Stovall to be ordained as deacon in the Catholic Church
Philadelphia native Tristan Stovall will be ordained to the Holy Order of Deacon in the Catholic church Saturday during a service at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson.
The Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D., PhD, the Bishop of Jackson, will officiate. The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
On Sunday, Stovall will preach his First Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Philadelphia. This is where he converted to his faith as a high school student and began his journey to the priesthood.
Longtime members say he is the first member of Holy Cross to be called into the priesthood.
“He was in high school when he became Catholic and he did it on his own,” said Regina Hicks, a lifetime member of Holy Cross. “He is so smart. It was later that he decided to become a priest. We have had some nuns but not a priest,” said Hicks.
Stovall said he has found his calling.
“I became Catholic when I was 15,” Stovall said. “It was my experience of getting deeper into my faith. I was going to Mass more, and getting deeper into the faith which made me appreciate the importance of the priesthood. It is the link between the things that happened in the past like Christ’s ministry when He was on the earth. It is the continuance of those events to the present day.
“This experience stirred in my heart something that has always been there, a desire to give myself for something greater than myself,” Stovall said. “And to really give people the most important thing which is a witness to the fundamental truth of God’s love for us. I can say it more clearly now, but at the time, this was an inkling of what God was calling me to do.”
Stovall said he has enjoyed his studies of philosophy and theology.
“It is a great experience to go deeper into the faith,” Stovall said. “Theology is called faith seeking understanding. We start with the scriptures and seek to understand. I have loved my studies and I think have grown.”
Stovall was born and raised in Neshoba County and graduated from Neshoba Central High School. He attended Meridian Community College for one year and did his undergraduate studies at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, La.
Currently, he is a student at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans where he has been since 2020. He will graduate and be ordained as a priest in May 2024.
The next year will be a busy time for Stovall.
“In June, I will go to Mexico to learn to speak Spanish,” said Stovall. “We have a lot of Hispanic people coming to the states, so I will learn their language so I will be able to minister to them. I will be going with several guys on this trip.
“Then August until mid-October, I will be in Natchez at Saint Mary’s Basilica,” Stovall said. “I will come back to Notre Dame for a half semester. Then I will finish up in the Spring semester with my Master’s degree. Then in May, I will be ordained a priest,”
He doesn’t know where he will be going after graduation but it will be somewhere in Mississippi.
Members of Holy Cross church expressed their love and support for Stovall as he moves toward the priesthood.
“He started to come to church and learning about the faith,” said church member Lynn Benson. “He is a blessing to us, a super nice guy. God called him to become a priest.
“It is not usual for someone outside our faith to join the church and then become a priest. He is a very good young man and has the Holy Spirit in him. We are blessed he decided to do this.”
Debbie Burt Myers, retired managing editor of The Neshoba Democrat, came to know Stovall when he first started to attend Holy Cross.
“He was inquisitive and eager to learn more about the Catholic faith,” Myers said. “said. ”Not long afterwards, Stovall was hired as a summer intern at the Democrat where they worked closely together and over the years developed a lifelong friendship.
“He would often share his faith with the other interns at work and in my home when Garry and I would invite them over for backyard cookouts in the summers,” Myers said.
“I and another co-worker attended mass at noon on Wednesdays and Tristan would join us. It wasn’t long until he would persuade all the other interns to go as well. I think we filled a pew when we all attended.”
She said Stovall has “the voice of an angel and a kind, gentle demeanor” when he is around children and adults at church and as he ministers to the homebound or the elderly in long-term care facilities.”
Myers said parishioners at Holy Cross continue to pray for Stovall as he comes one step closer to the priesthood.