Cathedral History

Bishop John Chanche arrived in Natchez in May of 1841 to take possession of the newly created Diocese of Mississippi. Jackson, the capital of the state was a hastily built frontier village, only 20 years old.

During the 1830’s and 40’s, the Mississippi Legislature granted plots of land to various religious groups for the purpose of building churches. Thus, Jackson’s Catholics built a “neat frame building” at the intersection of Court and President Streets, then at the heart of Jackson’s business district. On August 23, 1846, Bishop Chanche dedicated the church to St. Peter the Apostle.

During the next 15 years, Bishop Chanche and his successor, Bishop James Van de Velde would die of wilderness diseases and Bishop William Elder would begin his long and noble service to the diocese. In 1862, when war came to Jackson with General Sherman’s first raid, the frame church was destroyed by fire, forcing the congregation to meet in homes, City Hall and the Fire Station. With the capitulation of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863, Federal troops returned to Jackson. Drunken soldiers desecrated the chapel at the Fire Station, destroying vestments, even stealing the chalice. Despite the hardships of the times, the St. Peter congregation sent almost $1,000.00 to Natchez for the care of orphans, many of them made homeless by the war.

Post-Civil War years saw Jackson Catholics, under the leadership of Father William Huber, build a large frame church on the site of the present rectory. The Sisters of Mercy came from Vicksburg in 1870 to establish St. Joseph Academy, built near “The Ravine”, present-day Lamar Street. This school, antecedent of St. Joseph Catholic School, now in Madison holds the distinction of being the oldest school in continuous operation in the Jackson area.

Father Charles Oliver, St. Peter’s first American-born pastor, built the present church, of modified Gothic design, dedicated by Bishop Thomas Heslin on June 3, 1900, Pentecost Sunday. Father Oliver’s tenure, which continued until his death in 1914, saw the installation of the stained glass windows (copies of paintings by Raphael and Murillo), regarded as being among the finest examples of such art in our country. In 1908, when St. Peter donated the 1867 frame church to the newly-formed Holy Ghost Parish, the building was pulled on logs by mules to its new home on Cloister Street.

Under Monsignor Patrick O’Reilly, the present-day rectory was built and the Carrera marble altars, from the same quarry used by Michelangelo, were installed. Another legacy of Monsignor O’Reilly was the formation of lay organizations, including the Knights of Columbus.

The years following World War II saw the growth of the Catholic population of Jackson, necessitating the formation of a number of new Jackson parishes. The facade of St. Peter was completed with the addition of the two side entrances. In 1948, Bishop Richard Gerow transferred the Diocesan headquarters from Natchez to Jackson, forming the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson.

The first Mississippian to serve St. Peter as pastor was Monsignor Joseph Brunini, installed in January, 1957. A month later, St. Peter Church was elevated to the rank of Co-Cathedral by the Holy See. Upon Bishop Gerow’s retirement in 1968, Bishop Brunini was installed as our eighth bishop. Under his leadership, the Diocese of Biloxi was organized with Bishop Joseph Howze, the first 20th century African-American bishop in the United States, as its first bishop. St. Peter was then designated the Cathedral of the Diocese of Jackson.

A reminder of the commitment to unity that marked Bishop Brunini’s tenure during a time of racial conflict can be seen in the Venetian glass mosaic he had installed on the facade of the cathedral. The design features Christ the Good Shepherd, surrounded by figures representing the continents of the world, with this inscription, “There shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Bishop William Houck, a native of Mobile, Alabama succeeded Bishop Brunini and was installed on June 5, 1984 and was followed by Bishop Joseph Latino, another southern neighbor from Louisiana, our present bishop.

Over the last quarter century, the parish has been led by Father Robert Olivier (the first parishioner to serve as pastor), Monsignor Noel Foley, Father Patrick Farrell, and Father Brian Kaskie, gifted men whose legacies have included commitments to lay leadership, liturgy, music, pastoral ministries, religious education, and evangelization. The Reiger pipe organ, honoring Bishop Brunini, was dedicated in 1988. The beautiful Cathedral Center, designed to mesh seamlessly with the Gothic church, was dedicated by Bishop Houck on June 28, 1998.

Support of the Jackson community is not a responsibility taken lightly by the parish family of St. Peter. Monsignor Foley said twenty years ago, “In the shadow of the cathedral, there are many needs to be met.” Among the parish organizations and departments addressing those needs are Senior Adult Ministries, which serves our aging population and a volunteer group which supports the needs of the homeless.

