Wednesday, March 12, 2014 1:00 AM
During the first week of March 1938, seventy-six years ago, Ruth O'Mera Rush, granddaughter of Daniel Rush, founder of the Church of the Holy Cross, presented a white paper entitled "Assignment Twenty-Six" to the Works Progress Administration.
The essay highlighted the history of the Holy Cross Church and also praised the work of Father James T. McKenna, for whom she wrote: "Father McKenna served Holy Cross for seven years (without taking a vacation) although he came here at the beginning of the depression, by his hard work and careful management he kept the church in good repair and the parish free of debt, and was successful in getting three Sisters of the Most Blessed Trinity to aid him in catechism and bible history lessons.
He also organized the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, where the Catholic children of Philadelphia have the opportunity of a half hour religious instruction twice weekly, during school term, then in summer have two weeks Vacational School."
Miss Rush ended her study by writing, "Father McKenna's work was crowned with great success." During September 1937, Bishop Richard Oliver Gerow, Diocese of Natchez, assigned the much-loved priest as Diocesan Director of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, headquartered in Pass Christian, Mississippi, and also, transferred Reverend Francis Deignan from Chatawa, Pike County, Mississippi, to the Holy Cross and Holy Rosary Churches.
Father Deignan continued writing the history of the Catholic Church and missions in Neshoba County. His papers were entitled, "History of the Catholic Church in Neshoba County Continued from 1930-1941," and "History of the Catholic Church in Neshoba County from 1937-1941." Like Miss Rush, the new pastor wrote glowingly of his predecessor, "Indeed by work, he proved himself a man of zeal and piety even ready to sacrifice himself in the service of his work. Ordained just seven years, having previously worked as assistant in Biloxi and Greenwood, he knew of the difficulties that encountered a missionary, but he was to find many and varied difficulties in the mission at Tucker." During the seven-year stay of Father Deignan in Neshoba County, two works marked his mission - construction and renovation.
The first project was repairs to the Rectory at Holy Rosary, completed early in February 1938. Next came a new distant mission in the Conehatta community for Choctaw Indians, financed by a gift of $1,000 from His Eminence Cardinal Dennis Joseph Dougherty and a grant of $205 from Bishop Gerow, completed in July 1938 and dedicated in honor of St. Catherine. In April 1939, Bishop Gerow again visited Neshoba County and ordered new tabernacles for the church and convent chapel at Holy Rosary and the church at Philadelphia. The congregation at Tucker despaired over the condemnation of their old tabernacle, brought from Belgium and installed by Father Edmond Joseph Philippe at a cost of $400, but nevertheless, followed the dictate of the bishop.
One year later, the Holy Cross facility received inside repairs, new paint on the outer walls and a new tabernacle with monies from a gift from the estate of Catherine Rush and Patrick O'Dea and $500 raised by subscriptions of parishioners. Father Deignan completed his service to Holy Cross and Holy Rosary in 1944, and later served at St. Alphonsus Church in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
Until the arrival of Father Raphael Toner, ST, in 1944, the pastors of both communities had been members of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, an order founded in Alabama by Father Thomas Augustine Judge.
During his nine-year tenure, Father Raphael established the first Rectory on Wilson Street on the lot where the wooden church burned on 1925. In 1946, the Pennsylvania pastor presided at the Church's inaugural midnight mass, served by two great-grandsons of Daniel Rush, altar boys and first cousins, William Patrick "Pat" Cook and Thaddeous Earl Watkins, Jr.
Father Raphael also expanded the ceremonies available to his parishioners: Holy Mass, Sundays, 1st, 3rd, and 5th of the month at 10 a.m.; 2nd and 4th, at 8 a.m.; Evening Devotional and Benediction, every Sunday evening, at 7:30 p.m.; Holy Mass, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., and Confession, every 2nd and 4th Saturday evening from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., with other times "upon request." The October 21, 1949, issue of The Neshoba Democrat heralded another origination during Father Raphael's tenure: "An Altar and Rosary Society has been recently organized for the women of Holy Cross Church... The women were called together by Sister John Alphonsus, who works in the parish. Mrs. Annie Lee Welsh was elected president; Mrs. Hilda Tullos, vice-president; Mrs. Lucille Duncan, secretary and Mrs. Mary Gipson, treasurer." The article also noted, "The meetings are held weekly on Thursday at 2 p.m. n the parish hall."
Civil War Veterans
Kirkland, William Federick - Third Corporal and Fourth Corporal; mustered April 13, 1861, at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles; age thirty; farmer; nick-named "Fed;" served as third corporal with the Neshoba Rifles; appointed fourth corporal of Company D of the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment at organization, April 24, 1861; hospitalized with typhoid fever at the General Hospital at Orange Court House, Virginia, August 22 to September 21, 1861; furloughed for thirty days to Laurel Hill, Neshoba County, Mississippi, September 21, 1861; discharged with a disability (partial paralysis) at Camp Fisher, near Dumfries, Virginia, February 25, 1862; received final pay of $58.59, February 26, 1862; served later as a sergeant with Company E, "Steam Mill Rangers," of the 40th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; described as six feet one inch tall, sallow complexion, with blue eyes and auburn hair.
World War II Veterans
Rush, Thomas Heslin, Jr. - Apprentice Seaman to Seaman First Class; enlisted on November 11, 1943, at Jackson, Mississippi, in the United States Navy; age eighteen; machinist; nick-named "Tom;" served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at the Naval Training Centers at Great Lakes, Illinois, December 1943, Little Creek, Virginia, and Camp Bradford, Norfolk, Virginia, March 1944; stationed at Treasure Island, San Francisco, California; served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations aboard the U.S.S. LST (landing ship tank) #737 and LST #395; stationed in the Philippine Islands, January 1945 and at Norfolk, Virginia, November 1945; participated in the campaign in the Philippine Islands; awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with four bronze service stars), Philippine Islands Liberation Medal (with one bronze service star) and a commendation for courage; discharged at New Orleans, Louisiana, January 7, 1946; demobilization; Seaman Thomas H. Rush, Jr. was a nephew of Ruth O'Mera Rush.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday