By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – After five years as priest at St. James Catholic Church, Rev. Tom Lalor will pack up his study once again to assume his new post in Vicksburg at the end of January.
“At 72 years of age, I’m still well able to keep up the pace,” he said. “However, it was quite a surprise when I got the news. It shocked my congregation.”
Lalor said he was assigned to his St. Paul parish of Vicksburg by Bishop Joseph Latino of the Diocese of Jackson. His new parish includes two Catholic schools, and Lolar said his background in education made him an appealing choice for the parish’s personnel board.
“Very few priests have any education experience, but I have a very good understanding of Catholic schools,” he said. “I won’t be teaching, but I will serve on the school board.”
Lolar said he will remember Tupelo fondly as a progressive place.
“Tupelo has an extraordinary ability to be self-critical, to examine its problems and solve them in a reasonable way,” he said. “That’s especially true for the faith community. I’ve been able to work, pray, break bread, and worship alongside other pastors in Tupelo.”
His favorite part of his service at St. James has been the day to day duties of the priesthood. Lalor said he gets to take part in all aspects of his congregation’s lives, in joyous occasions such as marriage or the birth of a child, as well as in the tough times of dying and grief.
“It’s an honor being in the trenches of daily life with God’s people,” he said. “Sometimes I look out from the pulpit at my congregation and what they are doing with their lives and think ‘gosh if I’m half as good as them I’m doing well.’ They are searching deeply for God.”
Lalor said his parting wish for his congregation is to truly be the church, to bring about the kingdom and Lord-ship of Jesus through word, worship, witness, and service.
He said he is proud of the church’s Hispanic ministry and the increase of St. James’ youth participation, but also the community-wide outreach to care for Tupelo’s homeless.
“I came with the intention of working in a collaborative way with the parish staff to engage the young people, the community, to wash each other’s feet,” he said.
Lalor came to America from his native Ireland in 1966, has served Mississippi in the parishes of Biloxi, Jackson, Greenville, Natchez, Cleveland, and Tupelo, and is well acquainted with the man who will take his place, Rev. Lincoln Dall, of the St. Mary parish in Yazoo City.
“Father Dall is a very enthusiastic minister, and I’m sure he will bring to Tupelo all the energy he is known for,” Lalor said. “He has a great love for the church and all churches.”
In the past, it has been common for the Irish church to fill America’s need for priests. Though his transfer comes unexpected, Lalor said he is used to the process.
“Irish priests were sent here to establish and maintain the church,” he said. “It is the Irish way to move on and venture off to another place.”