Local Priest to Become Catholic Bishop

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SCRANTON -- Pope Francis has chosen a priest from our area to lead a Roman Catholic diocese in Mississippi.

Father Joseph Kopacz has been involved in the Catholic Church throughout our viewing area and his parishioners in the Poconos just got the news Thursday.

The word came from the Vatican that Father Joe, as he's known, is the next in line to be bishop in Jackson, Mississippi.

Reverend Kopacz has been somewhat of a journeyman in the Scranton diocese since the 1980s and grew up in Dunmore.

Mention Reverend Kopacz's name around Jessup in Lackawanna County and you're bound to find someone who knows him.

"He was great, he was very in tune to the parish and in tune to the people," said Marino Angolino.

Angolino remembers Father Joe when he was pastor at St. Michael's in Jessup.

Now the Dunmore native is the bishop-elect of a diocese in Mississippi and parishioners who worshiped with Father Joe all those years are mighty happy for him.

"That's amazing, that's great. He deserves it, God knows what he's doing, he's got everything under control," said Angolino.

"That is wonderful news, I'm very excited, he's a wonderful holy man I'm thrilled," said Elaine Longo.

Father Joe was not at his parish in Mount Pocono when we stopped by. He's in Mississippi getting to know the diocese he'll be in charge of within a couple of months.

In his more than four years at the Most Holy Trinity Parish in the Poconos, Father Kopacz oversaw the joining of three churches into that one parish, which parishioners say was no easy task.

"I knew right from the beginning when I met him this guy was bishop material, he's a great guy, the best pastor I've ever worked for," said Deacon Ronald Verkon.

Of all the qualities Father Joe has shown, Deacon Verkon said his ability to be calm under pressure is the most impressive.

On behalf of the entire parish, Deacon Verkon said Fr. Joseph Kopacz will be missed.

"It's going to be a big loss for us, everyone at this parish and other parishes love the guy. It will be a big loss for us, very glad for him," said Verkon.

Bishop-elect Kopacz has served in many capacities within the Catholic Church. He started in Brodheadsville in the late 1970s, then went to Bradford County, Luzerne County, Jessup and then Scranton. He even taught at St. Pius X Seminary, and then returned to the Poconos.

Now he's headed south, as bishop-elect in Mississippi.