South Mississippi's Catholic Diocese of Biloxi is marking its 25th anniversary.
The diocese began the jubilee on Sunday with a special mass of thanksgiving at Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Bay St. Louis. Both Bishop Thomas Rodi and former Bishop Joseph Howze assisted in the church service.
Over the next five days, Bishop Rodi will celebrate the anniversary in each of the diocese's five deaneries:
- Sunday June 2 at 5:30 at Our Lady of the Gulf Church in Bay St. Louis
- Monday, June 3, at 7 p.m., at Our Lady of Victories Church in Pascagoula
- Tuesday, June 4, at 7 p.m., at St. James Church in Gulfport
- Wednesday, June 5, at7 p.m., at Sacred Heart Church in Hattiesburg
- Thursday, June 6, at 7 p.m., at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in Biloxi.
Today's diocese of Biloxi was once part of the diocese of Natchez-Jackson. It was created in 1977 during the pontificate of Pope Paul the Sixth, and it was comprised of the 17 southernmost counties of Mississippi.
"We had bishop Howze he set a firm foundation. Bishop Rodi has come in with great enthusiasm, has learned to get to know and love the people," parishioner Harriet Bellone said.
Reverend Joseph Howze was appointed as the first bishop, who came in as the ordinary to the 41 churches and their 46,000 parishioners. Today, the diocese has 46 churches, 14 missions and more than 70,000 parishioners, which Bishop Rodi now oversees.
"If we are fortunate to keep this bishop for a few years, we will really go, because this man doesn't stop. He is on top of everything," Betty Kielty of St. Clare Parish said.
"I've been here since the diocese began, and I guess what's in my mind is Bishop Howze and his enthusiasm and all of the wonderful things that have happened since the diocese began," Bellone said.
Among the major milestones the diocese says it's accomplished include that they have a strong catholic school system, that they've ordained local priests who now serve in the diocese and that they've had two strong bishops who have given the diocese a promising future.
"I would say that the continuous progress in education would be the most invaluable thing for the church," former Bishop Most Rev. Joseph Howze said.
"We thank God for our rich history, and with God's help, we look forward to a bright future," Bishop Thomas Rodi said.
All parishioners and friends of the diocese are encouraged to attend one of the anniversary masses.