Accomplishments, Donations and Discoveries


By J. E. GUERCIO


St. Mary Basilica Archives Committee was founded on 24 October 2005. It evolved out of the Religious Education Committee. We meet every Tuesday morning after Mass in the dining room of the rectory (The Episcopal Residence).

2008 Members: Rev. David O'Connor, Mary Eidt, Betsy Holleman, Patricia Murphy, Michael Murphy, Barbara Aucoin and James E. Guercio, chairman.

Initially, we were called The Sacred Object Committee because we were making the inventory of the sacred objects of the church. At its completion, Father David O’Connor asked us to inventory and organize the archival material in the basement of the rectory.
Bishop Gunn built a vault for this purpose in 1921 and Father O’Connor updated it during his first pastorship. Ann Almond assisted us then, with a hand written directory. Things got more involved,and we needed to put the directory on the computer for easy distribution and continual refinement and Betsy Holleman came to the rescue.

We have gone through most of the paper collection three times and we are beginning to record the books. The members are beginning to show their creative skills. Mary Eidt initiated the Monthly Archive Articles for the Sunday bulletin. Mike Murphy is developing a web link to the St. Mary Basilica web site. Soon, one will be able to “click” onto the archive link and read articles and see pictures that have been locked away for years.

I want to give thanks to our donors of gifts (prayer books, rosaries, holy cards, faldstool, pedestals, etc.) that relate to St. Mary Basilica parish history. We inherited a collection of articles from the first seven bishops of Natchez. Coupled with our recent gifts we have a collection worthy of exhibition which could rotate given the opportunity.
Even if this does not occur soon, we will have a “virtual tour” of the collection through the St. Mary Basilica Archive Web Site, that is being developed by Michael Murphy. It is our mission to take St. Mary Basilica Archives “on the road” to share with the world.

Summary of projects include:

  • Bishop John Chanche's "homecoming". (Exhumation, August 2007; re-interment January 2008)
  • The removal and delivery of Chanche's marble monument from the Baltimore Cathedral Cemetery and installment in the St. Mary church yard.
  • The conservation of the artifacts found in Bishop Chanche's coffin. (To date not shown to the public for lack of opportunity.)
  • Donor Labels placed on the new oak sanctuary furniture.
  • The return and donor labeling of Bishop Elder's sanctuary suite.
  • The forever developing "obituary" album —a valuable genealogical asset.
  • The research to declare The Immaculate Conception Shrine (c. 1846), the oldest existing in the country (until proven differently.)
  • The research to declare the 1839 Presbytery built by the Board of Trustees of Catholic Men of Natchez still exists (the Catholic Charities office —left side, entrance.)
  • The 18 Pastors of Natchez —a photographic display on the staircase of the rectory.


Lithograph on stone - St. Mary Cathedral