• 64°

Faith and Family: St. Mary Basilica invites all to guided tour of church

BY GENE COLEMAN

NATCHEZ — One can stand on the corner of Main and Union streets in downtown Natchez at any time and be in awe of the magnificent architecture of St. Mary Basilica, but at 6 p.m. Thursday the church has extended an open invitation for a free, guided tour of the historic structure.

As magnificent as St. Mary is on the outside, it’s more breathtaking inside. Saints depicted in 1880s-era stained glass and statuary elevated on pillars face the congregation from along the sanctuary walls and the ceiling soars toward Heaven.

The tour will explain how the altar, pulpit and design of the worship area relate to Catholic beliefs and practices.

Constructed over a 40-year period beginning in 1842, the church’s designation as a basilica by Pope John Paul II makes it one of approximately 30 minor basilicas in the United States, according to the guide “St. Mary Basilica” by Charles E. Nolan.

With St. Mary Basilica’s Come and See event, visitors can learn more about the church and the Catholic religion.

Donna Martello, coordinator for the church’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, said she hopes visitors will enjoy the beauty but take away more about the devotion of the Catholic faith.

Martello said the tour, followed by a presentation on Catholicism, would last approximately 70 minutes. She said it is an annual event that aims to resolve any reservations people might have about the Catholic faith.

“I feel like a lot of people think the Catholic faith is strange or different, so they’re afraid or standoffish,” Martello said.

Father O’Connor, pastor at St. Mary Basilica, will welcome visitors on Thursday. Ruth Powers, theology instructor at St. Mary, will provide an orientation on Catholic beliefs and prayer styles. A question-and-answer session will follow.

Pre-registration for Come and See is encouraged but not required. St. Mary Basilica presents the event as “without expectations or obligations” in its invitation.

For more information, call the church office at 601-445-5616.