County schools HR chief displays Holy Water

Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Marshall County Schools human resources director Mitchell Byrd brought this bottle of holy water back from Rome and keeps it at school headquarters.

An unusual souvenir of a recent trip to Italy is on display in an office at Board of Education headquarters in Lewisburg.

The souvenir is a vial of Holy Water, blessed by Pope Benedict XVI, that human resources director Mitchell Byrd brought back from a trip he and his wife took with a student tour group over the Christmas break.

Soon after his return to work in January, Byrd sent an e-mail to the "Allmarshall" mailing list, that goes to all the teachers, administrators and central office staff, telling everyone that he had the Holy Water in his office.

"I respectfully offer to any employee of the Catholic faith (or others) the opportunity to come to my office and view the Holy Water," wrote Byrd in the e-mail.

He says a few Catholics have come to the office to touch the holy water, cross themselves and say a prayer.

"They've been real appreciative," Byrd said. "It's unusual to have that sort of thing."

Byrd says he bought the little bottle of water, adorned with pictures of the present pope and his predecessor, for "7 or 8 Euros" (about $10). He described how he and his group were among the crowd packed into St. Peter's Square when the Pope appeared on his balcony and gave the New Year's blessing.

Byrd said the Pope gave the blessing in many different languages, and people held up what they wanted to have blessed: holy water, rosaries, babies, dogs.

"I could tell by the looks on the faces of the people that it was special," said Byrd, who is not a Catholic. "It was kind of moving."

He said there were people there from all over the world.

"It's part of what makes our Christian world work," Byrd said. "There's a lot to understand in this day and time. Whatever we do is learning about the other person."