Archbishop Thomas Rodi, of Mobile, has fond memories of the seven years he spent leading the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi, and he looks forward to ordaining bishop-elect Louis Kihneman later this week.
Tuesday, we sat down with Rodi, who reflected on his time in Biloxi and shared some advice for the new bishop.
“The people were just so wonderful to me. I have fond memories. They immediately made me feel very much at home, and I'm confident they will do the same for bishop-elect Kihneman,” said Rodi, who took his assignment in Mobile nine years ago.
WLOX News Now visited with Rodi in the downtown cathedral, just a short walk from his office. He has some simple advice for Kihneman.
“Just to listen, to learn, and to love. Those are three important words. He has a wonderful pastoral background of serving in parishes. He obviously has many talents, and so I think those will serve him well,” said the archbishop.
Rodi said the single biggest challenge facing the new bishop may well be the call to share the gospel in this increasingly secular world of ours.
“Many people are forgetting God and forgetting the good news of Jesus Christ. So, to spread the good news, to call people to be renewed in faith will be a challenge for him. That's true anywhere in our country, and that will be, I think, the greatest challenge,” Rodi said. “There are times in human history where we have forgotten God. We have a tendency to forget Him, and that never ended well. So, human history teaches us not to forget what’s important, and the message of God is truly important.”
Rodi will never forget the biggest challenge of his time in Biloxi: Helping lead the recovery and restoration after Hurricane Katrina.
“I remember the first Sunday after Katrina. Masses in Catholic churches were being celebrated, not in the churches, but in the parking lots and under tents. Wherever it could be. People came together and prayed, and this wasn’t just the Catholic community. It was throughout South Mississippi.” Rodi said.
The archbishop said the immediate aftermath of the storm was a bit overwhelming.
“Just to see the destruction. The question going through my mind was: Where do we start? What do we do first? But, you just do whatever you can, and the people were just remarkable,” Rodi said. “I didn't realize there were so many chainsaws in the neighborhood. People just got out and started cutting limbs and reopening the streets in their neighborhoods. Doing whatever they could. Let's get started. Immediately it was what can we do?”
Rodi looks forward to Friday's ordination ceremony as Biloxi welcomes its new bishop.
“And to enter into the joy of the people of the Diocese of Biloxi and the people of South Mississippi in welcoming bishop-elect Kihneman. He’s going to be great. I feel very confident about that, but I know the people are wonderful.”
Kihneman will be installed Friday at 2 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Howard Ave.
You can watch the ceremony live on WLOX-ABC and streaming on WLOX.com.