Latino: Visits to churches ‘phenomenal’

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 14, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The Most Rev. Joseph N. Latino was a celebrity of sorts Thursday night, surrounded by parishioners from the greater Natchez area who wanted to meet the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson.

&uot;It can almost give you a big head,&uot; Latino laughed as people waited in line to greet him during a reception following a welcome Mass at St. Mary Basilica.

&uot;It’s phenomenal,&uot; Latino said of the chance to meet so many of the churchgoers in the diocese. &uot;The people have been wonderful. It’s been so welcoming.&uot;

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Latino, a New Orleans native who spent much of his career in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, was ordained as bishop in Jackson March 7.

Thursday’s Mass was a chance for priests and parishioners in Deanery II &045; a division of the diocese that includes Natchez, Brookhaven, Port Gibson, McComb, Chatawa and Woodville &045; to greet the new bishop.

The Rev. Alfred Camp, pastor of St. Mary, recalled that the first bishop in Natchez was greeted as he stepped off the boat Under-the-Hill by one porter.

&uot;You are as courageous as Bishop (John J.) Chanche,&uot; Camp said. &uot;And we will try to be very good sheep.&uot;

Latino celebrated the Mass, assisted by priests from every church in Deanery II. During the entrance procession, a representative from each parish, religious community and organization that is part of the diocese carried a symbol of their organization, from statues to sketches of churches.

In his sermon, Latino urged parishioners to remember the power of prayer in their relationships with God. &uot;Prayer is the conversation we have with God,&uot; he said. &uot;He already knows what’s prompting our prayer &045; He wants to be in a relationship with us..&uot;

&uot;Sometimes, the best prayer is not words at all. It’s just to put ourselves in God’s presence.&uot;