Rev. Lalor retiring, but has no plans of slowing down

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, January 10, 2019

In 1966, Thomas Lalor was ordained a priest at St. Patrick’s College in his home diocese of Carlow, Ireland.

Fifty-three years later, after serving as a teacher and pastor — the last six as pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church — the Rev. Tom Lalor is retiring and preparing for a new life as a resident at St. Catherine’s Village, a retirement community in Jackson.

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The Rev. Rusty Vincent, who served as a deacon at St. Paul during his time in the seminary, will be St. Paul’s new pastor beginning Friday.

Lalor has spent his entire career as a priest in Mississippi, a place he volunteered to go.

“I was planning on doing it,” he said in a 2016 interview after celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination.

“I was originally a student for my home diocese in Carlow, and I asked the bishop of that diocese for permission to go to Mississippi, because I knew Bishop (Joseph) Brunini wanted to get more priests, and I signed up to come for that reason. I’ve been here ever since.”

He began his ministry and teaching career in Biloxi, which was his first assignment after arriving on the Coast.

“I went to Biloxi in September, and when I came on Monday morning, I was teaching two classes for Sister Paulinas,” he said. “I never taught a lick in my life at that time. That was before I was trained as a teacher.”

Since that first day in the classroom, Lalor has taught at St. Joseph in Jackson, St. Joseph in Greenville and Cathedral in Natchez.

“I was a priest for 23 years before I was a pastor,” he said. “Being a pastor was a whole new thing to me, since I was a teacher most of those years. Being a pastor is a lot easier than being a teacher. A lot easier; there’s no comparison.

“People are very nice, and this parish here was absolutely wonderful,” he said. “I was a pastor in Cleveland, and I loved them, I was in Tupelo, same thing. I’ve had a wonderful time here.”

He said his time at St. Paul, where he also served as canonical administrator over Vicksburg Catholic Schools operations, was a wonderful experience.

“I love the Vicksburg people,” he said. “I’ll be so grateful to the people of Vicksburg. Vicksburg is a lovely place to be. It was a hard place to leave, I can tell you. I’m very certain of that. The people were very nice to me; the people at the school were absolutely marvelous. I had a good time at the school.”

Not slowing down

And while he will have more time on his hands to relax, Lalor said he has no intention of slowing down.

He told his parishioners at his final Mass Jan. 6, “If you need me for something, if there is someone in the hospital you want me to visit, let me know. One call, that’s all.”

“I won’t be just a man of leisure,” Lalor said. “I’ll be doing things; all the work I can get. I’m ready to go. I’m going to be asked to do different things, say masses here and there, and to take care of things in other parishes.

“I’ve been asked if I would to go down to Natchez for a few weekends, so I’ll be off to do a lot of different things,” he said.

“Maybe I will go to another parish on the weekend; I’ve been told that’s quite likely I might have to go to a parish where there is no priest on weekends, and then priests will be looking for me to help them.”

And he will return to Vicksburg periodically.

“I’m sure there will be many times I’ll be over here. I do know I’ll be at the school for Catholic Schools Week; I will be there with the bishop, and the distance from Jackson to Vicksburg is a very short trip, only 50 miles.

“Anything like that, that I’m asked to do, I will certainly do. I definitely will be coming to the Catholic Schools (week) Mass for sure.”

He also plans to attend some of St. Aloysius’ football and basketball games as well as games at St. Joseph High School in Jackson.

Lalor will be surrounded by friends at his new residence.

“I’m not going to worry about being over there. There are some people I will know. That won’t be a chore at all,” he said, adding he will be doing some ministering at St. Catherine’s.

“I’ll be at mass and sometimes I will be asked to say the mass.

“I’m kind of looking forward to having time and more rest, but I’ll be out of bed the same time in the morning every day; it won’t be a bother to me to be there. I’ll be looking forward to it. I’m not going to be unhappy at all.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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