Southaven)
- St. Alphonsus Elementary School (McComb)
- St. Anthony Elementary School (Madison)
- St. Elizabeth Elementary School (Clarksdale)
- St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School (Greenwood)
- St. Francis Elementary School (Vicksburg)
- St. Patrick Elementary School (Meridian)
- St. Therese Elementary School (Jackson)
- St. Richard Catholic School (Jackson)
- Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School (Jackson)
Diocesan bishops and dates of service
- Bishop John Mary Joseph Chanche, P.S.S. (1840–1852)
- Bishop James Oliver Van de Velde, S.J. (1853–1855)
- Bishop William Henry Elder (1857–1880)
- Bishop Francis Janssens (1881–1888)
- Bishop Thomas Heslin (1889–1911)
- Bishop John Edward Gunn, S.M. (1911–1924)
- Bishop Richard Oliver Gerow (1924–1967) during this time it became the Diocese of Jackson
- Bishop Joseph Bernard Brunini (1967–1984)
- Bishop William Russell Houck (1984–2003)
- Bishop Joseph Nunzio Latino (2003-2013)