St. Mary Basilica to launch new Web site Thursday

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

Natchez — On Thursday, St. Mary Basilica archive committee will launch a new Web site,, in order to make available to the public historical information of over 150 in the form of documents, photographs and artifacts, according to the Rev. David O’Connor, the church’s pastor.

“The archive committee, under different names, has been in existence for about five years.” O’Connor said. “This committee initiated the exhumation and re-interment of Bishop John Joseph Chanche, Mississippi’s first Catholic bishop, and it has researched and classified historical document and made inventories of important artifacts”.

Jimmy Guercio, chairman of the committee said “its mission is the preservation, restoration, organization and management of historical records and sacred objects chronicling the development of Catholicism in Natchez and in the state of Mississippi. We have here a patrimony — historical records and artifacts — that efficient administration will provide opportunities for education, research and motivation for people to appreciate the past and prepare for the future of church growth.”

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Michael Murphy, another member of the archive committee, explained that “from the committee’s mission statement a challenge emerged as to how best to use the available resources for the benefit of church members and interested people everywhere. We agreed that setting up an archival Web site would allow many people to draw on historical records that up until now remained behind locked doors in a vault.”

O’Connor said “that making use of mass media to proclaim the gospel has been a primary thrust of the Catholic Church for over forty years. This dates to a proclamation from the Second council of the Vatican in the early 1960s, a document titled ‘Evangelization in the modern world’ (1975) and numerous statements from church leaders in recent years.”

Guercio also added “we are also motivated by the work of the Vatican commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church (1992) promoting the ‘guardianship of the historical and artistic patrimony of the entire Church’ (works of art, historical documents, books and everything kept in museums, libraries and archives).”

The archive committee meets every Tuesday to share new findings, to take on new areas of research, to clarify data that has not been documented and verified in the past and to continue to discover historical data.

Some of the committee’s work included compiling letters and records of early church members and leaders. Now through the medium of the internet, the website of the archive committee provides a photo gallery of Catholic bishops who lived in Natchez from 1841 until 1948 and the priests who have served as pastors from the beginning until the present. Michael Murphy added “it is best if visitors to this site are using either DSL or cable internet connection.

An invitation is extended to interested individuals in the Miss Lou area to attend the official launch of the website on Thursday at 1:00 pm in the lower level of St. Mary Basilica.