Joseph Bernard Brunini: God and Neighbor
God and Neighbor
--BishopBrunini's Coat of Arms
I have said many times that there are many moral problems in our diocese but that the greatest of these is the problem of attaining racial justice and peace among our people. This problem is a concern of every citizen but calls particularly for us priests to be prophets in our time.
-- Joseph Brunini, "The Priest as Prophet," September 8, 19811
Of the many facets of Joseph Brunini's tenure as bishop, two themes stand out especially. The first is best represented by the motto he adopted for his coat of arms--"God and Neighbor." To Brunini, God was first in everything, and putting his gospel into effect as Jesus had lived it was of the utmost importance. He also believed that "neighbor" included everyone--rich and poor, man and woman, white and African-American, Catholic, Protestant, or Jew, no restrictions whatsoever.
The second theme that permeated his life was his perception of, and commitment to, the priesthood. Undoubtedly, Joseph Brunini was born to be a priest. He willingly chose it, or, as he put it, as a young man, he chose heaven instead of the world. In his thinking, to be a priest was a lifelong task that entailed being a prophet. What exactly was a prophet, and what did he do? For Brunini, the answer was simple. It meant proclaiming what God wanted, serving others, and taking up the gauntlet of social justice so as to obtain social peace. In no other area of his life did these two themes coincide and underscore his very purpose more than in human relations, specifically in the area of civil rights and the integration of schools. During one of the most turbulent periods in American and Mississippi history, Brunini's voice would ring out what others often did not want to hear, even within his own diocesan congregation. He fought for, and worked hard to attain, racial justice and peace because, in the end, it was the right thing to do. Or, to put it in other