Departure of Brock a ‘big, big loss’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 6, 2001

Students, staff and alumni of Cathedral School in Natchez will soon say good-bye to their &uot;number one fan.&uot;

Father John Brock, the school’s sports chaplain and minister of Assumption Catholic Church is being transferred this month to St. Peters Church in Grenada.

&uot;It’s going to be a big big loss for us,&uot; said Roy Garcia, athletic director at Cathedral. &uot;He’s been tremendous over the years as our chaplain for all sports.&uot;

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Brock has been in the ministry for 38 years including the past 12 years in Natchez – the longest length of time a priest in the local diocese may stay with the same congregation.

&uot;I think I’d prefer to stay here but I understand so I’m prepared to move,&uot; Brock said. &uot;(But) after living here 12 years I feel like this is my home.&uot;

Prior to coming to Natchez, Brock taught high school Latin and band, studied in Rome and traveled all over communist Europe. He continues to make regular trips to Europe and enjoys studying World War II, especially the holocaust.

&uot;I’ve visited all the major holocaust sites in Europe,&uot; Brock said adding he still did not understand how the holocaust could have taken place.

&uot;But it still fascinates me. The morality questions there are fantastic,&uot; he said.

But around Natchez, Brock is best known for regularly blessing athletes at Cathedral and other local schools prior to their games.

The blessing he gives, known as the blessing of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes, dates back to the ancient Olympics. It is to help the students &uot;play their best and to keep them from all harm,&uot; Brock said.

Brock, who is a big Cathedral fan, said he inquired into the existence of such a blessing after he became the schools sports chaplain. His philosophy is the blessing certainly can not hurt.

&uot;I simply say that most of us need all the help they can get and this might help,&uot; said Brock adding the blessing does not emphasize winning.

It is this simple ritual, that people like Garcia and Ken Beesley Sr., a coach at Cathedral, say they are really going to miss.

&uot;The kids always look forward to it,&uot; Beesley said about the blessing.

&uot;It was a real tradition. That’s something that’s going to be hard to replace.&uot;

And Brock is going to be difficult to replace, Beesley said.

&uot;I know that I’m going to personally miss him a lot,&uot; Beesley said. &uot;He was always there for us.&uot;

Garcia agrees Brock along with his blessings will be missed.

&uot;It’s just something special,&uot; Garcia said. And coaches from other schools say it &uot;seems like we’ve got the edge because of that.&uot;

Brock says he has simply enjoyed supporting the school and being around the students.

&uot;Being around kids helps me to think and stay young,&uot; he said.

He also thinks the students are worth the time and effort.

&uot;I’m the only priest the (students who are not Catholic) will ever know. It is a form of ministry,&uot; he said. &uot;I’d like to show them there are normal priests and good priests.&uot;

Mike O’Brian from Starkville will replace Brock at Assumption Catholic Church.

The church is holding a reception in Brock’s honor from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. He will preach his last sermon at the church Jan. 14.