Sending Forth Bishop-Elect Kopacz

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SCRANTON -- Catholics in our area bid farewell to a priest from Lackawanna County who was chosen to be a bishop in Jackson, Mississippi.

A crowd of Father Joseph Kopacz's former parishioners filled St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton.

Dunmore native Father Kopacz said it was like watching his life before him when he stood in front of hundreds at St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton Wednesday afternoon. The sanctuary filled almost an hour before the church bells tolled.

"We were coming early, too, so we could get a seat. We knew that would be crowded because he was such a great priest," said Joan Kryzanowski of Scranton

It was formally called a Mass of Thanksgiving and Sending Forth. But, it was really a chance to say goodbye to Father Kopacz who is headed to become a bishop in Jackson, Mississippi.

Over his career, Father Kopacz served at 12 churches in the Diocese of Scranton and parishioners from all of them were represented at St. Peter's Cathedral.

"It's so nice and I'm so proud of him. Because when we did meet at Sacred Heart, he had all the qualities that are necessary. So, this is a good fit for him," added James Kryzanowski.

From Mount Pocono, to Jessup, to Lake Wallenpaupack, and whether they knew him or not, parishioners came to congratulate too. Becoming a bishop is a rare and significant honor.  Father Kopacz will be ordained in Mississippi next month.

"When this door closes, then the other door starts to open and then it's a whole different set of realities and feelings. But I'm just grateful more than anything for that display of faith," said Bishop-elect Kopacz.

So, maybe the service was a testament to how Father Kopacz ministered that faith and the family he will leave behind.

"I think it's amazing, it's really amazing, and we wish him all the best of luck," said Helen Heron of Lake Wallenpaupack.

Bus loads of people traveled to Scranton from Father Kopacz's latest parish in Monroe County. Other people from the diocese are making the trip to Mississippi next month to see him become Bishop Kopacz.