The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the salvific mission of the Church. Through Baptism and Confirmation, all are appointed to this apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, that love of God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. The laity, however, are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth. Thus, every lay person . . . is at once the witness and living instrument of the mission of the Church itself.
-- Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), November 21, 19641
The bishops at Vatican II did not have the Catholic Church in Mississippi specifically in mind when they approved the preceding statement from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Yet, little did they know just how much this statement applied to the missionary diocese of Natchez-Jackson. Invariably living within an environment that was, at the very least, ignorant of Catholicism and, at the worst, hostile to its teachings, Mississippi's laity had to play their part in the salvific mission of the church, frankly whether they wanted to or not. "In those places and circumstances" easily translated into the daily lives of Catholic Mississippians because oftentimes they were the only ones who could give witness to the mission of the church. In some cases, isolation and separation from the Catholic family meant that individuals had to be the church itself in their own community. This was not always an enviable position to be in. If the Mississippi bishops were the head of the church, and the clergy/religious were its backbone, there is no doubt that the Catholic laity was the soul of Catholicism in Mississippi. These individuals, numbered in the thousands, lived throughout the vast expanse of the state quietly fulfilling the church's mission in their own small corners of the world. They were