Currently, The Most Reverend Bishop Joseph Nunzio Latino is the 10th Bishop of Jackson.  He was appointed 10th Bishop of Jackson on January 3, 2003, and was ordained a bishop and installed on March 7, 2003 in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson.

The Very Reverend Anthony Quyet currently serves as Rector for the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.

The Diocese of Jackson emphasizes the challenges presented by the shortage of priests and the growing importance of lay ministry within our diocese. However, our congregation can take heart in the knowledge that these challenges are no greater than those faced by the pioneer Catholics of that earliest “neat frame building” on the corner of Court and President Streets more than 150 years ago.

Cathedral Timeline

•  1896 Rev. C. A. Oliver, D.D., Native Mississippi, succeeds Father Louis Dutto.

•  1897 Contract was let for the present church.

•  1900 Church dedicated on June 3, 1900 Pentecost Sunday Bishop Thomas Heslin

•  1914 Rev. Patrick O’Reilly becomes pastor of St. Peter’s Church.

•  1921 Brick Rectory Built.

•  1927 Three beautiful Italian Marble Altars were installed

•  1941 Rev. William Leech succeeds Msgr. O’Reilly as pastor of St. Peter’s church.

•  1949 Rev. Joseph B. Brunini is appointed pastor of St. Peter’s Church.

•  1950 St. Peter’s Church completely renovated, sanctuary refurnished, new organ installed, church air- conditioned.

•  1957 Pope Puis XII, under date of January 2, 1957, appoints the pastor, Msgr. Joseph B. Brunini, as Auxiliary Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Natchez Bishop-elect, Joseph B. Brunini, consecrated on January 29, 1957. On February 7, 1957, St. Peter’s Church dedicated in honor of St. Peter the Apostle, was designated as a Co-Cathedral and the Diocese of Natchez shall now be known as the Diocese of Natchez-Jackson.

•  1959 Mosaic entitled “There shall be one Flock and one Shepherd “ replaced glass above main entrance of Co-Cathedral Made in Italy.

•  1968 On January 29 Bishop Brunini was installed at St. Peter Co-Cathedral, Jackson. He took a firm, but gentle stand on the integration of schools. He was a strong leader for ecumenism, and racial justice.

•  1977 The Diocese of Natchez-Jackson was divided to become Diocese of Jackson and Diocese of Biloxi.

•  1978 William Russell Houck was named Auxiliary Bishop of Diocese of Jackson. He was ordained a Bishop at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by Pope John Paul II on May 27.

•  1984 Bishop Brunini announces his retirement. On Tuesday, June 5, William Russell Houck was installed as ninth Bishop Jackson in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson, Mississippi.

•  1987 New Organ, The bishop Joseph B. Brunini Pipe Organ, was installed remodeled gallery in St. Peter’s.

•  1991 Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle redecorated.

•  1997 Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle Parish Hall completed.

•  1998 Bishops’ Burial Grounds addition on south side of Cathedral.

•  2000 Centennial Celebration for St. Peter’s Cathedral, Pentecost, June 11.

•  2003 Bishop Joseph N. Latino ordination was held on March 7 at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle.

•  2009 The Cathedral Church building was totally renovated (steeple repaired, exterior tuckpointing, stained glass windows repaired, gating around building complete, parking lot gate installed, electrical wiring and sound system replaced, steeple bells repaired, new altar and ambry installed, total interior renovated by Conrad Schmitt Studios).

Priests Over a Century

•  Rev. Charles A. Oliver 1886-1914
•  Rev. Msgr. Patrick O’Reilly 1914-1942
•  Rev. Msgr. William J. Leech 1942-1949
•  Rev. Msgr. Joseph B. Brunini 1949-1961
•  Rev. Msgr. John Scanlon 1962-1963
•  Rev. Msgr. Thad Harkins 1963-1969
•  Rev. George Broussard 1969-1974
•  V. Rev. Robert Olivier 1974-1986
•  Rev. Msgr. Noel Foley 1986-1998
•  V. Rev. Patrick Farrell 1998-2002
•  V. Rev. Brian Kaskie 2003-2008
•  V. Rev. Jeffrey Waldrep 2009-2012
•  V. Rev. Anthony Quyet 2013-present