Bishop Chanche laid to rest

Published 12:53 am Sunday, January 20, 2008

NATCHEZ — Bishop John Joseph Chanche has come to his final resting place.

A ceremony for the re-internment of Chanche took place Saturday at St. Mary Basilica.

The pews were nearly full as people sat in quiet reverence for the beginning of the ceremony.

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Father David O’Connor began with a welcome in which he thanked all who were present; the bishops, the cardinal, the Knights of Columbus and the clergy.

After his welcome, the Knights of Columbus lined the main aisle as “Ave Maria” was sung by St. Mary member Gabrielle Richardson.

The pallbearers then brought the coffin of the first bishop of Natchez down the aisle and set it in front of the church.

Cardinal William Keeler stood before the podium and gave the homily in which he spoke of Chanche’s life and accomplishments.

“He tended to the flock of God willingly and eagerly,” Keeler said.

He said Chanche took to heart the words of the apostles, as he was an example to the flock.

Eucharist was then given and remarks were made by Bishop Joseph Latino of Jackson.

He commented first on the kindness of everyone for allowing the church to have the remains of Bishop Chanche.

Then he thanked everyone involved.

“I’d like to thank all of those people who played a part in making today a celebration,” he said.

He also thanked the city officials for allowing it to happen and he thanked everyone for making it to the re-interment, despite the cold and snowy weather.

He said he saw many great aspects of the celebration and the gathering.

He said he saw the event strictly for what is was first, the re-internment, and the returning of Chanche’s remains to their rightful resting place.

He said it was also a great day in the history of Mississippi churches.

“This has afforded us an opportunity to reflect on the history of the church of Mississippi,” he said.

It also gave everyone a chance to reflect on those who have gone before us in faith and for the sacrifices they have made in building up the churches of Mississippi, Latino said.

Finally, he said it was an opportunity to look toward the future.

“I hope that we can face challenges with the same faith, hope and love that Bishop Chanche exhibited when he first came to Mississippi in 1841,” Latino said. “I feel (this celebration) is bringing him now to the present and taking us back to the past. We have become one in celebration.”

He concluded by stating what he hopes Chanche’s grave site may be.

“As we place the mortal remains of Chance at rest, may it be a gathering place, always,” he said.

The procession to Chanche’s grave site followed, and all those in attendance filtered out of the church into the cold to hear the blessing of the coffin.

Janice Guido, Natchez resident and member of the parish, said she is glad that Chanche was brought back to Natchez.

“It’s right that the bishop should be back here,” she said. “He wrote that he wanted to be buried here, so what great closure it is for him to be here. He came home.”

Guido said this enriches St. Mary Basilica.

“This parish is so strong and this enhances it,” she said.

Gayle Guido, member the Archival Commititee of St. Mary Basilica, said it’s great to have what she’s been working on come into fruition.

“It’s a wonderful success,” Gayle Guido said, “I honestly had no idea we would be able to have it. It’s such a good story.”

Mary Eidt, who is also on the archival committee, was pleased with the ceremony.

“It was a magnificent ceremony,” she said. “Everyone worked together. We’re appreciative of the cardinal and the Rucks funeral home gentleman, all other bishops, the clergy.”

She said everything culminated through the efforts of O’Connor and James Guercio, head of the Archives Committee.

“We supported all of the efforts of the pastor and Mr. Guercio,” Eidt said.

She said she was also pleased with the turnout.

“Considering the weather, it was a good turnout,” she said.

Michael Ruck, of Ruck-Towson Funeral Home in Maryland, played a large role in Chanche’s return.

He arranged for the disinternment and worked hard to have the bishop’s remains ready for their return to Natchez.

Ruck said he was glad to be involved and also glad to be able to attend the re-interment.

“I thought it was a lovely ceremony,” Ruck said. “It was handled with great dignity and respect.”

Michael Roboski was a pallbearer in the service.

“It was very honoring because we were handpicked (to be a pallbearer,” Roboski said. “I was grateful to be there and to be a part of history in the making.”

Eidt agreed when she said it is an important historical occurrence for Natchez.

“It’s certainly another historical event and part of our history for the City of Natchez and the Basilica of St. Mary, she said.” I feel like it will be an inspiration for all of our Christian people.”