Bishop Thomas Heslin

Heslin 2
Born: April 1847 – County Longford, Ireland
Ordained a Priest for New Orleans: Sept. 18, 1869
Ordained a Bishop: June 18, 1889
Died: Feb. 22, 1911
Episcopal Motto: Jesus and Mary
Father Thomas Heslin, a pastor in New Orleans, was named the fifth Bishop of the diocese by Pope Leo XIII.

One of Bishop Heslin’s major initiatives was to evangelize and establish missions among African Americans. Bishop Heslin invited the Society of St. Joseph and the Society of the Divine Word to staff missions among black Mississippians.

In 1890 Holy Family Parish in Natchez was established as the first parish in the diocese dedicated to ministering in the African American community.

Mother Katharine Drexel was instrumental in building a school for the children of Holy Family in Natchez.

Among other churches established during Bishop Heslin’s tenure were Mary Immaculata in Merigold and Holy Ghost in Jackson.

Heslin ShieldDuring Bishop Heslin’s tenure, Father Meerschaert , pastor and vicar general, left to become bishop of the Indian Territory in Oklahoma. Father Patrick Hayden was named pastor at St. Mary in Natchez.

An addition was built to the presbytery and marble side altars were installed in the cathedral.

Bishop Heslin died after 22 years of service to the Diocese and was buried on Catholic Hill in the Natchez City Cemetery.

Bishop R. O. Gerow, writing in Catholicity in Mississippi, “Bishop Heslin was a man of prayer and deep, solid piety. Arising at an early hour each morning he spent the greater portion of an hour before the Blessed Sacrament in preparation for his Mass. . . .But in all his actions the honor and glory of God was his first thought.”