Last Mass filled with Camp’s wit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 14, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; With his wit, the Rev. Alfred Camp charmed the parishioners of St. Mary’s one last time Sunday from the pulpit.

On to his next assignment in Clarksdale, Camp is leaving after 12 years of service in Natchez.

Camp told the crowd at 10 a.m. Mass he visited the bishop in December 2003 for his next assignment.

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&uot;He said, ‘I’ve been thinking about Clarksdale.’ I said, ‘I haven’t.’&uot;

Now he will move to St. Elizabeth parish. His first thought of his new assignment, he thought of Sanford and Son, he said, when Sanford says, &uot;It’s the big one Elizabeth, I’m coming home.&uot;

Maybe it’s fitting at my age to go there, he told the congregation that gathered to wish him farewell.

But that was Father Camp.

&uot;He’s been a very personable shepherd,&uot; said Marty Seibert. &uot;I think that’s been what’s most wonderful about him.&uot;

Most people, she said, talk about the buildings and the restoration of St. Mary’s when they talk about Father Camp, but Seibert said he was a very &uot;pastoral pastor.&uot;

Lector Jack McLemore, speaking on behalf of the entire congregation at Mass Sunday, had a difficult time finding just what words to use to thank Camp. He looked to the gospel read in Mass from Luke, &uot;you are truly our beloved priest and father. With you, we are well pleased,&uot; he said.

&uot;Everybody loves Father Camp&uot; read stickers on parishioners’ shirts after Mass as a testament to how much they will miss him.

The love and support flowed throughout the Eola Hotel with the reception after Mass to honor Camp.

People lined the room, waiting to get in and get their goodbyes in to the man that served their parish these last years.

Camp had his wit and his personal nature but also his great support for Catholic education that people will remember.

&uot;Out of 18 pastor’s I’ve had over my eight or nine years of Catholic education, he truly models a pastor that supports Catholic education,&uot; said Pat Sanguinetti, headmaster of Cathedral School.

&uot;He makes my job a whole lot easier.&uot;

The appreciation and admiration did not stop with words but when beyond to gifts the parishioners gave Sunday: a digital camera, Photoshop, a tripod, a laptop, a printer and just about anything else he needed to continue his hobby of photography.

They also gave him a cruise.

&uot;We’re going to send him back up the river in style,&uot; said Ricky Warren, president of the parish council of Knights of Columbus.

And, the Columbus Squires gave Camp a framed photograph of the cathedral so he could never forget the place he spent the last 12 years.

Parishioner Gayle Anders gave Camp a very lifelike portrait she drew of him, which also was unveiled at the reception.

With the departure of the Daughters of Charity in July, the Rev. Mike O’Brien in September, and now Camp, St. Mary parish will welcome a familiar face &045; the Rev. David O’Connor &045; who has returned the take over Assumption parish and now St. Mary parish. O’Connor served St. Mary from 1986 to 1992.

O’Connor said he will meet with the people of the parish to listen to their needs. He did say there would be some changes made to the Mass schedule, which will be completed after those meetings.

And the traditional ending to the service may have seemed a bit more personal and lasting Sunday.

&uot;And the peace of the Lord be with you always,&uot; Camp said as the congregation responded, &uot;and also with you.&uot;