The Office of Bishop is the symbol of unity in the Catholic Church. A bishop is appointed by the Pope and leads a geographic region of the church called a diocese. He shepherds the diocese in spiritual matters while also serving as an executive and judicial leader for the church on the local level. Bishops are directly in line with the apostles through apostolic succession.
The Diocese of Jackson has had 11 bishops since its establishment in 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI.
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz was ordained and installed as the 11th Bishop of Jackson on Feb. 6, 2014. the official appointment of Pope Francis was announced on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) in 2013 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. More than 25 bishops and abbots participated in the ordination liturgy before a standing room only crowd in the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle.
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz was born in Dunmore, Pennsylvania on September 16, 1950, the son of the late Stanley and Carmella Mary Calomino Kopacz.
Bishop Kopacz attended St. Anthony’s Elementary School, Dunmore and graduated from Dunmore Central Catholic in 1968. Following graduation, he attended St. Pius X. Seminary, Dalton and studied at the University of Scranton, receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History in 1972. He then entered Christ the King Seminary, East Aurora, New York, where he received a Master’s Degree in Theology. He was ordained to the Diaconate on April 23, 1976 by the Most Reverend J. Carroll McCormick and was ordained to the Priesthood on May 7, 1977 also by Bishop McCormick.
Bishop Kopacz’s first priestly assignment was as an Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Peace, Brodheadsville. He then served as an Assistant Pastor at the Church of the Epiphany, Sayre, and St. Mary’s, Swoyersville, until his first Administrator appointment at St. Patrick’s, Nicholson in July 1986, where he served until September, 1989 when he was appointed to his first pastorate at St. Michael’s, Jessup. He was later named pastor of two additional churches in Jessup, St. James and St. Stanislaus Kostka, during a parish restructuring. In June 1995, he was appointed pastor at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Scranton and served in that capacity until being appointed by Bishop James C. Timlin as Vicar for Priests and Formation Director at St. Pius X. Seminary in July, 1998. In 2000, Father Kopacz earned a Doctorate in Human Development from Marywood University.
He was then appointed pastor of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Scranton in July 2002. In February 2005 he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Scranton, while also continuing to serve as Vicar for Priests and pastor of Sacred Hearts until July 2006. Then he was appointed to serve as Pastor of St. Mary of the Mount, Mount Pocono while continuing to serve as Vicar General, a position he held until August of 2009. At that time, he was appointed to serve as Pastor of St. Ann, Tobyhanna and in July, 2010 he also assumed the pastoral duties of St. Bernadette, Canadensis. Following a process of parish pastoral planning, these three churches – St. Mary of the Mount, St. Ann and St. Bernadette – consolidated to form Most Holy Trinity Parish. The parish is presently exploring its potential to build a new Church.
During his years of pastoral ministry, Father Kopacz also served in a variety of Diocesan positions, including President of the Catholic Schools’ Board of Education, Trustee at St. Michael’s, an advocate in the Tribunal, member of the Diocesan Finance Council, Director of Continuing Education for Priests, faculty member and Formation Director at St. Pius X. Seminary, member of the College of Consultors and Presbyteral Council, Director of Campus Ministry, Dean of Studies and Director of Special Education at Keystone College, , Chaplain of the Gen. Sullivan Council of Boy Scouts of America, Chaplain at Msgr. McHugh Elementary School, Cresco, and Coordinator of Hispanic Ministry for Monroe County.
He is the second of three children with a brother, Robert, and a sister, Mary Ellen Negri.
Administrative Assistant to the Bishop
Official appointments and statements may be found at this link.
Read Bishop Kopacz’s columns in Mississippi Catholic.