End of an era: Parish celebrates ‘love affair’ with Daughters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Natchez said goodbye Sunday to the last of three Daughters of Charity serving in the city.

The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul have served Natchez for 156 years and were honored sunday at morning mass at St. Mary Basilica. All 160 sisters that have served in Natchez were recognized, with the congregation responding, &uot;We thank you; we pray for you.&uot;

Bishop Joseph N. Latino said Sunday was a &uot;celebration of more than a century of a love affair between the Daughters of Charity and St. Mary Parish.&uot;

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He blessed water from the Mississippi River, &uot;the river that brought the sisters here,&uot; before sprinkling it on the congregation.

And the mass was filled with tributes to all of the sisters who served in the parish. In the homily, Latino spoke of the sisters as shepherds of the parish, not unlike the priests are of the parish, through &uot;commitment and dedication and promises of religious life.&uot;

Latino said the community was a beneficiary of the message the sisters brought &045; not only those present Sunday, but anyone who encountered the sisters throughout their 156 years, as well as the descendants of those people.

Latino asked the sisters to &uot;remember us as we will always remember you.&uot;

And many in the community have vivid memories of the sisters that have served here.

Sunday, as the remaining sisters left &045; Sister Emmanuel Schott, Sister Clare Hogan and Sister Mary Junkin &045;stories abounded about their time here in Natchez.

Natchez is a place Catherine Madigan &045; the visitatrix, or manager, of the Daughters &045; said is a place all 1,000 Daughters of Charity across the United States know because of the history and its education.

Because there is a shortage of Daughters across the nation, the sisters in Natchez have been replaced by lay people.

Kathy Cook, the principal of Cathedral Elementary School, who was preceded by Sister Loretta Parpart, said it is a &uot;challenge to come behind 160 Daughters of Charity.&uot;

Cook told the congregation the community sees the Daughters’ &uot;great example of how they stand on the shoulders of those before them, and we stand on their shoulders.&uot;

That great example can be seen through stories told about the impact the sisters have had in individual’s lives.

&uot;This order of nuns has taught my whole family for generations,&uot; Mary Jane Gaudet said.

Gaudet said while she probably needed to scrub floors to pay penance for all she did to the nuns, the way they serve the poor and downtrodden is what she will always remember about them.

&uot;I has influenced my life,&uot; Gaudet said. &uot;That service is what continues to be a part of my life.&uot;

The sisters have not left empty handed, because Natchez has meant a lot to them as well.

&uot;The whole community here are so supportive and caring and made me feel a part of everything,&uot; Sister Hogan said. &uot;I consider my 16 years here in Natchez a great blessing.&uot;

And how could Sister Parpart have know the &uot;uninhabited region&uot; she thought she was flying above when she first arrived would be a home for her.

&uot;When I got here, I met some people that have warmed my heart,&uot; Parpart said.

For Parpart, the mass today was a joyful event but one she called &uot;bittersweet.&uot;

For the sisters and those lives the sisters have affected in Natchez, Latino told the congregation of the best way to show the sisters their appreciation, taking wisdom from an old saying &045; imitation is the best form of flattery.

&uot;Imitate their dedication, imitate by their love and by their witness they have shown us all these years,&uot; Latino said.